Building Community for Veterans at NWHSU

Photo of the Veterans ClubNorthwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) is a Military Friendly® school with a long history of welcoming veteran students. One of those students is future-chiropractor and current Army Engineer Alex Grubish, who became president of the Veteran’s Club during COVID-19.  

Before the pandemic, Alex formed strong friendships by hanging out in the Veteran’s Center on campus. He sees the club as a platform for people to connect. “We’re less than 1% of the population and we’re extremely diverse. But we still end up finding each other in public.” Without the natural community of being together on campus or reaching veterans in the community, the pandemic left Alex unsure of what the club could do.

Highlighting the Veteran Community with the Wall of Honor

Before he was formally involved with the Veteran’s Club, current club advisor Dr. Jeff Novak had the idea of creating a Wall of Honor to recognize the NWHSU veteran community. “I was in the Marine Corps for six years. I loved my experience in the Marine Corps, so there’s always this part of me that is bonded to other veterans,” he said. “I just had an image of [the wall] in my mind. And so I just told [the club].” 

At that time, the club did start the project, but on a relatively small scale. Now Alex, with support from Dr. Novak, is growing that presence. When asked why it’s important, Alex shared:

“I think we need veterans on the wall because it helps build connections with people. I’m a big people person and in our profession human interaction is a really good, medicinal thing. 

I’ve met a lot of veterans who have stuff that they’re still dealing with. You know, we’re all humans, we all have our own stuff that we’re battling. And the wall is a good way for me to reach out as a first initial step.” 

NWHSU veterans—alumni, faculty, and current students from every academic program—are encouraged to submit your information for the wall. The goal is to fill the hallway and truly showcase the veteran community on campus. And in Alex’s words, “if you go on and you’re one of those top notch Chiros that everyone knows, it’s cool to go back to where it all started and be like, ‘hey kids, that’s your old man up there on the wall.’”

Advocating and Working with Veterans Beyond the Club

Outside of his role as president of the Veteran’s Club, Alex is committed to working with and for veterans through advocacy and his future career as a chiropractor. 

When he was 14, Alex hurt his back playing hockey, and no one could help him. “Then a chiropractor came along and had me back on the ice in two weeks,” he said. “It was like a miracle when you’re 14 and walking like an old man.” That’s when he knew he wanted to become a chiropractor.

As a senior in college, Alex was compelled to serve his country, and to follow his dream of becoming a chiropractor. He enlisted and completed basic training while his cohort started their first trimester at NWHSU. 

There wasn’t a direct path for him to follow, so Alex had to advocate for himself and learn as he went. At NWHSU, Karen Samstad, director of financial aid, helped him navigate the complexity. As Alex went through the process for himself, he also advocated for changes that will help others, both on campus, and at the capitol, where he’s lobbying for direct commissions for chiropractors. 

When he graduates, Alex wants to establish a wellness center for veterans. “I know a few buddies that have the same goals, and so we’re going to have a gym wellness center kind of deal. I’m hoping to build more community for these guys going forward. And if I could expand and franchise it out, I mean, that’d be excellent too.”