Dr. Riekeman: We are looking to unleash the potential of the institution. Like many organizations that have been top heavy, I'm looking to tighten the organizational structure. We have over the last week been restructuring the organization so that I am in a direct one-on-one contact with academic community (faculty), the business and support structure at the school (students and alumni). In each of those areas we are making changes that allow us to have a conversation about three things:
- How do we integrate the vision of chiropractic (Palmer tenants) into everything we do?
- Viewing students as consumers, how do we bring a high degree of excellence in our relationship with them and make their life and experience here in preparation to go out and become successful chiropractors a quality experience?
- How do we as a family made up of 18,000 people with a long history in chiropractic, have a family relationship that is based on integrity, our principles and with a vision of the future?
These are the general principles that we are using to literally recreate Palmer.
We are restructuring our philosophy curriculum. We have a commitment to make it the strongest philosophy program that exists in the chiropractic community today.
We are directly working with the alumni association to create some on-campus changes, such as looking for 250 new members in our presidents club. We are also redesigning homecoming, which will now be called "Lyceum," with an eye on having between 2,000 and 4,000 chiropractors over the next three years. We are also creating a faculty residence on campus for visiting guests so that we can bring in the best of our profession and put them in front of our students.
In the long term, we are looking to establish community-based clinics throughout the U.S. Our students, instead of just staying at Davenport for their clinical experience, will get out into the real world of small clinics run by successful chiropractors. This is different than a preceptorship program. These will be clinics that Palmer College operates.
There is such a growth in chiropractic education abroad that we are looking at how to supply these new educational institutions around the world with well-trained administrators, presidents, faculty, etc. We are looking into creating here in Davenport a leadership educational training center that would equip the next generation of chiropractors to go out into the world and carry our vision forward.
DC: How do you see these changes adding to the vitality and the mission of the Palmer community?
Dr. Riekeman: People want to be associated with something that has a vision, is growing and vibrant. Within the first two weeks, these changes and goals were presented to the faculty, students, alumni and administrators. There is, as one faculty member said to me, the most unbelievable excitement about these possibilities, more than they can ever remember at Palmer in quite some time. This is a real exciting time for Palmer College.
People keep saying that in education, especially with my position as president, that there is a wall out there somewhere that I am going to run into. In fact, some people have said it can come in while you are sitting at your desk in your office and squash you! I keep looking for the wall, but I haven't been able to find it. I have just found people absolutely ready to get on with enhancing each area or their particular area at the school. They are absolutely excited about moving Palmer as the fountainhead of chiropractic to a prestigious position, not just because of our history or tradition, but because of the quality of what we are doing and how we are moving the profession forward.
DC: Looking further down the road, what other changes can we expect to see in the next few years?
One of them is the campus itself. Palmer is a school in an urban area. It is not out in the country on 160 acres. So some of the things we are doing have a lot to do with just creating the kind of campus that we want here. We have just finished a $12 million renovation of major parts of the campus. We have enclosed the campus so that once you are in the campus, you literally don't have to go outside.
Now we are purchasing Lyceum Hall and refurbishing it for postgraduate education, homecoming and large community events. We are creating a real campus feel. We are looking in the not too distant future toward creating a clinic at the school available to people in the community as a separate standing facility and functions more like a real practice.
The three big areas where we work and educate are:
- The Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research, which I believe is the most well-funded research organization in chiropractic today.
- The Palmer Institute, which is our postgraduate school that provides graduates with success-oriented programs throughout their lives.
- The Foundation for Chiropractic History. A chiropractic museum is being created in downtown Davenport. It will be the Smithsonian of chiropractic. In conjunction with the city, we will begin accumulate and showcase our history from 1895.
DC: What do you want people to think of when they hear the name Palmer?
Dr. Riekeman: We want them to always think of Palmer as the fountainhead. That has historical implications and responsibilities for the quality of how we run our institution and how we educate our students.
The second thing would be that the traditional philosophical values that flowed from the Palmer family are still used as a basis for making decisions about how we want to prepare our students for going out and practicing in the field. Those traditional philosophical principles and the educational aspects of the school are at a level that we think is the cream of the crop in the profession.
I would like people when they look at Palmer to see a place that is vibrant in creating a future for our profession. In the past, all of our educational standards have been based on academic credits and GPA, yet we all know that isn't necessarily the best criteria for gauging whether a student becomes a successful chiropractor. How do we bring in other criteria and evaluations so that students not only do well academically and are prepared to go out into the field, but become successful practitioners and leaders for the next generation of chiropractic?
One of the things that we are really concerned with, as we always have to be in chiropractic, is what kind of forces are at play inside and outside of our profession that affect how we survive and grow as a profession. Lately, there has been a rush of media coverage. It is disconcerting when "20/20" came out blasting individual chiropractors. With few exceptions, much of the media is talking about the efficacy of chiropractic care.
All that makes me wonder if the medical community isn't on the verge of opening its own chiropractic institutions inside of its state run medical colleges. This would be a much more serious challenge to our profession than putting chiropractors in jail for practicing medicine without a license. So while I don't know that to be true, we always have to be very cautious about where our profession is in the future and the stance that we have taken as a profession and society.
We see this tremendous opportunity with people moving away from standard medical care and looking into more natural and alternative forms of care.
If we are not careful how we maintain our distinct identity, we are at risk of being manipulated by these external changes and whether we will continue to recreate our own future and help redefine the future of our own health care system. So this discussion is not only going on inside of Palmer, but a discussion we plan to carry on with the profession.
We have hired a public relations person primarily for me to carry on this conversation outside of chiropractic with the general public. So I would like people when they think of Palmer to see someone who is an advocate for our profession and for health care that goes beyond symptomatic relief; that we are fulfilling our responsibilities as the fountainhead in that discussion.
Thank you Dr. Riekeman.