Dr. Ferguson described the meeting as brief but substantive: "The president struck me as knowledgeable and committed to chiropractic.I asked him exactly what place chiropractors will have in his health care reform initiative. He responded that we will be considered mainstream doctors, and will not be discriminated against as primary health care providers."
Although many commitments have been made and changed in the evolving health care reform package, Dr. Ferguson said he believes the president was sincere in his promises. "He was very specific in explaining the rationale for chiropractic's inclusion. 'Let me tell you why,' is how he handled the question. He said his mother and family were cared for by Dr. Stan Heard [of Arkansas] for a long time. He talked about the tragedy of Dr. Heard's untimely death, and how he is continuing to work with Penny Heard, Stan's widow. The president stated firmly that he was familiar with chiropractic, understands its benefits, and believes it has a legitimate, mainstream place in the reform package."
Dr. Ferguson characterized the meeting with President Clinton as a rare privilege and a highlight of his professional career. "It was a distinct honor for me and for the Federation to finally secure an answer to the question that everyone in chiropractic, including the national professional associations, has been trying so hard to obtain," he remarked.
Dr. Ferguson met with the president privately before he spoke at a reception for United States Senator John Glenn at Washington, D.C.'s Corcoran Art Gallery. Dr. Ferguson's ties to the Democratic Party originate with his mother's position as secretary of New York City. He has been extensively involved in party responsibilities for over 25 years, having served on former Ohio Governor Richard Celeste's advisory cabinet from 1981-1989. He has been an active member of the Stark County Democratic Executive Council for 15 years.
President Clinton asked for chiropractic support in getting the health care reform package passed. He described several other alternative packages being proposed by several legislators. "The president honestly believes that his reform package makes the most sense for the American public," Dr. Ferguson noted.
Dr. Ferguson portrayed his experience with the president in the most positive terms. "He didn't look past or through me, like so many busy people do. He really concentrated on what I was saying, and was genuinely interested in the Federation and in chiropractic. I had his full attention."
In a follow up letter to the president, Dr. Ferguson summarized the FCLB's programs and its role in protecting the public interest. He also noted that "aggressive regulatory control is one way we believe we are helping to enhance the public perception of chiropractic's many benefits for health care." He went on to relate the economic benefits of chiropractic care: "Chiropractic represents an appropriate and cost-effective form of care for many people, and can contribute significantly to lowering health care costs for the American public."
"Please note that I did not say 'alternative' form of health care," Dr. Ferguson stressed. "I am really tired of chiropractic being portrayed as an 'alternative' to other forms of care, including traditional medical care. The profession should stand strongly on its own without reference to anything else for its position in health care delivery."
Dr. Ferguson is in his second year as chairman of the Executive Board, and has served as FCLB appointee to the CCE's Commission on Accreditation since 1992. He was president for seven of the eight years he served on the Ohio State Board of Chiropractic Examiners.
Ferguson maintains a full-time practice in Canton, Ohio. He is a 1968 graduate of National College of Chiropractic, and former instructor in chiropractic and physical therapy. He has pursued additional postgraduate study in orthopedics, radiology, and sports injuries. He has been vice chairman of the Department of Chiropractic of Doctor's Hospital in Massillon, Ohio since 1987.