Broad-Scope and Proud of It

By James Winterstein, DC, President, National University of Health Sciences
In 1910, John Fitz Alan Howard, founder and first president of National College of Chiropractic (now National University of Health Sciences), wrote the following:
"Before we take up the application of chiropractic, or 'chiropractic in practice,' we desire that the student shall have a thorough understanding of the comprehensive and liberal platform for which our school stands.

"We neither believe, nor claim, that chiropractic is a panacea, nor, that it is potent in all cases to the entire exclusion or depreciation of other agencies. Our system is as broad as nature itself, and therefore embraces all methods, which possess virtue in assisting normal function of the body; the term 'physiological adjustment' speaks for itself - correction of body function by physiological methods.

"Chiropractic (referring here to spinal manipulation) is but one phase of nature's corrective agencies; hydrotherapy is another; Swedish movements is another; massage another; and suggestion yet another; and so, we might enumerate all the various agencies, which tend to assist nature in re-establishing normal function in the body organs.

"As already stated in previous lessons, we stand for broadness of thought and liberty to apply whatever means appeal to our judgment as being the right one, under the various and numerous conditions met within abnormal function of the body, no matter if we should be dubbed 'mixers' by narrow bigots and fanatical enthusiasts, we take it, that our duty as operators in the healing art is to re-establish harmony in functional activity of the body.

"No one separate system is all in itself, no more than one branch of an army is sufficient to the exclusion of the others. As it is true that the 'body has many members, yet it is but one body,' so it is true that the art of healing has many phases, and the liberal, broadminded operator will avail himself of all and every means which nature, the great and only healer provides for humanity.

"We therefore say to our students: Be moderate in your views; be ever on the alert to learn. We are told to hear all things and to hold fast to that which is true; then prove all things and hold fast to what you are satisfied is right, even though it should upset some of your previous ideas." (Here, Dr. Howard promotes the concept of research for the purpose of discovery of new knowledge even if it overturns one's prior beliefs.)

"Do not be a bigot or a fanatic or a 'grafter.'" (Here, in one simple sentence, Dr. Howard speaks out against bigotry, fanaticism or emotion-based thinking, and shady practices.) "Be willing to be termed a 'mixer' by those whose range of vision is, unfortunately for them, so limited. Be true to your own convictions; live your own life, and your true success is assured. You may not die a millionaire, but you will possess what is infinitely better -- the consciousness of having been true to yourself, and of having been a means of bringing health and happiness to your fellow men.

"We are always ready to avail ourselves of any suitable means which the special case may call for; we have no personal prejudices against any of the natural methods for alleviating suffering, and removing disease; and are as equally willing to use manipulatory methods; massage (scientific); orthopedical appliances; suggestion; and non-poisonous botanical remedies...mechanotherapy, hydrotherapy dietetics, etc.

"In the correct diagnosis lies the nucleus of success in the healing art. To begin with, our diagnosis must be thorough and painstaking. No point is of too little importance to be considered; put gray matter into this part of your work; dig out the little things and give them due consideration; remember, it is the 'dimes that make the dollars;' so it is the little points in diagnosis that lead to a successful correction by adjustment, and in re-establishing and maintaining normal function of the body. Too much emphasis cannot be laid on this point.

"The student can 'put it down in his book' right now, that patients, especially those of the oversensitive type, are quick to discern the real character of the individual who is attending them. If the predominant thought in the mind of the practitioner is, "How much is there in this case?' (that is, what financial returns), instead of, 'How much good can I do to this patient?,' it will be impossible to disguise his real feelings from patients of a sensitive nature, and his influence for good will , as a result, be greatly minimized, if not indeed destroyed altogether. While it is true that 'the laborer is worthy of his hire,' and that the individual who has taken the pains to equip himself for the practice of the healing art should receive remuneration in proportion to the expense and self-sacrifice, which the acquisition of the necessary knowledge and skill may have entailed upon him, we have no hesitation in saying that the individual who makes dollars and cents the great desideratum is utterly unworthy to be found in the ranks of this grand and glorious profession. We are convinced that the number of individuals of this caliber is relatively small, in the ranks of drugless healers, who are shirking advanced ideas, and we sincerely trust that none of our students will be found swelling the numbers of these despicable parasites, sharks and human leeches.

"In going to visit your patient, whether a millionaire or pauper, let the one predominant thought in your mind be, 'How can I best help this sufferer?' Carrying such a spirit with you, you will inspire confidence, and so increase incalculably your chance of success. Except to win the respect and confidence of the class of patients we have referred to, you need not look for the best results. Bring kindly, helpful, altruistic thoughts to the patient, and rest assured that whatever you bring will surely return to you."

In summary, our founder and first president, Dr. John Fitz Alan Howard, promoted ethical, diagnosis-based, broad-scope, holistic healing as the appropriate practice of chiropractic medicine.

It seems to me that today there is a timidity about taking a stand on this kind of broad-scope chiropractic practice. We seem to fear the retaliation that will inevitably come from those who practice a more restricted scope, but why should that be a problem to us? In truth, it should not, for as Dr. Howard clearly said, our efforts must always be directed toward, "How can I help this sufferer?"

It is self-evident that the practice of the broad-scope practitioner is patient-based. It is not disease-based,or system-based and it is not based upon any single entity or disorder that might befall the hapless patient. The broad-scope chiropractic physician truly is the "quantum physician" of today, and it is time for us to stand up and say so.

So often we are accused of being too "linear," too "Newtonian," or too "reductionistic" in our thinking. I find it difficult to understand how those who aim all education and all practice toward a single entity (subluxation) and pay that entity homage for all human disease, can think of themselves as nonreductionistic in their thinking. If ever there was a mechanistic concept of health and disease, it is the concept of the "spinal subluxation causing inhibition of the flow of mental impulses through the nervous system from brain cell to tissue cell." Who does not know that this concept has been repeatedly described to thousands of chiropractic students as the "safety-pin cycle"? Who has never heard of the "garden hose theory"?

In contrast, broad-scope chiropractic practices accept patients as they present, make every reasonable effort to discover where the physiology has gone wrong, and through that process, decide whether to treat or to refer. If the decision is to treat, they decide which form of treatment is most appropriate. There is nothing we do that does not recognize the importance of biomechanical dysfunction, but we do not elevate it to the level of an all-encompassing cause-and-effect mechanism in human health and disease.

Most of subluxation theory is simply anti-allopathic rhetoric, but there is little evidence to support the "traditional subluxation concept" as a major cause of human disease or "dis-ease." At the same time, I know very few broad-scope chiropractic physicians who do not recognize that biomechanical dysfunction of the locomotor system is a significant emphasis in human suffering - it is just not all there is, and so much of what we see in our patients extends across multiple systems. Since we have the education and the therapeutic tools to address the patient as a whole, why should we feel that it is somehow not appropriate?

At National University of Health Sciences, we continue, as we always have in our doctor of chiropractic degree program, to emphasize thorough knowledge in orthodox diagnosis, and the unique aspects of patient evaluation that chiropractors think of as so important to natural healing. We teach broad-scope therapeutics, with a strong emphasis on spinal adjusting. (Yes, spinal adjusting is therapeutic, as it is administered to correct a patient's condition, just as other therapies.) We teach numerous other forms of therapy which, based upon our determination of physiology gone wrong, will help the organism return to a state of harmony.

Some chiropractic leaders say we cannot do all of this, and that there is no way we can know better than "innate" what to do for the sick patient. They say we should simply make the adjustment and allow "innate" to decide how best to use the force introduced into the patient. That is all fine as a "one-cause, one-cure" theory, but I respectfully disagree with that thinking. It is dogma - pure and simple, and when I am sick, I want intellect and science on the side of my doctor. The faith I need will come from inside of me - not from the tenets of my doctor.

Good solid education "does not constipate the mind," as B.J. Palmer was fond of saying. On the contrary, it opens the mind to new possibilities and closes the mind to dogma that has no place in the care of human beings who are sick and suffering.

My name is James Winterstein; I am a broad-scope National grad and I am proud of it. How about all the rest of you?

James Winterstein
President, National University of Health Sciences
Lombard, Illinois

Dr. James Winterstein, president of National University of Health Sciences since 1986, graduated from then-National Chiropractic College in 1968. Among his varied professional accomplishments, he is a former president and board chair of the Council on Chiropractic Education, and a former president of the American Chiropractic College of Radiology.

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