I am very sensitive to the plight of most associations and the incredible need to have the necessary support (translated into dollars) to permit those who want to do the work, are willing to expend the time, and are interested in addressing those injustices to their patients or their profession, to be able to carry on their tasks.
After one of these most recent incidents, I went back to my hotel room and turned on the television news. The headline story was about Saddam Hussein and the confrontation with the United States and United Nations. It was nothing we have not heard about in the past, but this story did not have anything to with Saddam Hussein, rather: it was about the people of Iraq.
The television cameras were focused on Iraqis walking en masse into the presidential palaces as virtual "human shields" to prevent foreign countries from bombing the palaces, where it is believed that the weapons of mass destruction are buried.
I am not suggesting for one moment that only 100 yards away, there may not have been armed guards with rifles and tanks pointed at the people to insure compliance, but that is not the point of the matter. Think about it: people willing to give up their very life for a cause! In this case it may be a cause we may not agree with, condone, or as Americans even understand. Yet somehow these people are motivated, committed, energized, galvanized, and ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, their leader, and their beliefs.
My mind reflected on the words of the president of the state association who pleaded with the doctors in the room for support. He was not asking them to give up their lives, their homes, offices, children, or even their Saturday afternoon golf games, but only a few dollars of their money, or to attend a meeting or two, and perhaps write a letter.
Despite the changes in the health care system, doctors are still making more money than many non-professionals. They still enjoy a certain amount of prestige and social standing because they are a doctor. They still have a sense of independence as a result of their chosen profession. All of these things -- money, prestige, and the ability to practice independently -- they would not have if the doctors who preceded them had felt the same indifference toward supporting the advancement of chiropractic. Where would we be if there had not been a fight for licensure, recognition, and equality? Perhaps the apathy and indifference is reflective of the thinking that is prevalent in today's society, "What's in it for me?"
The majority of the doctors in most states do not participate unless there is "something in it for them." Is it any wonder that state associations are all in need of dollars, and this strain on their budget has caused them to become selfish in their desire to protect their member benefits and invoke "state" sovereignty and territorial isolationism in an effort to safeguard what they have?
Maybe it is time that the profession take a long, hard look at what we are doing to ourselves. Maybe it is time we called a "time out" and set some long range indicators for the decisions we will make. Maybe doctors need to look into the mirror and really ask, "Why am I not supporting my state and national association?" Maybe state and national associations need to begin asking, "Are the actions we are taking benefiting the global good of the profession? Is there a better way to function in synergy, rather than at cross purposes for the collective good of the profession?"
Yes, there are opportunities that present themselves every day which carry a "short-term gain." The AMA recently underwent a significant endorsement issue and blemished their reputation because of a lack of long-term, ethical considerations. There are less expensive products on the market for sale to our patients and to the membership of associations. Some, without a doubt, carry an immediate financial return in the short term. There are less expensive huckster-type seminars put on by individuals that take away from the legitimate association and organizational sponsorship. Again, it is a short-term gain for the attendee, but a long-term loss for the association. I receive notices every month for cheaper insurance from companies that may even be good, but what have they done for the global good of the profession? Short-term savings, long-term loss.
I am proposing a fundamental question for every DC: Is the state or national association or vendor or product manufacturer I am supporting contributing back to the global good of my profession? If not, is the lure of a short-term gain worth the long-term erosion that may result by weakening the profession?
Every DC should take a few moments to reflect on the strength the chiropractic profession would have if there were a total commitment by every DC to participate, support, promote, endorse, and advocate those groups -- national, state and local -- that truly support the global advancement of the profession. If each of us did that, there would be little need to plead, implore and beg at every meeting of every association, and more importantly to those who are there and already supporting the issues, or they would not be hearing the message. The sermon for sinners is given to those who attend the service, but somehow the wrong audience hears the message.
Maybe we should send a contingency to Iraq to find out what truly motivates the people of that country to be willing to become "human shields" and die to protect what they believe in, while we cannot get our own profession to recognize the need to support those groups who advance this profession.
Maybe there is a lesson to be learned in commitment, or is it too late for our profession to regain the strength and solidarity we once had during those days when we had no licensure, no recognition, no money and few options? We had no choice but to stick together or be relegated to standing alone. Sometimes I long for those hungry years of early chiropractic, when the focus was on the profession and not on, "What's in it for me." Those were the days when DCs attended meetings because they wanted to, contributed because it was the right thing to do, and participated because they felt a professional obligation. But more importantly, there was a feeling of being part of a cause, a movement, a vision, and a commitment to something bigger than self.
It is not too late for chiropractic to learn a valuable lesson. Turn on the television set, listen to the commentary on any group that feels oppressed, and see that the singular common denominator is the mutual good, with global interest overriding self-interest.
Louis Sportelli, DC
Click here for more information about Louis Sportelli, DC.