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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 29, 1993, Vol. 11, Issue 03

Claude O. Watkins, D.C. (1902-1977)

Dr. Watkins Would Be Pleased

By Joseph Keating Jr., PhD
I had occasion recently to reread sections of the research manifesto published in 1944 by C.O. Watkins, D.C., then the immediate past chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Chiropractic Association (NCA). I had first encountered this little gem in 1985, and was struck at how insightful this solo-practitioner from the east side of Montana had been, and at how much work was going to be necessary to meet even a part of his challenge. It will be recalled that Dr. Watkins introduced the Committee on Educational Standards, a committee which would evolve into the Council on Chiropractic Education.

Watkins was concerned not only with educational upgrades, but with the quality of chiropractic science. What follows is a section of his 1944 booklet, the Basic Principles of Chiropractic Government. I leave it to the reader to judge how well or poorly the profession is doing, but I suggest that this prophetic blueprint be read with recent developments in mind (such as the Consortium for Chiropractic Research, the Mercy Center Conference recommendations, and the favorable publicity for chiropractic that followed the RAND study):

Chapter VI

A Plan of Chiropractic Scientific Organization

By scientific organization we refer specifically to a profession-wide organization for the purpose of obtaining specific, accumulated, and accepted knowledge of chiropractic, knowledge which has been or will be systematized and formulated with reference to the discovery of general truth or the operation of general law.

To develop such an organization, it is necessary to have some definite plan to follow. Whatever plan is used, certain fundamental work must be done. A committee on nomenclature to standardize chiropractic, scientific terminology must be appointed and a directive on chiropractic nomenclature published. A committee for standardization of chiropractic diagnostic and treatment methods must also be appointed. The purpose of this committee would be to standardize the methods for purposes of clinical research, not to direct the methods that doctors should use. For example, a report may state that a patient had high blood pressure; this would be meaningless unless one knew the conditions under which the blood pressure was taken since blood pressure readings taken when the patient is lying down differ from those taken when he is sitting up, etc. In the case of blood pressure, standardization has already been provided by organized medicine, but there are many other methods of diagnosis and practice peculiar to chiropractic which must be standardized if we are to understand what is meant by a particular method.

A committee on scientific literature should also be appointed to study and draw up preferred methods of reporting clinical research, as well as to direct our other efforts in the field of chiropractic journalism and scientific writing. Scientific journalism is a field of journalism unto itself. When the public reads a journal representing a science it immediately recognizes certain characteristics. In scientific journalism, the major intent is simplicity and serviceability. The functions of these three committees could be accomplished by one committee on science since they are so closely related. The object would be to study and align our methods with those already established in the field of science, not to innovate new methods of scientific organization. In the matters of terminology, methods of practice and diagnosis, chiropractic writing, etc., directives must be published and used in furthering clinical research. All of the above work is basic to good scientific organization and can be developed simultaneously with field organization.

The organization of the field will require the services of at least one full-time research director who is capable of organizing the entire field. It will require the enlistment and direction of a large group of volunteer leaders among the educators and clinicians throughout the field. Working in this way with a well-developed and comprehensive plan, a large and efficient scientific organization can be created for chiropractic. Certainly it should prove more efficient than the American medical organizations and should approach the efficiency of the Russian medical organization as near as it is possible under our free system. Through the use of state and district research organizations, great interest can be developed in chiropractic scientific organization. Everyone in chiropractic is interested in his personal advancement as a chiropractor and in the advancement of his science to the worthy position it should occupy.

When we shall have constructed such a comprehensive program, we shall have concrete and demonstrable proof to lay before public agencies as the basis of our claims for special privileges. We shall have a science of which we can be proud; this will do more than anything else to enable the chiropractor to be proud that he is a chiropractor, a member of a progressive and worthy science. When the organization begins to produce results, a steady stream of advanced methods will be made available to our members as well as an abundance of scientific achievements for publication by the channels of information. Nor, more shall we hear of chiropractic being based upon cult or dogma, or referred to as an irregular science. At last we shall achieve unity in chiropractic equal to that of other sciences.


I suspect Dr. Watkins would be pleased.

Joseph C. Keating Jr., Ph.D.
Portland, Oregon

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