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Basic Kneads

A well-rounded life keeps Dr. Tiffany Renaud on the ball

Dr. Tiffany RenaudDr. Tiffany Renaud discovered Vermont on break from her studies at the National College of Chiropractic in Chicago. She returned, and now plies her trade at Living Well Chiropractic on San Remo Drive in South Burlington.

by Liz Schick

Life is far from all work and no play for Dr. Tiffany Renaud of Living Well Chiropractic in South Burlington. Some days, her office hours on San Remo Drive begin after her morning sessions with The Vermont Sting women’s ice hockey team at Cairns Arena and end before her afternoon practices with the Burlington Women’s Rugby Football Club at Sports & Fitness Edge in Williston. She also serves as the team’s chiropractor.

“I’m a certified Adrenalin junkie,” says Renaud with a laugh. She plays ice hockey, coaches and plays rugby, and snowboards with her son, Casey, when she has a chance. Her practice also sponsors softball and basketball teams in the area.

That doesn’t mean she shirks her professional duties. To the contrary, she’s as dedicated to healing as she is to sports. “I would say it’s a calling,” she says. “You either have it or you don’t.” 

Renaud grew up in Monroe, Mich., on the shores of Lake Erie. Her parents owned a marina and bait shop, and she and her brother worked there “from a very early age. My first job was counting worms,” she says, chuckling, “and running the cash register, doing every aspect of the business. I learned a lot of people skills from that.”

From her mother and grandmother, she learned the importance of listening to her inner voice, a skill she says has served her well in her profession.

“I love being able to balance,” she says. “As chiropractors, we’re trained as primary care physicians, and if you use that intuitive part, you can’t go wrong.” As an example, she mentions a recent patient who came in complaining of abdominal pain that felt related to her back. “I palpated her a bit and thought, ‘There’s more here.’ I said, ‘You either have an ovarian cyst that is about to rupture or you have an appendix that is going to go.’” She sent the patient to her medical doctor and learned that night that the patient had had an emergency appendectomy.

Renaud says she always knew she would be some kind of a health professional, and had originally planned on attending medical school. Her uncle, a chiropractor, steered her toward a college prep course of study in high school to make sure she had a good base in science and math.

She enrolled in the pre-med program at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. A two-year degree in X-ray technology landed her a job as an X-ray technician at the University of Michigan Medical Center and helped her pay for her four-year undergraduate work and, eventually, her five-year chiropractic degree.

Karen Wark and Pamela MurphyPart-time front desk managers Karen Wark (left) and Pamela Murphy are two of Living Well’s five employees.

Doing trauma radiology and portable X-rays in the intensive care unit, it became clear to Renaud that there was more to health care than the medical model, she says. “I saw how the medical profession was great in those emergency situations, but it suited my personality better to look at different options.” Chiropractic seemed a good fit.

Even then, carrying a job and studies, Renaud’s motto was to work hard so she could play hard. Eastern Michigan University was where Rugby captured her imagination.

As involved with sports as she is, they weren’t what brought Renaud to Vermont. She came, she says, because she and Mary Spicer, her former business and life partner, traveled here on a break from the National College of Chiropractic in Chicago. They found it beautiful. 

It was August 1989. “As we drove through Montpelier on a Sunday afternoon, it was like a ghost town. We had our camp stove and tent but didn’t know where to go. When we finally saw a man, we stopped him and asked if he knew anyplace where we could get something to eat and camp. He invited us to camp on his property and to share his family’s dinner. We kept in touch over my final two years of school, and we kept coming back to visit him, and Vermont, on school breaks.” 

After graduation, she and Spicer returned to Vermont with, says Renaud, “nothing but a lot of debt from student loans and credit cards.” Their Vermont friend allowed them to live in a remote cabin on his property in Middlesex — which didn’t have indoor plumbing — while they worked to obtain their Vermont chiropractic licenses. 

At the same time, they met Gordon Smith and Eileen MacFarlane, a husband-and-wife-team of chiropractors whose offices were in the building on San Remo Drive that Living Well occupies. “Their practice was for sale because they were moving to Colorado,” she says. 

“We were lucky enough to put together a business plan with  the help of Chris Turley of BankNorth, who was then a certified SBA lender and is now a vice president,” says Renaud. “He held our hands through the process of getting the loan, and we were able to open the practice in March 1992. Chris continued to keep a close eye on us during the first five years of our business, to make sure that we could pay our staff first, and then ourselves.”

Ten years ago, she and Spicer began a family. Since dissolving their business and personal partnerships in January 2007, they share custody of their son, Casey. Renaud continued the practice, changing the name from Center for Chiropractic to Living Well Chiropractic, and Spicer has established her own practice, Back in Balance, in Shelburne.

Casey is the reason Renaud takes time from playing ice hockey and rugby to go snowboarding at Bolton Valley or Smugglers’ Notch. “When he was born,” she says with a laugh, “I knew I would never be able to keep up with him on skis, so I started snowboarding. He and I are about the same level now, so who knows what will happen in a few years.” Renaud admits that Casey doesn’t play hockey, but that he’s much better at Guitar Hero than she is.

Nancy MasinoRenaud specializes in sports injuries in addition to general health and chiropractic issues. Nancy Masino manages the office.

Sports have helped Renaud build her practice, because many of her patients have met her through her affiliation with sports teams. For years she has sponsored a women’s softball team, and now sponsors a team in the Burlington Women’s Basketball League. She sponsors the Vermont Vintage, an over-50 hockey team for women. “I love their jerseys,” she says. “My Living Well Chiropractic logo runs across their bottoms. It’s good fun and good business.” 

To Renaud, these sports sponsorships work as well as if she were speaking at Rotary or the chamber of commerce. As far as playing is concerned, she says, “It sure beats going to a gym and using the Stairmaster.” It’s no surprise, then, that she specializes in sports injuries in addition to general health and chiropractic issues.

“If I were to characterize what I do, it’s that I look at each person as a whole, and assess their individual needs. I don’t just focus on the particular reason the patient has come to see me.” 

While she asks the usual medical questions about the specific problem, she looks beyond, and asks patients, for example, how well they sleep, how many pillows they use, and what positions they sleep in. 

“I also ask a lot of personal questions to get a bigger picture of their lives so I can help people manage their problems. I tell my patients that I can help take the problem away temporarily, but they are the ones who are going to have to maintain the cure, so I bring a lot of lifestyle suggestions and guidance to each patient.”  

A case in point was made in a recent e-mail Renaud received from a patient with a pinched shoulder nerve whom she saw in 2006. Renaud had told her that if the pain came back, she would know what to do to make it go away.

The patient felt a few twinges last fall, she wrote, and was about to phone for an appointment when she recalled those words, “did a few exercises and stretches, then remembered more and turned it into a routine.” A few weeks later the pain was gone, “so you treated me twice without knowing, or getting paid for the second round.”

Renaud’s office is open Monday through Thursday, and she credits the five members of her team with helping make that so. 

Maria Godleski, a parole officer and the captain of Burlington Women’s Rugby, has played on the team with Renaud for about seven years. She has become a patient. 

Godleski has a great deal of respect for Renaud in all her capacities, “as a medical professional, friend, team peer, and as the coach who runs our practices.” She values their professional and personal relationship because, she says, “Tiffany is one of those people who, if I needed something, would be there for me. She is a confidante — someone I can talk to about things that are going on either in a medical or personal situation. 

“My family, and Tiffany’s, live really far away. I consider the friends I have made in the club to be my family.” 

During the last few years, Renaud coached and traveled around the United States with the Touring Women Over 30 and the Old Girls teams. Since last fall, she has been coaching the Burlington Women’s Rugby practices on Thursday nights.

Balancing work, sports, and family quality time is important to Renaud. “I make sure that Casey and I and my partner now, we’re a family unit, and we make sure we have dinner together, on weekends we go snowboarding together, that kind of stuff. I’m either working or I’m playing. 

“I can’t imaging working for anyone else. I’m such an independent person, and I like to be in charge of my own destiny. 

Most people ask, ‘How do you do it?’ What else am I supposed to do — wait around and get old?” •

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