Then & Now: Lee enjoys ‘calling’ as a chiropractor

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 707 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the March 13 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Darren Lee, owner of Lee Family Chiropractic in Siloam Springs, has been a chiropractor for 26 years. He started his practice in his hometown in 1997.

Asked why he’s remained a chiropractor over the years, Lee joked, “I’m not really good for anything else. That’s my calling. I haven’t worn the new off it yet. I enjoy the work, and I enjoy the people I meet.”

The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named Lee to the Forty Under 40 class in 2000.

During a recent interview, a long-time patient from Rogers walked in to be seen. Lee noted he’s one of the few area chiropractors open on Fridays.

“I can’t say, ‘No,’” he joked. “He made an effort to show up. We’ll see what we can do about it.”

Many patients have returned to see him since he started his practice. His favorite aspect of being a chiropractor is the feedback.

“There’s a lot of people who come in here who can’t even stand up straight,” he said. “They’ve hurt themselves, been to the hospital and told they will have to live with it … Then, 10 minutes later, they’re walking out like nothing ever happened. Most jobs don’t give you feedback like, ‘Wow, that was a great job. Thanks. I really appreciate it.’ That’s nice.”

Dealing with insurance companies was the most challenging aspect of his job. However, seven or eight years ago, he stopped taking insurance and began to charge a flat fee of $40 per visit. He made the change amid rising co-pays and deductibles. He added that some patients’ insurance plans have higher co-pays than his fee.

“Most of what we’re doing now is wellness,” he said. “I have people who have been coming in here for 25 years. They pop in periodically to get things checked out and lined up to keep things from becoming problems.”

Now, the most challenging aspect of the job comprises the patients who are on the borderline of needing surgery.

“It a hard call,” he said. “Nobody wants to hear that they need to have surgery … I don’t want to have to give anybody any bad news.”

Lee declined to discuss patient numbers but said he has enough to keep busy for five and a half days a week. He accepts patients on weekdays and half-days on Saturdays.

Asked whether his business was affected by the pandemic, he said, “No … I treated it like I would any other bad flu season. I tried to maintain some normalcy here.”

Along with Lee, his wife, Leigh, also works in the business. She handles paperwork, bookkeeping and patient scheduling. “Sometimes she answers the phone when she’s not running around being a grandma,” he joked. “We’ve got to have our priorities.”

The couple has three children, who are all married, and two grandchildren. Their eldest son and grandchildren reside in Elm Springs. Their second son lives in Iowa, and their daughter lives in Austin, Texas.

In 2022, Lee, 60, retired as a first sergeant in the U.S. Army after a nearly 29-year military career. He started with the U.S. Navy before joining the Army in 2004. In the Navy, he was a corpsman with a reconnaissance unit and a reserve Seal team.

“I got to visit Iraq and Korea and Northern California,” joked Lee, noting that after 9/11, he worked in physiological operations, like sales and marketing for the military. “It’s information operations … telling them, ‘Hey, we don’t want to be here either. If you want us to leave, here’s how you can help.’”

Lee said his patients were understanding of his military career. Over the past 15 years, he would be away on duty for at least eight weeks each year.

He doesn’t have plans to retire as a chiropractor but might work fewer days, such as taking off Fridays or Saturdays. He looks to spend more time with his grandchildren.

Lee enjoys woodwork, including building and restoring furniture. He also restores guitars and old vehicles. His existing project is a 1950 Hudson Commodore. He’s a member of the Hudson-Essex-Terraplane (HET) Club.