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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 4, 1991, Vol. 09, Issue 01

The Challenge

By Richard Tyler, DC

I just finished talking with a DC from Virginia. His daughter has asthmatic problems and we were discussing the use of herbals and homeopathics. No -- he wasn't neglecting adjustments -- they just hadn't been the entire answer.

He felt that a natural synergist would be preferable to drugs -- smart man.

During the conversation he asked if I had read an article by a DC in a recent edition of Medical Economics. It seems that it slammed chiropractic and indicated that, among other things, we were poorly educated and that most subjects in our schools were taught by DCs. This, according to the writer, is quite demeaning. After all, what could be worse than some dumb chiropractor teaching dumb chiropractic students? MDs teaching medical students is great, because they are wise and wonderful.

From my own personal experience, some of the best courses I had in chiropractic school were taught by chiropractors, and I've been in classes taught by people with every degree imaginable. In private practice I've spent years working side by side with MDs and even worked as a chiropractor and homeopathist in a medical clinic. During all those years I've been impressed with how much I know and how great my education from the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic was. Believe me when I say that we can hold our academic heads up high. Of course we have classes and personnel that are disappointing, but then I've heard MDs in conversation complaining because they weren't taught vital subjects in medical school, but were told not to worry because "they would pick up the knowledge while they were in practice."

The public perceives health practitioners as being only as good as their education. In that respect, the MD is lord and master. MDs go to school for some 40 thousand years before being presented before the breathless public as a duly annointed icon in a white jacket. Most people need someone to look up to and admire, even worship, and the MD -- the men and women in white (the color of "purity") have long ago been selected for the role.

Since education is the crux of most of the debates concerning the value of chiropractic -- this is the area we should concentrate on. Yes -- improve our curriculum, our teaching staffs, and our physical facilities -- but at the same time tell the public about it. Unfortunately, we really don't have many ways to communicate. A few pamphlets and articles and a rare exposure on radio or TV means very little. The reason medicine gets such great mileage is because of constant exposure. Every morning show has its resident medical guru; the nightly news shows have stories on "medical miracles" just about every night; and newspapers, books, magazines, television, and motion pictures continue to drum the mystical wonders of medicine into the brains of the adoring public.

So where do we come in? Since we can't get much favorable exposure on our own, and are often treated with a measure of contempt by the media, the best thing to do is hop on the medical bandwagon and grab some of their spotlight. In other words, invade their territory by challenging them to prove that medical education is superior to that of a chiropractic physician.

This could be done by a common test in the basic sciences for both chiropractic and medical senior students. Yes -- I've suggested this many times, only to be met with indifference and scorn. In a recent commentary on an editorial I wrote on the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), a doctor from Alabama noted to a colleague that the idea to such a challenge was "stupid." Why?

In the first place, I feel that if such a challenge was ever accepted, we would win rather easily, really. Of course the chances of the AMA ever accepting this type of challenge are nil. So why do it? Because it costs virtually nothing and the publicity we might garner, as the "David" against the "Goliath" of the health professionals, might peak the curiosity of a media that thrives on confrontation.

The ACA could send letters to the editors of all the major medical publications such as Medical Economics and JAMA. Not a rancorous one, but a letter initiated by the spirit of "friendly" competition. Chances are, most would publish the challenge with some amusement and a bit of wonder. Letters should also be sent to the major newspapers and magazines, and to the television networks and producers of such talk shows as Oprah and Donahue.

The AMA, naturally, wouldn't respond because they've already admitted in court that they know nothing about chiropractic education. Accepting such a challenge would give them nothing to gain and everything to lose. If their students were more successful in the tests than ours, the public would give a shrug to what was already expected. If they lost, the damage to their carefully constructed image would be irrevocable. We, on the other hand, have everything to gain and nothing to lose. After a few months of deafening collective silence from the medics, another letter should be sent from the ACA to the same people questioning the lack of response. Every few months we stick the needle in and give it a few turns.

Repetition gets results. We would achieve results if just one wire service or television network picked up the story. That upstart bunch of quacks, having the nerve to take on the great "god" of health education, might be too delicious a story to ignore.

To my disappointment, I know that the ACA will never do this. There are too many like the Alabama DC with little or no imagination and even less enterprise.

We're in a fight with the AMA. The article in Medical Economics left an opening just perfect for a right cross. As the "oft" quoted statement goes -- "The most effective way for evil to survive is for good men to do nothing." For crying out loud -- let's get off the canvas and do something -- anything.


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