What Should We Have Learned this Year?
By Reed Phillips, DC, PhD
It was a Tuesday morning in September, and I was about to walk out the door for school when the phone rang. My sister-in-law in Utah shouted frantically, "Turn on your TV; they are blowing up New York City!" I followed her instructions and tuned in just in time to watch a second terrorist-piloted plane hit the World Trade Center.
What a tragedy!
The emotional swing that accompanied these events was exacerbated as the day unfolded. My wife was in Philadelphia, scheduled to return home that afternoon. Seven days later, after traveling by train, bus, and finally a commuter plane, she returned home to Los Angeles, tired, but safe.
As with other significant historical events, the world changed that day; anyone who has traveled by air knows just how much. A year later, travel isn't quite as hampered, but I doubt it will ever be the same. We are searched a little more thoroughly before we get on a plane; we can't park by the curb anymore; and millions are spent on fighting the "terrorist menace." But more fundamentally, has our world "within" changed?
As members of a healing profession, I would like to suggest a few ways in which this devastating event should have altered our lives, thoughts and actions.
- Tolerance - We live in a world of diversity. Los Angeles is often touted as the most diverse city on the globe. Differences come in many packages. Often, we think of racial and ethnic differences because they are so externally apparent. Religious and lifestyle differences are more readily apparent by our actions than by outward appearances. As chiropractic continues to be subject to unjustified prejudice in much of the health care community, we, of all people, should understand and exemplify tolerance for diversity. This does not mean we cannot speak out against unfair practices, nor do we need to accept the role of second-class citizens in the health care community. We must stand for what is right, while recognizing that opinions and perspectives may differ. Tolerance is the ability to stand for what is right while protecting the rights of others.
- Integrity - Steven Covey defines honesty as, "...telling the truth or confirming our words to reality," and integrity as, "...conforming reality to our words - in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations."1 When we market our institutions to potential students, do we keep the promises made and fulfill their expectations? When we market to our patients, do we make promises of low-cost care and guaranteed outcomes in a bait-and-switch pattern? I fear that in the world of managed care, patient care is often a game of high volume and low quality to maximize financial gain. How the world has changed!
- Appreciation - People, irrespective of location, have a certain attachment to the land of their progenitors, and where they were raised. To a global community, this may seem ethnocentric, but each of us must be "proud to be an American." I have been privileged to see many places, all of them beautiful in their own way. When I return to the U.S., it is always a comforting feeling to be home. Comfort is more than being able to understand the language and recognize the food, it is a feeling of being free. And freedom is a precious commodity to me - one that is more prevalent here than anywhere else. We do have laws that must be obeyed, and there will always be someone trying to take advantage of someone else for personal gain, but overall, we have the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that make the U.S. different.
- Opportunity - Why do so many risk their lives to come to the U.S.? With all of our shortcomings and problems, the U.S. is still a land of opportunity, a land where the janitor can become the president of the company. Many countries provide education for their citizens, including a university education. However, not everyone can qualify for this privilege, and even after the education is completed, employment opportunities are often lacking. In the U.S., given enough persistence, there is very little that cannot be achieved or accomplished by anyone. Have you ever wondered what kind of future chiropractic would have experienced if it began somewhere other than in the U.S.?
- Diversity - The world is becoming more aware of its global multiculturalism. In every country, it is difficult to determine who are the true bloods or the blue bloods. No other nation than the U.S. can boast of the extent to which multiple cultures have been assimilated into the national culture, while retaining a distinct cultural uniqueness. While diversity brings many challenges, it also brings many opportunities for growth and learning. Who is uniquely American? There are no telltale characteristics that distinguish one race, nationality or culture as more American than another. While we are all a little bit different, we rally around the commonality of our national heritage, history and symbols.
We have a lot to be proud of and thankful for in America. As a result of the attack on the U.S. on September 11, we need to reflect. If we haven't made changes for the better, do we need to wait for another national crisis to motivate our inner convictions? I hope not. On this "anniversary" of a national tragedy, may we all resolve to act with a little more integrity and gratitude.
- Covey SR. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1989, pg. 195-6.
President, Los Angeles College of Chiropractic,
President, Southern California University of Health Sciences
for previous articles by Reed Phillips, DC, PhD.