After spending over six decades as a chiropractor in Latrobe, 89-year-old Dr. Anita Bigo is preparing to retire.
“You’re never going to find anybody in your life who has been practicing 66 years,” she said during a recent interview at her home.
Although a hip injury last year and knee troubles have slowed her, she still has a strong desire to help her loyal patients.
“I was married but didn’t have any children, so I just kept working,” she said. “I was who I was. It’s just what I loved to do and because of that, people could get me on Sundays, I’ve treated people on holidays.
“I’ve worked on all kinds of holidays because I just wanted to be there for everybody. I just wanted to be there because I knew they were hurting.”
And while she never envisioned she’d practice this long, Bigo always scoffed at the idea of retiring, simply asking “What would I have done?”
“In all those years it never crossed my mind,” she said.
Bigo had a mind for medicine at an early age as she remembers tending to small animals while growing up.
“I was always attending to someone who was ill when I was a little child,” she said. “On the farm if a bird would have a broken shoulder or something, my dad had gauze and stuff like that, and I’d always try to take care of the little things.
“I always had that in the back of my mind that maybe I’d be a doctor.”
As she advanced through her studies, Bigo soon realized she would be best suited to study chiropractic care.
She studied at what is now the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, headed by Dr. B.J. Palmer.
According to the school’s website, Palmer’s “contributions included extensive research, improved methods of spinal adjustment and analysis, higher standards for chiropractic education, and increased appreciation for chiropractic worldwide.”
Of the 210 students who started out in Bigo’s graduating class, 19 of them were female. By the time the class graduated, only two females were left.
“Of the 19, many of them stopped and ended up working for their future husbands,” Bigo said. “We were in Davenport and there was a John Deere plant nearby, and they had a lot of Palmer students that worked there.
“They hired them at the school because there weren’t really any loans back then, so they all married the guys and helped their husbands. So that left just two girls that graduated in that class.”
After graduating in October 1956, Bigo returned to Latrobe where her practice, located at 330 Weldon St., awaited.
“I started on Weldon Street and my dad ordered equipment for me and had the building ready when I got back from school,” Bigo said.
She often jokes that she owns Weldon Street “with all the taxes I have put into the trees and the sidewalks.”
At a time when doctors of various disciplines were charging $3 for visits, Bigo in 1956 elected to charge adult patients $4, and $2 for children under 10.
“That’s how I started, and over 60 years later if you’d come to my office, after you have a physical for about $85 or $90, it’s only $40 each visit,” Bigo said. “So to go from $4 in 1956 to $40, it’s not a lot of money. But each time that I had to put it up a few dollars, I’d feel so bad.
“Every nun, priest and reverend, I never charged any of them, and I had a lot of them.”
Bigo’s vast clientele knew no bounds as she welcomed patients from all walks of life. In addition to treating multiple Pittsburgh Steelers over the years, she also developed a friendship with Arnold and Winnie Palmer.
“I’d say (Arnold Palmer) came in most times that he came back to town. It was off and on depending on where he was and what he was doing,” Bigo said. “People used to be surprised that I never charged him more than other people. I figured he is who he is and I am who I am, and so many people met him at the office, and I had Steelers in there, too.”
She also adjusted multiple well-known celebrities during trips to the West Coast, including Nancy Sinatra, Joan Blondell and Loretta Lynn.
“They wanted me to come out there and practice and make me a millionaire overnight and I said ‘no, thank you,’” Bigo recalled.
And while there were multiple chiropractors back home in Latrobe, Bigo said she believes “word of mouth just spread” as patients frequented her Weldon Street practice.
She also takes great pride in treating multiple young patients with torticollis, a problem with the muscles of the neck that causes the head to tilt down and to the side. If a baby suffers from the condition at birth, it is called congenital muscular torticollis.
“People have come to know chiropractic care more and more, and I’ve treated medical doctors and neurosurgeons with their necks and shoulders and backs, things like that,” she said. “And I’d treat their wives for migraine headaches, and eventually I started into acupuncture.”
Bigo recalls receiving a notice in the mail about a Chicago seminar introducing acupuncture, which would help her practice evolve even further.
“My husband said that ‘we’re always looking for something else to give the patients,’ so we took the seminar,” Bigo said. “There were 45 of us at the time, and I remember Dr. Wong telling us that ‘acupuncture works, it just takes time depending on the condition.’”
Between 1970 and 1974, Bigo and her husband made multiple trips for acupuncture seminars.
“Dr. Wong took us all over the world,” Bigo said, including China, Japan, and other locations.
“We had to leave the office for 32 days at a time,” Bigo recalled. “It was long, but (Wong) wanted us to be in training and said ‘I never want my people to say it’s weekend acupuncture.’ He wanted us to be focused and learning.
“There were morning classes and seminars, and we went to clinics where they were doing acupuncture, and hospitals. We saw amazing things.”
Bigo attended multiple seminars stateside as well, and in 1974 began offering acupuncture.
“We had patients who were unsure of it but the needles were so fine,” Bigo said. “Some of them are actually the size of a human hair. But as word spread, we started having people come from all over for acupuncture. The needles all had to be sterilized, and we had special envelopes to put the needles in and the patient’s name was on the envelope, so they knew they got their needles.”
After using acupuncture needles for roughly three years, Bigo was introduced to the Dynatron 820 Laser from Dynatronics Research Corp.
“I got something in the mail one day about acupuncture, but with a laser,” she said. “I went to a seminar for it to learn more about it. The important points were to see what was being treated and if it would be as effective as needles were.”
After hearing several success stories, she decided to buy the equipment.
It was made in Arizona and cost $45,000 in the late 1970s. Bigo still uses the equipment to this day.
“It was all about making it better for the patient and the fact that it’s noninvasive, just a cold, red light going on these acupuncture spots,” Bigo said. “Buying that was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Bigo was also instrumental in getting the first K-9 officer, Rocky, for Latrobe.
“Drugs were coming in and I spoke to the chief about it, because I thought the building across the street from me, there was something in there about drugs,” Bigo said. “A 14- or 15-year-old died of an overdose across the street from me and drugs were coming in, and I said we need a drug dog.
“I paid $11,000 for him and he was trained. Rocky was so smart and everybody loved that dog, they just took him everywhere. They’d bring him in from time to time and I got to see him and pet him, he was just so good.”
Bigo closed her Weldon Street office in 2021 after she broke her hip. However, she still treats patients out of her home office as she still has a license to practice until next year. Bigo still has patients traveling from Greensburg, Somerset, and other areas for treatment.