The Power of Perspective: The Education of the Profession's Next Generation
By Reed Phillips, DC, PhD"The question to be asked at the end of an educational step is not what has the student learned, but what has the student become?" - James Monroe
The next generation of the chiropractic profession resides in today's chiropractic colleges. What is this generation learning, and how will that influence what they become as practicing doctors of chiropractic in the future? Is the future of the profession in good hands?
External forces, some that can be influenced and some that cannot, will affect the future of the profession. We cannot stand idly by and allow the external environment to determine our future, but must grasp it and make of it what we will. We have the power to influence and affect our future as we have done in the past, either by our effort or our lack thereof.
The future foundation of the profession resides in the minds and hearts of the students. They are feeding at the trough of knowledge, where faculty and other leaders in the profession help shape the student's paradigm of the profession. We help create the road map of their future travels as doctors of chiropractic.
Exactly what is being taught at chiropractic colleges? The standards established by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) have set the parameters or guidelines for the curriculum. However, the mission of the institution may influence the interpretation and application of these standards. As missions differ, so may the intensity and immensity of the interpretation and implementation of the standards.
This mission-driven emphasis differs primarily in the realm of philosophy. I applaud those college presidents who have publicly articulated their focus in the educational endeavor at their respective institutions. I wish to quote a few to give credence to their point of view. While their perspectives may not be mine, living in these United States grants us the freedom to express ourselves and to be respectful of the perspective of others.
The Perspective of Dr. David Koch and Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic1
"...Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic espouses vertebral subluxation-centered chiropractic practice, and embraces the location, analysis and correction of vertebral subluxations whenever and in whomever they can be detected as its practice objective. This practice objective alone embodies what is unique and distinctive about chiropractic, its history, its service to humanity and its vision for the future of human expression and health. I would dearly love to see the chiropractic profession focus itself on its one unique practice objective, so that the location, analysis and correction of the vertebral subluxation can fulfill its potential as a professional endeavor, and someday be a service available to each and every living human being on this planet."
The Perspective of Dr. Sid Williams and Life University2
"We all appreciate academic honors and hold in high regard those among us who are top achievers. However, we have all observed that a high grade point average in the classroom often is a poor predictor of performance in the field. Educators have long known that some 90 percent of the facts and figures learned in class are soon forgotten. It's fine and good to have a plaque to hang on the wall, but when we are looking at a dying world that is already suffering because of man's inhumanity to man, we don't need to add to that suffering by establishing criteria that are not really relevant to professional skills.
"I am convinced that curtailing the production of qualified chiropractic practitioners through the imposition of unnecessarily higher academic requirements would needlessly slow the growth of our profession and also deny many fully capable, friendly, compassionate, professional, intelligent people the opportunity to serve humanity through the unique science of chiropractic.
"What our profession needs is more pioneers - more evangelists for chiropractic. We need to follow the successful example of religion and send chiropractic missionaries to every village in the world where they are needed. What we need is some chiropractic Billy Grahams who truly believe in their profession and who can convincingly take the message to the world."
The Perspective of Dr. Guy Riekeman and Palmer University3
"At my first CCE meeting in April, there was a great deal of discussion about entrance requirements for chiropractic students. The push in the profession from organizations such as the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB), National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) and most chiropractic colleges is for higher entrance requirements. But the higher entrance requirements being discussed focus only on academics, specifically science courses and GPAs.
"At chiropractic colleges, we need to ask the logical follow-up question to this discussion. Do proposed higher entrance requirements ensure that students will be successful in practice? That's a question only a few people are beginning to ask. At Palmer, we put together an educational task force to answer it. The task force is actually addressing several questions: 1) What are the attributes of a successful chiropractor? 2) What kind of a curriculum would you design to produce that kind of a chiropractor? 3) What entrance requirements would you need to best assure someone would be successful in that curriculum?
"What are the attributes of a well-rounded, successful chiropractor? The group came up with four attributes: 1) the ability to integrate chiropractic philosophy into the science and practice of chiropractic; 2) highly developed interpersonal skills; 3) the ability to manage a business in a manner that allows them to deliver optimal patient care; and 4) possessing life skills in the areas of values, personal growth and professional development that would support continued growth in these areas.
"An additional change, basically a modification of our current curriculum, is the integration of chiropractic philosophy into the curriculum. This integration insures that students learn how philosophy relates to all subjects they study, from basic sciences to clinical practice."
The Perspective of Dr. John Allenburg and Northwestern Health Sciences University4
"Northwestern College of Chiropractic (NWCC), a leader in chiropractic education since its founding in 1941, is now part of a new model of health care education in which chiropractic and other wellness approaches are organized under a single university umbrella: The Northwestern Health Sciences University. Beginning this fall, the university will provide not only chiropractic education, but also educational programs in acupuncture and oriental medicine, massage therapy, integrative health and wellness, and human biology.
"'We believe that changes such as these will enhance the leadership position of chiropractic for education, research and service in the field of natural health and healthcare,' explained John Allenburg,DC, president of the university. 'With the strong public movement toward conservative health care, we shouldn't take a chance that any other profession might lead this new direction, most especially those with only market-driven motivation and little history of genuine commitment to natural approaches.'"
The Perspective of Dr. James Winterstein and National College of Chiropractic5
"The president of NCC, James Winterstein,DC, is countering skepticism of chiropractic by continuing the college's tradition of elevating educational standards. Like the vast majority of medical and osteopathic colleges, he has raised the college's entrance requirements (with the approval of the NCC board of trustees) beyond the minimum professional and federal accrediting standards. In part, this move was propelled by NCC's shift to a problem-based learning curriculum. In 1992, NCC undertook a progressive path. The college outlined systematic changes to be implemented during a seven-year period, changes that would lead to a baccalaureate degree requirement ...
" ... This fall, NCC was the first among its peers to raise the matriculation bar to a bachelor's degree. 'I think it is time to change the culture of our profession toward a more intellectual basis and, as a result, toward more intellectual reasoning.' Dr. Winterstein explains. 'Because of our lack of an intellectual culture and our continual infighting, the American public has not benefited from chiropractic the way it could have if we had been a highly progressive, intellectual profession and had made a real dent in the health care scene.' "Dr. Winterstein believes that in the battle to be considered mainstream practitioners, chiropractors still have far to go. More education is his answer."
The Perspective of Dr. Reed B. Phillips and Los Angeles College of Chiropractic
It is a well-known fact that LACC's obtaining accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the only chiropractic college in the WASC region to do so, was predicated upon the implementation of the bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA as a requirement for admission in 2003. We remain committed to that goal and time frame.
Our competency-based, problem-oriented ADVANTAGE Program, started in 1990, demands academic skills learned at a bachelor's level of training. When the WASC site team was on our campus, members asked a very interesting question: How do your students succeed in a 'doctoral level' training program if you only require preparation at the community college level? I would ask the same question of my fellow college presidents. LACC answered by raising the bar (as has NCC), rather than allowing the academic community to question the integrity of the DC degree.
Lest one misconstrue a lack of commitment to philosophy in our educational program, the college has published a position paper on philosophy in chiropractic and is in the process of publishing a paper defining our model of practice. However, LACC remains grounded in the academic disciplines of the sciences and encourages intellectual inquiry as part of the educational program.
I close with a series of questions and a challenge to my fellow presidents, the keepers of the gate in the sense of training the next generation.
Ever since we crawled out of the "dark ages," philosophy has driven how we interpret science. This being the case, what is it we do at our institutions that causes us to be labeled as scientifically based or philosophically-based? Why do we label those who pursue research as "medical" as if "medicine" and "science" were equivalent that "chiropractic" and "science" were not? Could it be our religious zeal or lack thereof? Could it be our aversion to increased educational standards or the embracing of such?
Why is it that when scientific findings call into question philosophical beliefs, some in our profession castigate the science for its failure to support what has already been declared to be "true"? Why do some in our profession rebuke philosophy when confronted with a situation for which science has no answer? Where do we as presidents, and as the institutions we represent, stand regarding the labels that are so easily applied by non-discerning or uninformed individuals?
Isn't it only fair that we each state clearly and publicly our position as institutions of higher learning regarding what we teach, how we teach it and what kind of academic standards we expect our students to measure up to? Shouldn't we define what we hope our students will become, not just what they will learn?
To students considering a chiropractic education, or any health career advisor working with such students, there should be a clear understanding of the strengths and positions of each institution on philosophy and science.
I would hope that a student seeking a strictly philosophical approach to chiropractic education would find, from the materials published, which school may be the best selection. Conversely, the student seeking a strong scientific-based chiropractic education complemented by philosophy would also find from the promotional materials presented that we, along with certain other schools, would be a more appropriate choice.
I fear that in our zest to obtain new students, some may tend to sell the student or counselor whatever we think they are looking for. For the sake of intellectual honesty and professional integrity, let's put our position in writing so the world can be our judge.
In this article, I have referenced a few perspectives based on the words of my fellow presidents. I make no determination of what is best or right for each individual student or institution. I believe the position papers published by LACC clearly state our position (copies are available on request). I challenge the other chiropractic institutions to do likewise. I charge the ACC with the responsibility to provide the vehicle whereby all chiropractic educational programs can be clearly defined per their mission and their emphasis on philosophy, scientific reasoning and rational thinking.
If we are all equally in the middle of the spectrum of science and philosophy, then let it be known. If we have different emphases, we owe it to the future of this profession to define where we stand.
Click here for previous articles by Reed Phillips, DC, PhD.