Dr. Robby Hausman is great with his hands. As a chiropractor, he doesn’t have a choice. However, Hausman takes a comprehensive approach to wellness and he’s working to build a name for his business beyond the doors of his office in northwest Austin.
He was brought up on a pig farm surrounded by cornfields in the town of Onawa, Iowa (pop. 3,000). In a long conversation over coffee that was punctuated with a good share of Midwestern ‘ya knows,’ Hausman explained what he does to alleviate the pain of his patients. Everyone has slouched too much at their desk or experienced some form of back pain.
“If you’re having back pain, it’s often because segments of your spine aren’t moving the way that they should. I palpate with my hands and fingers and do a number of tests, based on where the patient is having pain and what’s going on in their body,” Hausman said. “I can feel where those motion segments are restricted. Once they start moving in the right direction, you notice that the pain you were having goes away. Muscles stretch and tighten, and your body creates a pattern and senses that abnormal motion and tries to freeze things up. My job is to restore that motion and get your neck to move the way it should move.”
Hausman, who went to school to be a chiropractor, readily admitted that many aspects of owning a business have put him on a steep learning curve since he opened Hausman Chiropractic & Acupuncture in June 2009. “I feel great about treating patients,” he said. “I was kind of expecting it, but it’s like standing at the bottom of a very tall mountain and you just keep climbing, just getting the word out and starting a business from scratch. There was literally just me in a big office by myself when I started.”
Having begun his studies at the University of Iowa, where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Hausman received his doctorate at Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City, where he took their accelerated program and graduated magna cum laude. The average person might have heard horror stories about chiropractic mishaps. Hausman demystifies chiropractic medicine, one patient at a time, by maintaining a very open and relaxed office environment. No question is too small. “A lot of my job is educating people about what I do and how I do it,” Hausman said, noting that Chiropractic medicine is one of the safest of most medical specialties. “It’s my job to reassure patients about common misconceptions and to show them how I can help in ways that other medical professionals may not be able to.”
Life On The Farm
Growing up on a pig farm in Western Iowa, about 10 miles from where Children of the Corn was filmed, makes you think of long days sweating in the fields or feeding the hogs with the sound of the tractor, the heat of the Midwestern sun and the permeating stench of manure as your only companion. For Hausman, whose main responsibility on his family’s farm was to mow all the grass around the hog barns and grain bins each summer, the vignette isn’t totally accurate.
“My mom always used to say, ‘don’t complain about the smell. That’s the smell of the money that bought your [insert item/college education],’ ” Hausman said. “In the summer, the grass grows pretty quickly, so I would spend a few hours every week doing the mowing.”
Hausman, a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the local pool during the summer, wasn’t responsible for the major chores of working with the hogs. His grandfather farmed as well, and although neither he nor his brother will be taking over the business, they’ll inherit the land and it will be farmed by others.
On a recent trip home (he returns three or four times per year), he finally drove a tractor for the first time after asking his father for the okay. “Everyone made fun of me for it–growing up on a farm and not having driven one. I drove it a couple times, but tractors drive themselves now with GPS.”
His small-town upbringing and being raised in a big (he’s the youngest of six children) catholic family shaped the man he’s become. Hausman said that his parents were always respectful and encouraged him to become who he wanted to be. Their support and love helped him to connect with other kids and make friends–many of which grew into longtime bonds.
One such friend is Emily Caropreso, who has been close with him since ninth grade when they were paired up on a school project focusing on big names in the music industry in the 70s. They were class clowns and decided to dress as the music duo for the finale of their presentation. Turning their backs to the class, Caropreso donned a denim vest and curly brown, short-haired wig, while Hausman put on a tangerine orange, shapeless dress and a long Cher style wig, before they lipsynched one verse of the duo’s hit, “I Got you Babe.”
“We got an “A” on that project,” said Caropreso, who lives in West Des Moines, Iowa. “We’ve been best friends ever since and have shared so many fun memories.”
“It was a big hit with the class,” Hausman said, “but it was by no means part of my coming out experience, just a funny way to end a speech.”
After graduating from chiropractic school in Kansas City, he moved to Minneapolis to briefly work for a chiropractor there. Although he learned a few things, Hausman knew that he wanted to strike out on his own. Even so, it was the pull of love that ultimately brought him to the capital city in January of 2009.
In July of 2008, when Hausman was finishing up his internship in Kansas City and preparing to work in Minneapolis, he was visiting a friend in Austin. They were out on Lake Travis one Saturday floating in the water and enjoying the day. That same day, as it happened, Ryan Zysk was also at the lake. After being introduced by their mutual friend, they talked for the remainder of the day. Although Hausman flew back to Kansas City the next day, they kept talking and decided to meet in Dallas a few days later to test the waters.
“Hearing him talk about what he was passionate about made me fall for him,” said Zysk, a resident of Austin since his years at Mccallum High School. “I loved that he had a plan for his life, had goals, he was motivated and he was going to make it happen.”
Having enjoyed their time in Dallas, the pair initially agreed to date long distance while Hausman was working in Minneapolis. However, that arrangement only lasted for about six months. Two years ago, Hausman relocated to Austin and opened his business.
“Robby and I push each other to be better people in all aspects of our lives,” Zysk, who is the director of bands at Anderson High School, said. “We’re there for each other when times get tough.”
Both men said they’re able to be open about their sexual orientation at work. Zysk’s principal and many of his colleagues know Hausman. “I love what I do,” said Zysk. “I teach kids about responsibility, discipline, how to be respectful–hopefully I’m a role model.”
His family treats Zysk the same way they would if his name were Julie, welcoming him with open arms. “The person I admire most is my mother. She used to be more conservative and she did a complete 180 when she found out her boys were gay,” said Hausman, who also has a gay brother. “My mom’s always been shy, but the fact that she speaks up now shows how passionate she’s become. She went door-to-door campaigning for obama. She re- examined her previously held beliefs and changed her perspective, even though it was difficult to do.”
After taking a few months to process it when Hausman came out as a sophomore in college, and coming to the realization that they had no reason to blame themselves, his family is now one hundred percent in support of him. “Before I met his family, I couldn’t have imagined how great they would be,” said Zysk.
Walking The Walk
The tag line of Hausman chiropractic, “Move well. Feel well. Be well,” seems simple, but for Hausman, what he does with his practice encompasses a wide range of services and community work. With chiropractic and acupuncture techniques, he has experience treating conditions such as neck pain, headaches, sports injuries, arthritis, smoking addiction, sciatica and more.
“I like giving back and I feel like it’s something I should do,” said Hausman. “I know that my life, thus far, has been pretty fortunate.”
His business has sponsored AIDS Services of Austin, the Mamma Jamma Ride for Breast cancer, the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Austin Pride and Octotea. “It’s not just about making a buck to him,” Zysk said. “The gay community has been very supportive of him, especially when he was struggling just to get off the ground. I can’t think of a better way to get your name out there than sup- porting these nonprofits.”
Hausman’s clients, who range from high school students to Medicare patients to LGBT folks, can feel comfortable in his office. “My patients come, they talk to me, I touch them. I think human touch is super vital,” Hausman said. “We end up talking about their kids and the rest of their health care.” One long-term goal, after he expands his current location more, is to eventually open a second location near his home in east Austin.
Two years into their relationship as a couple, Hausman and Zysk both mentioned wanting to have children when the time is right and it’s financially feasible. “Robby and I want to have a kid or two someday. We want to get the business going and get a space of our own that’s suitable for kids.”
The stereotype of the aloof, overly clinical and in-a-big- rush doctor is one that Hausman consciously works against each day. Having built up a lot of confidence in himself and his ability to run his own business, Hausman is looking forward to growing more as he continues to provide a positive, welcoming environment for his patients.
“Helping someone experience less pain today than they otherwise would is significant,” Hausman said. That’s the neat part of my job, there’s a more instant gratification: People usually do feel better when they walk out.”