Logan graduate Dr. Matthew Pennell fulfills his dream in working with professional athletes

For Logan University alumni Matthew Pennell, DC, MS, networking is a skill, patience is a virtue, communication is key, and all three combined have been the hat-trick to his success.

While pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Dr. Pennell spent the summers working for a moving company in his hometown, Jacksonville, IL. The summer leading into his junior year, he hurt his back on the job and received treatment from a chiropractor, who happened to be a Logan graduate. 

“I had a great experience at the chiropractor,” Dr. Pennell said. “With treatment, my back got better and I began to think about chiropractic as a career.” 

His thoughts turned into action. Dr. Pennell enrolled at Logan in Spring 2012 to pursue a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, in addition to a Bachelor of Science in Life Science and Master of Science in Sports Science and Rehabilitation

As a student, Dr. Pennell began to understand the importance of making lasting connections with people and finding mentors along the way. Before starting at Logan, he shadowed Annette Schippel, DC, Karl Schippel, DC, and Dennis Doyle, DC, in Jacksonville; the three became Dr. Pennell’s first mentors in chiropractic as he prepared to start his new path. Continuing his pursuit for mentors, Dr. Pennell was introduced to Mike Murphy, DC, of Performance Chiropractic in St. Louis through mutual friends. 

“I shadowed Dr. Murphy at his office and I loved the way they operated. It was very patient-oriented and it felt like a family,” Dr. Pennell said. “Since I liked the environment, I worked to stay in touch with Dr. Murphy during school.”

He built his relationship with Dr. Murphy through frequent email conversations, lunch meetings and the occasional shadow day. Knowing that Dr. Murphy enjoyed teaching, Dr. Pennell would also invite Dr. Murphy to speak at events with organizations he was involved in, such as Logan’s Sports Council. Dr. Pennell and Dr. Murphy’s relationship grew and Dr. Pennell ended up completing his Trimester 10 preceptorship with Dr. Murphy, which ultimately led to a position after graduation in 2015.

“They told me that there wasn’t really space for me, but they wanted to make it work because of the value I brought to the table,” said Dr. Pennell. “It practically brought me to tears … I was excited to feel at home.”  

Dr. Pennell has been with Performance Chiropractic ever since, working with Dr. Murphy and the rest of the team, including Shane Bates, DC, MS, and Larry Burrell, DC, who Dr. Pennell also considers to be great mentors. At the clinic, all the doctors are independent contractors who bring in their own patients, yet tag-team duties for some larger clients. The team goes to Washington University in St. Louis and Lindenwood University twice per week to treat athletes, in addition to taking care of professional hockey players with the St. Louis Blues.  

Dr. Murphy has been the team chiropractor for the Blues since 1995, spending home games in the locker room. Dr. Pennell, on the other hand, would join him at the games, but instead sat in the stands, waiting to get a call that backup was needed. Game in and game out, his phone remained silent … until, one day, it was finally his turn. 

Dr. Pennell (at right) with his brother Jordan during a St. Louis Blues game.

Monday, October 30, 2017, Dr. Pennell planned to sit in his usual seat to watch the Blues take on the Los Angeles Kings after a day in the clinic. Instead, he was told he’d be continuing to work into the evening – in the Blues’ locker room.

“It was a humbling experience to get to fulfill the dream of working with a professional sports team,” said Dr. Pennell, adding that he has continued caring for the players during multiple home games and even received an official pass. 

“A lot of it is patience and waiting for your time,” said Dr. Pennell. “When you’re young in your career it’s important to show up, get the work done and wait for the opportunities to open up. I never once asked to go and work the games, but in time, I earned that opportunity.” 

Dr. Pennell has learned that communication is key in all facets of his profession, especially when he is working with a variety of other medical professionals. 

“It’s a team effort to get the players better,” said Dr. Pennell. “You have to communicate well with the other medical staff as well as the players to make sure they are getting the treatment they need to perform.”

As far as building a patient-base, Dr. Pennell recognizes that success does not just occur over night and it takes work to effectively communicate and network in order for his business to grow. 

“The patients won’t just come to you,” said Dr. Pennell. “You have to make it happen yourself and take all the meetings you can.” 

When he’s not in the Blues locker room or in the clinic, Dr. Pennell teaches a clinical methods course at Logan and has spoken at professional development events. “I know how important it was for me to learn from others as a student, so I try to provide any kind of mentoring I can,” he said.

Dr. Pennell treating at Pedal the Cause.

He also provides care at various gyms in the area, some motocross events in town, as well as running and cycling events. Last fall, Dr. Pennell was the title treatment physician for St. Louis’ Pedal the Cause bike ride, raising funds for cancer research. In volunteering at these events, Dr. Pennell is able to recruit his Logan students to come help out and learn in a different setting. 

“Sometimes you don’t want to waste your time with meetings or events, but I always try to turn it into something positive,” said Dr. Pennell. “Because the truth is, you have no idea what you’re going to get out of it.” 

Making things positive has proven to be the right strategy for Dr. Pennell. He is humbled by his success, recognizing that it would not be as great if it weren’t for the education he received and the talented team surrounding him at Performance Chiropractic, including massage therapist, Katie Canavan, as well as the mentors he found in Drs. Murphy, Bates and Burrell.

“In the end, it’s all about the patients and the care,” said Dr. Pennell. Whether it’s a Blues player or a person in my clinic, the mindset is always…What do I need to do to help this person get better?”


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