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Dynamic Chiropractic – July 2, 2001, Vol. 19, Issue 14

Chiropractic: An Emerging Worldwide Profession

By Arlan Fuhr, DC
I'm just back from the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) conference in Paris. More than 750 people from around the globe attended the meeting, and filled me with a new appreciation for the steady spread of chiropractic. Barely more than 10 years old, the WFC has attempted to shepherd this growth for the maximum benefit of patients, chiropractors, and their national organizations.

On Saturday night the awards banquet honored the three men most responsible for the establishment and good work of the WFC: WFC Sectretary-General David Chapman-Smith,LLB, Scott Haldeman,DC,PhD,MD, and John Sweeney,DC. The WFC's maturity is a tribute to these far-sighted individuals who could see that chiropractic was not just an American concept. There are more chiropractic colleges located outside the United States than within. Many of the new schools are state supported, and several are university based. A new era is upon us, one in which chiropractic institutions will not be shackled by the constraints of heavily tuition-dependent schools, and will enjoy the advantages of interdisciplinary cross-fertilization.

Because the WFC met in Paris, I had the distinct opportunity to visit and speak at the Franco-European College of Chiropractic (FECC). The French school is located about 30 minutes from the center of Paris in a light industrial area. It is a free-standing, largely tuition-based institution. As the taxis pulled up in front of the building, I felt a pioneer spirit welling up inside me; I was not disappointed. I was met and given a tour of the college by Dr. Thierry Kuster,DC, the academic dean. I also met the principal, Mr. Martin, who is also the overall administrator. The college recently purchased three floors of this former office building, and expects to buy two more floors in the near future. The campus expansion is an important achievement for this struggling enterprise, and I always appreciate the work necessary to start a school of this kind.

The FECC is similar in some respects to any other chiropractic school. There were the proverbial technique classrooms with an array of outdated adjusting tables. Our tour guide apologized, noting that as a struggling startup institution, they were grateful for any gift from the field. There was the student lunchroom - in disarray, as usual. But there was a delightful surprise when I reached the room where I would lecture. The audiovisual equipment was state of the art; all I had to do was plug in my laptop and I was off and running. I spoke slowly, even though most of the students speak fairly good English. They are, naturally, taught in French.

There are 163 students enrolled at FECC, the largest student body that the school has yet known. The cost of attending for one year (three trimesters) is about $5,000 U.S. That doesn't sound like much compared to American tuitions, but the catch is that graduates cannot legally practice chiropractic in France. Practitioners are still regularly arrested for practicing medicine without a license. The French situation is reminiscent of that in Louisiana a quarter century ago. Some of you will recall that chiropractic historian/researcher Pierre-Louis Gaucher-Peslherbe,DC,PhD, who gave the invited presentation on D.D. Palmer at the chiropractic centennial festivities in Davenport in 1995, was under indictment for practicing the healing art in his native land at the time of his untimely death in May 1996.

Last month I had the opportunity to lecture in Taiwan. They have neither a chiropractic school nor any licensing regulations. And yet, despite the professional infrastructure that we have come to take for granted in the U.S., chiropractic is flourishing. The Belgians enacted a chiropractic law a short time ago. Britain has had a registration law for several years now, and chiropractic in Switzerland has been a licensed profession for decades.

The University of South Denmark, a showcase for the nation, I'm told, is turning out very high quality chiropractic doctors, and is poised to take a strong lead internationally in chiropractic research. And with the growing influence of the Common Market, DCs in other European countries are very optimistic that all European countries will achieve some type of regulation in the very near future.

I was very excited by the quality of the scientific papers presented. Scott Haldeman believes that a good percentage of the conference proceedings this year could be sent to journals with very little modification. I have attended many scientific conferences in the last 15 years, and I can see we are coming of age. It was good for the soul.

The final plenary session at the WFC meeting was slated as a debate between the scientists and so-called philosophers. The panel included Drs. Guy Riekeman of the Palmer colleges, and Sid Williams of Life University, who represented traditional viewpoints in chiropractic. Scott Haldeman and Alan Breen,DC,PhD, who is director of research at the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic in Bournemouth, England, spoke on behalf of the emerging science of chiropractic. I thoroughly enjoyed the give and take, and for the first time that I can recall, I think the "philosophers" felt comfortable enough to ask the sorts of questions that philosophers should raise. (Isn't that what philosophy is all about - asking ever better questions?) However, I believe the philosophers still mix asking questions with a good old motivational speech. Perhaps one day we will be able to truly separate philosphy from motivation. Similarly, our research community seems to have begun to address some of the issues that chiropractic traditionalists have talked about for decades.

I left the conference feeling that we are emerging; for the first time, I felt that we are maturing.

Arlan Fuhr,DC
Phoenix, Arizona

Click here for previous articles by Arlan Fuhr, DC.

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