Stanford Health Forum Reflects New Respect for "Unconventional" Therapies

Prominent Chiropractic Contingent Speaks Out

By Editorial Staff
Chiropractic was well-represented at the Stanford University School of Medicine's Ninth Annual Health Policy Forum, "The Value of Unconventional Therapies in America's Health," April 22, 1995.

The chiropractic trio of Drs. Gerard Clum (president of Life Chiropractic College West, and the Association of Chiropractic Colleges), George McClelland (president of the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research), and Alan Sherr (member of the board of the New York Chiropractic Council), addressed a 90-minute session, "Chiropractic -- Its Role in Health Care." The chiropractors presented overviews of chiropractic education, research, and practice, followed by commentary and perspective from Stanford orthopedist Eugene Carragee, MD. When discussion moved toward the DC as a primary provider, Dr. Carragee said, "That's not a health care decision, that's a political matter." The chiropractic participants felt Dr. Carragee's statement most revealing.

William Meeker, MPH, DC, director of research for the Palmer colleges, represented chiropractic on the panel discussion, "The Legitimacy of Alternative Medicine -- A Regulatory Perspective." He discussed the types of practice regulations which currently govern the chiropractic profession (including the recent AHCPR acute low back pain guidelines), and also outlined the results of several research studies.

The Forum's keynote speakers were outspoken proponents of alternative health care: Joseph Jacobs, MD, former director of the Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health; and Dean Ornish, MD, known for his nonconventional cardiac rehabilitation protocols

Dr. Jacobs spoke on the "Challenges Confronting Evaluation of Alternative Medicine." In his well-received presentation, he suggested that doctors were "totally insensitive to malign patients for seeking alternative care." He challenged the audience to "... try to engage and look at how we can work as a team rather than working factions." Dr. Jacobs also pointed out that "conventional medicine is not very scientific."

Dean Ornish, MD, of Sausalito, Calif., provided a powerful look at the benefits of holistic care for patients. He demonstrated the reversibility of cardiac disease through diet, exercise, stress management, and what he described as addressing the "spiritual question of connectedness and meaning," the later being "clearly as important as diet and exercise."

The interdisciplinary nature and subject of the Stanford Forum is a compelling indication that alternative care and providers are being taken more seriously. Attitudes of MDs towards non-medical care are beginning to change, particularly after "Unconventional Medicine in the United States"1 was published by David Eisenberg, MD, in 1993. That study extrapolated that in 1990 Americans made more visits to unconventional therapists (425 million) than to primary care physicians (388 million).

With the emphasis in health care shifting to cost-effectiveness and patient satisfaction, greater acceptance of chiropractic can't be far behind.


1. Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Foster C, Norlock FE, Calkins DR, Delbanco TL. Unconventional medicine in the United States. Prevalence, costs, and patterns of use. New Engl Journ of Med, Jan. 28, 1993, p 246-252.

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