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Dynamic Chiropractic – February 21, 2000, Vol. 18, Issue 05

A Response to Dr. Guy Riekeman's Keeping Chiropractic "Pure for the Future"

By James Winterstein, DC, President, National University of Health Sciences
The January 25, 2000 issue of Dynamic Chiropractic carried an editorial by Dr. Guy Riekeman, president of the Palmer College of Chiropractic, titled: "We all Have a Historical Connection to Palmer Chiropractic and a Stake in Keeping Our Profession Pure for the Future" (Editor's note: see Dr. Riekeman's article at

With his emphasis on purity, I was reminded of some of the arguments in Lutheran circles about purity of doctrine. I can understand this argument in my church, but I have difficulty with it in my profession.

What eventually became clear from the article is that Dr. Riekeman is using this venue to encourage potentially disgruntled alumni from other schools to jump on the Palmer bandwagon, which ostensibly stands for and promotes "pure chiropractic." We as a profession should be way beyond that by now. I know there are other presidents who would take the position that Palmer College relinquished its right to claim professional "purity" a long time ago. Those other presidents claim it has migrated to their colleges. I think this is all simple puffery and of little value to the chiropractic profession.

It does no one good when Dr. Reikeman goes on to subtly denigrate National and Northwestern by saying that "some colleges (later naming them specifically) are caught up in this trend (alternative health care) by offering degree programs in acupuncture, massage, physical and occupational therapy and other health care practices apart from chiropractic." He suggests that the actions of our college and Northwestern Health Sciences University confuse the public and reduce "chiropractic's image and diploma value to the level of massage and acupuncture."

Do I detect an inappropriate aura of arrogance in these words? This is arrogance toward NCC and NWHSU, as well as the people who practice massage and acupuncture. It reminds me of the way many allopaths have spoken about chiropractic for the last century. Am I to assume that because it was done to us, we have the right to pass it on to others whom we believe have not "risen to our level?"

Sadly, Dr. Riekeman makes the situation worse by suggesting that colleges who "jump on the bandwagon of the alternative health care boom" are "diluting the image and emphasis of their chiropractic programs by teaching very different health care philosophies, many of which are contradictory to chiropractic."

What becomes more and more clear to me is that for some reason, Dr. Riekeman feels it is appropriate to attempt to improve his stature and institutional image by denigrating others. I for one believe that NCC can stand on its own reputation and can promote its concepts of professional progress without stooping to that level.

It is true that National College will become a university in September, 2000. Part of the reason for doing that is so we can provide opportunities for others in the complementary medicine group to learn side by side with our students, but not within the chiropractic degree program. Nothing about this process weakens or diminishes our program. What it does is demonstrate to the world that we are confident in who and what we are: confident enough to share our resources and seek ways for all of us to work together for the good of the patients we all serve.

What it will also do, in time, is offer to the people of this world massage and acupuncture practitioners who have been exposed to the science and philosophy of chiropractic practice. I would much rather have that kind of practitioner down the street from me and they will be there whether we like it or not. To suggest that these forms of healing are "fads" akin to "bleeding and purging" is not only inappropriate; it continues to smack of an arrogant attitude.
Of further interest is Dr. Riekeman's comment that with "today's fads ... aroma-therapy, colonic irrigation and color therapy ... efficacy is just as questionable as those trendy healing practices of 100 years ago," which suggests that he neither knows about the history of these healing procedures which are not "today's fads," nor about some of the scientific research which supports such therapies.

I take great umbrage at Dr. Riekeman's statement that "chiropractic colleges can do great harm to our profession by offering courses in any other healing arts, no matter how popular they may be and how promising they may seem." Apparently, after holding the position of Palmer's president for a year or two, Dr. Riekeman has somehow assumed the position of seer for the profession. If this kind of rhetoric continues to come from the "fountainhead," then perhaps it really is time for us to come to a division of thought. Let's agree that we have differences and clearly state that some of us teach chiropractic physicians and others teach chiropractors. I could live with that. How about you, Dr. Riekeman?

Dr. James Winterstein, president of National University of Health Sciences since 1986, graduated from then-National Chiropractic College in 1968. Among his varied professional accomplishments, he is a former president and board chair of the Council on Chiropractic Education, and a former president of the American Chiropractic College of Radiology.

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