"Divide and conquer." While the strategy is most widely associated with Julius Caesar, the maxim divide et impera is actually attributed to Philip II of Macedon, born more than two-and-a-half centuries earlier and father to Alexander the Great.Both rulers forged successful careers of pitting tribes and groups against one another in order to prevent a strong and unified defense, which is the essence of "divide and conquer."
They aren't alone. From Joshua in the Old Testament to Genghis Khan in the 13th century to Napoleon in the 18th century, one can find "divide and conquer" in nearly every major victory of one human group over another, from antiquity to modern day. Sound familiar for our profession?
Another famous truism, attributed to Irish author Edmund Burke, is that "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it." Most of us are familiar with this saying, and most of the above examples as well. And yet within the profession, too many of us are consumed with shouting down our own colleagues; with proving that "our" chiropractic is the "right" chiropractic.
Leaving Ourselves Open to Attack
It's true that chiropractic has made incredible progress in terms of public acceptance since the early days. It's true that a portion of the U.S. population depends on chiropractic care, and that mounting clinical evidence attests to its efficacy. Yet the profession remains a target, with insurance coverage eroding and misinformation alive and well.
As recently as April, Forbes magazine published an article bashing the profession under the incendiary title, "New Medicare Data Reveal Startling $496 Million Wasted on Chiropractors." In it, author Steven Salzberg smears chiropractic as "a highly dubious practice" with "no scientific basis," and states that Medicare paying for chiropractic treatments constitutes as an "egregious waste."
Infuriating, isn't it – in this day and age? Though chiropractors are no strangers to prejudice, this ignorance, broadcast in a major national publication, should remind us that our fight is far from over; and that despite our differences, without some semblance of a unified voice, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve our goals.
Even armed with the best of clinical evidence and the testimonials of millions of patients, if we can't speak together, our voices dissipate into the winds. There will always be room for spirited discussion and debate, of course. I would argue that we disagree because we are passionate about giving patients the very best care we can, and that's in the best interest of both patient and profession. There is too much at stake to show weakness now – and make no mistake, bickering among the ranks shows exactly that.
Let's not be our own worst enemy. There are many principles upon which we can agree and have agreed. We embrace a hands-on approach to care, with a great respect for the body as a self-regulating organism. We believe in wellness. We view patients as whole people, not just an assortment of body parts and problems. We believe that the spine is the central framework of this elegant system, and that correcting issues here has radiating affects throughout the body. And we can agree that, while the data supporting our approach is significant, more is needed. Our thirst for information that empowers our care is never-ending. Finally, we all want our profession to grow and to reach more patients in need.
Committing to Unity in 2015: 4 Steps to Take Starting Today
I encourage you to show your support for these shared principles – and for the profession as a whole – by committing to at least one of the following in 2015. If every DC takes up just one of these actions – let's call them "unifying acts" – imagine the difference we can make. Eight percent of the population depends on chiropractic care today; why not 16 percent, 32 percent or 64 percent? It won't happen overnight, but it will happen with all of us doing our part.
1. Get out there. While Chiropractic Health Month is now behind us (it's spearheaded by the ACA every October), it's up to you as a DC to be the profession's boots on the ground. The patients who come to you already know chiropractic is a safe, effective method of treatment, but what about those in your wider circles?
Whether it's your gym, book group, church, children's school, or local health food co-op, there are endless venues where you can share your knowledge. Set up a table after your local 5K, for example, and offer samples of products or free adjustments. Not everyone has had a face-to-face interaction with a chiropractic practitioner. Here's your opportunity to make a lasting, positive impression, while letting prospective patients know you're available for care.
2. Spread the word through social media, email newsletters and more. Support your work out in the "real world" by posting pictures and recaps of events, articles about the power of chiropractic, testimonials and success stories, and other relevant content online. If you're not comfortable with social media, chances are your CA is. Encourage them to steer your digital presence.
3. Be active in your state association. State associations were designed to act as chiropractic's liaison with state and federal agencies, along with other health care organizations. They are your voice; use them. With your membership, take advantage of the breadth of networking and educational opportunities they offer.
4. Know your representatives. A fresh crop of political representatives is coming to office. Get to know them; put them to work. Does your representative support chiropractic? Let them know that you do and that as a constituent, it's important to you. Never forget these folks work for you – you're the boss.
In a profession such as ours – still relatively young and filled with bright, passionate minds – there will always be spirited debate and discussion. It's how we choose to approach these discussions that can harm or help a profession we all agree we love.
Click here for previous articles by Kent Greenawalt.