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Dynamic Chiropractic – June 18, 2005, Vol. 23, Issue 13
Dynamic Chiropractic
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Dynamic Chiropractic

Where Are the Young Turks of Chiropractic Public Health?

By Rand Baird, DC, MPH, FICA, FICC

The phrase "young Turk" is not so commonly used as it once was. According to the New Webster's Dictionary, it means "an insurgent or reformist member of an organization." Over time, the phrase came to be applied not just to rebels, but also to younger "movers and shakers" within an organization; younger loyalists who were willing and eager to assume leadership roles.

So, where are the "young Turks" of chiropractic and chiropractic public health? I don't see them and haven't been able to find them, although I've been looking for them for the past several years.

Any profession moves on its leaders, not its masses (although they also serve who do no more than pay their professional association dues). And of course, every generation bemoans its immediate successor, the next generation, for its seeming lack of traditional values. But it appears to me that the current lack of young Turks in chiropractic and in chiropractic public health is truly something different, something unprecedented, something unique - something is missing that used to be there! There no longer seems to be much of an attitude of public service among our younger DCs. Providing health care is a business to them, rather than a calling to help others. Perhaps I'm a curmudgeon, but it seems to me that there is something wrong with our contemporary American society, in that it does not encourage unselfish service to the public like it used to do.

Some concepts have apparently been lost to the younger generation of DCs, or at least seem rather foreign to them. I remember learning that a professional should do what is best for the profession and the public first, and put private gain second; and that you must first prime the pump if you expect to be able to draw much from the well later. And there was even the lesson that chiropractic is a big pot of gold for its practitioners, but that you must put something into that pot in proportion and in exchange for what you plan to take out. "Pay your dues first" was a dictum to live and practice by. Even Dr. Jim Parker preached "L-L-L - Lather Love Lavishly" to your patients and community before expecting financial rewards to yourself. And to be a true professional meant embodying all three components: practitioner, teacher, and researcher. In every profession, and in fact, in every society on this planet, there will always be more small minds than people with vision, but there seems to be a much smaller percentage with vision in chiropractic today.

Witness an example: At a recent (Nov. 8, 2004) formal meeting of the leadership of the Chiropractic Health Care Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in Washington, D.C., I did a fast, unscientific cross-sectional survey of the participants. Out of the 18 people present, only two were under 40 years of age, and one of these was not a DC; the other 16 people present were over 40, and most were in their early 50s. All had accomplished and were still actively accomplishing great things for the chiropractic profession within the APHA structure (and elsewhere, too). But where were their younger counterparts? Where were the young Turks of chiropractic public health? The APHA is the oldest, largest, and most influential public health association in the world. For the past 10 years, the APHA has had a Chiropractic Health Care Section that has won the right to participate with full equity and parity alongside the other 25 or so disciplines that compose the public health system of this country. Why were there almost no younger future leaders of chiropractic public health present at the APHA annual meeting? Why the obvious leadership gap?

Some from the "Baby Boom Generation" have accused the "Generation-X" people of being self-centered, apathetic, uninvolved, selfish, greedy, self-gratifying and overly materialistic. Unfortunately, this now seems to me to actually be the case - an accurate description! I'm not really altruistic; in fact, my personal philosophy leans more toward Ayn Rand's objectivism and rational self-interest. But the leadership gap really concerns me ... I see plenty of selfish takers, but where are the unselfish givers?

Witness one more example: In March 2005, I attended the rather excellent presentations at the ACC/RAC meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. About 380 people attended: the intelligentsia of chiropractic; its leaders in the scientific, research, political, and educational communities of the profession. At this meeting, I saw very few DCs under 40 years old and most were in their 50s; most had been leading voices in the profession since they were in their 30s, with many major accomplishments achieved in their 30s and subsequently continuing to lead the way very productively, even now. They were the young Turks of chiropractic and chiropractic public health in the 1980s and 1990s. I observed people like Meeker, Hawk, Mootz, Haldeman, Keating, Haas, Hyland, Perillo, Kranz, Cuneo, Rosner, Jaeger, Yochum, Nelson, Goertz, Hegetschweiler, Petersen, and the chiropractic college presidents, just to name a few (and I sincerely apologize for the dozens of names from the same cohort that I've omitted from this article). Most were over 50 years of age; soon, they'll be joining AARP and getting their senior discount cards. Who will take their places? Incidentally, virtually none of these was "following in their father's footsteps," i.e., they were independent, self-motivated, and often even self-funded. They made personal sacrifices during their entire careers to help the chiropractic profession and advance the public health.

Do you disagree with me? If so, take the challenge: Name 10 DCs under age 40 who have accomplished anything big on their own to advance the profession! Can't? OK, then try to name just five!

If I'm mistaken, how else would you explain the proliferation of get-rich-quick overutilization schemes rampant among younger practitioners? How else could you explain the large numbers of younger DCs who are enthralled and enamored by hard-sell, unscientific reports of findings to sell treatment plans to asymptomatic patients? How else could you explain the popularity of Scientology-based office management training seminars for DCs? How else could you explain the manipulation of every acute clinical problem into a prescription for long-term, so-called "corrective" care and misnomered "wellness" care?

Chiropractic doctors have a duty to serve and protect the public. Whether practicing in the private sector or the public arena, we are still part of the overall public health system.

Ernest Hemingway warned all in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Earlier, Joseph Conrad encouraged all to make the most of their "youth." George Bernard Shaw said, "Youth is wasted on the Young." In the 1800s, Benjamin Disraeli said, "The youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity." Do our younger DCs not see the writing on their chiropractic walls?

We are not attracting or producing the younger future leaders needed for the vitality to sustain, advance and grow a profession; other professions are. The "old Turks" of chiropractic and chiropractic public health are nearing retirement. The profession needs a new cadre of leaders to take over the reins of leadership. We are looking with outstretched hands to pass the baton. Young Turks, come forward!

The Chiropractic Health Care Section of the APHA is currently accepting new members, old renewals, and volunteers to serve as elected officers and appointed committee members. Please contact either Dr. John Hyland, section chair ( ), or Dr. Andrew Isaacs, chair-elect and membership chair ( ) for details, or visit the APHA Web site: www.apha.org.

Rand Baird, DC, MPH, FICA, FICC
Torrance, California


Click here for more information about Rand Baird, DC, MPH, FICA, FICC.

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