Articles by JCS

Academic Spring

Life’s Renaissance

 

Academic Spring

By

JCS

 

There have been a few seminal events in the annals of American higher education that will be remembered as turning points. Certainly, the most famous is the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the 1960s when students peacefully demonstrated for their Constitutional right to freedom of speech and assembly, and this led to students throughout the nation demanding the same rights that all Americans enjoyed.

 Also in the early 1960s, JFK sent federal officers to Alabama to integrate the university there. The iconic photo of Gov. Wallace blocking the entrance of Bama while federal officers escorted a black student illustrated his Doorway Diplomacy in the racist Jim Crow South. (Imagine where Bama would be today without black student-athletes.)

 

In chiropractic education, two events stand out—the loss of accreditation of Life University and the Florida State University scandal. In 2004, the Florida state legislature, led by Senate President and FSU alum Jim King and Senator Dennis Jones, a chiropractor, gave FSU the authority to offer a chiropractic degree and provided the university $9 million a year for a School of Chiropractic Medicine. This legislation was hugely supported by the legislators. SB 2002 was the first bill sent to Gov. Bush during the 2004 legislative session after being approved 38-1 by the Florida Senate on March 4, and approved by the House unanimously, 113-0, the following day.[1]

 

In a combination of events never seen before in the ranks of American higher education, this became a perfect storm consisting of a power struggle among the state legislature, the Board of Governors, the Board of Trustees, the FSU administration, an objectionable medical faculty, a divided chiropractic camp, and a gullible media that narrated the path of this storm to the public. In the aftermath, the program was cancelled.[2]

 

Perhaps the most infamous event within chiropractic education occurred nearly ten years ago with the overthrow of Sid E. Williams. The chiropractic history books may never recount this monumental incident, so let me refresh your memories of this turning point that has become more impactful today considering the reformation of Life University a decade later.

 

On June 10, 2002, Life University was notified by the CCE’s Committee on Accreditation that its application for reaffirmation of accreditation was denied. In fact, both the CCE and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the regional accreditation agency for all schools and colleges in the Southeast, previously had placed Life on public sanction.

 

It proved to be the beginning of the end of the Williams dynasty of academic tomfoolery and became the biggest embarrassment this profession has ever endured. It is hard to think it has been nearly a decade because some of the wounds have not yet healed for the thousands who were directly affected by his ouster. Indeed, it remains a scar on the face of chiropractic that many still prefer not to see.

 

It came as no surprise for those close to Life to see Sid’s 28-year reign of academic terror and political demagoguery lead to its destruction. His abuse of power and the denigration of academia was an offense to anyone steeped in academic freedom. Indeed, the Free Speech Movement somehow bypassed this bastion of Southern-style chiropracTIC where dogma replaced critical thinking and despotism replaced academic freedom.

 

Historically, Sid’s ouster was unprecedented in chiropractic education. Think of the current Arab Spring with the overthrow of dictators in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and, hopefully soon, Syria, Iran, and Yemen. The changes at Life were just as profound, and it didn’t come without a war of words wounding many victims, too.

 

The tactics of the tyrants resisting the Arab Spring are surprisingly similar to what we saw at Life. In the fight against SACS and CCE, Sid spewed propaganda typical of a desperate tyrant. Just as the Arab dictators mischaracterized the civilian protestors, so too did the Williams clan vilify the accreditation agencies. Just as the Arab dictators tried to paint those revolutions as religious wars against infidels, so too did the Williams’ clan claim its demise was a philosophical war against mixers.

 

Indeed, the bunker mentality of the Williams family and Sid’s sycophants in the DECE fought in vain to overcome the reality that he was operating a diploma mill with scant academic prowess required to graduate competent DCs. Enuf sed, ya folla?

 

Under the reign of the Williams clan, research excellence and academic freedom were frowned upon and replaced by chirovangelism. Sid exemplified the stirring words of his mentor BJ, who also proved to have an antipathy toward higher education evident when he once wrote, “Education constipates the mind.”[3] Sid’s most infamous statement was well known: “Rigor mortis is the only thing we can’t help!”[4] He often scoffed at the scientific mindset and even declared, “To hell with the scientists. They haven’t proved a bumble bee could fly.”[5]

 

So much for “higher” education at Life under this Svengali because hidden not that far beneath his chirovangelism was a strong motivation of greed illustrated by Williams’ infamous “Money Hum” that he enthusiastically led students to intone at his weekly mandatory “philosophy” seminars on campus:

Stand up everyone. Close your eyes and bend your knees to get low to the ground. Visualize piles and piles of dollar bills up to your chin. Visualize a line of patients outside the door of your clinic waiting to be adjusted. You can almost feel the money, touch it. Start imagining yourself ultra, ultra, ultra wealthy. Just see bales and piles of money, just everywhere. Gold or diamonds or whatever it is turns you on… Start down at the bottom and get you a handful of it. In your mind’s eye, say Mmmmmmooonnneeeyyy!!![6]

 

Certainly positive thinking is important, but this Money Hum was over the top although his $900,923 salary was proof that this mantra worked for him. The Chronicle of Higher Education also revealed the combined salary of Life’s 5-person executive staff was in the range of $2.7 million at a non-profit organization that brought in over $73 million annually at its height. [7] Moreover, none had any degrees in higher education.

 

To say Life was a cash cow for Williams is an understatement considering he was paid more than the presidents of both Harvard and Yale combined.[8] Yes, combined!

 

During this upheaval I became embroiled as a cyberspace whistleblower. Many faculty and staff insiders at Life sent me information of the stifling events perpetrated by the Williams clan causing the inevitable degradation of the campus. Rather than capitulating to the CCE recommendations or implementing the suggestions of his own faculty senate and advisors, like Saddam who defied the UN demands, Sid chose to fight a losing battle only to leave carnage behind until he finally fled with a $5 million settlement.[9]

 

Watching the slow death of Life at the hands of this family of academic imposters was a sad event for the thousands of innocent students, faculty, and staffers who suffered the most. And it certainly did not help the image of the entire profession when the largest chiro college lost its accreditation, a sour note we still suffer with years later.

 

Academic Spring: The New Life

Fortunately with the ouster of the Williams clan and the aftermath of a near bankruptcy evaded, an Academic Spring has finally bloomed at Life. Despite some original anxiety about the appointment of Guy Riekeman, former Palmer Chancellor who left Davenport under a cloud of mystery, I must admit Life has not only rebounded, it has thrived under his administration with a renaissance of academic freedom at Life never seen under the repressive thumb of Sid.

 

Initially his appointment raised eyebrows among many rational DCs who have seen the massive influx of Sidiots into Georgia, so the thought of a revived diploma mill producing more Money Hummers did not sit well. Nor did our profession need more of the same old obstructionist “rule or ruin” leadership espousing “detect and correct VSC only” in our state legislature. Been there, done that, did not work. It was a constant battle with Sid to fight for progress in Georgia as he preached, “Gimme that old time chirovangelism, ya folla?”

 

Not wanting to return to the scene of this academic holocaust, for over 30 years I had not returned to Life until its provost, Brian McAulay, graciously invited me back to the recent Homecoming and license renewal seminar. Shocked that I had not returned for so long, Brian remarked that I was the prodigal son returning home.

 

“No,” I replied, “it’s more like a Freedom Fighter returning after the dictator fled.” Indeed, there is a difference since not every Lifer was a Sidiot loyalist who supported the corrupt regime. Nonetheless, with a certain amount of trepidation, I attended the recent event at Life and was stunned by many positive changes and, no, I have not drunk the purple Kool-Aid.

 

Most notably were the physical changes on the campus itself. What was once the parking lot in front of the main administrative building is now a beautiful amphitheater. Crossing the road, Barclay Circle, is now a bridge linking the classroom buildings to a huge gym/wellness center and athletic fields for its championship rugby team.

 

Even quaint old-timey cabins and a grain mill now border along the creek. Indeed, the campus I knew has been replaced with refurbished classroom buildings among a beautiful display of green space landscaping. It certainly is a far cry from sharing the sole building with the local unemployment office.

 

Most impressive is the Bell Tower dedicated to the thousands of DCs who were jailed for practicing medicine without a license in the years preceding state licensure throughout our nation. This memorial is the only tribute that Sid got right that didn’t immortalize himself.

 

But buildings alone do not make a university. What I learned during the convention proved to be more impactful than the physical buildings and landscaping. In fact, a burgeoning story developed that was least expected, but exciting during the weekend seminar.

 

While waiting for the seminar to begin I found a copy of the student newspaper, Vital Source. I was impressed by the quality of the students’ journalism and amused by one article in particular, “Paging Dr. House: Illegal Drug Use on Campus.” The writer, Sarah Moreau, wrote of the irony of being made to feel ashamed of her diet Coke and anti-depressants in the anti-pharmaceutical environment at Life while, on the other hand, her critics were “the same students who smoked pot, popped Adderall, and I have even heard whisperings about cocaine use.” Indeed, although it has been over 30 years since I was a chiro student, the high life on campus seems to be about the same with perfunctory contradictions among the sanctimonious students.

 

My association with Guy Riekeman began decades ago at Sherman Straight Chiro College in the mid-1970s. He was just back from Jamaica and I was fresh from Rutgers. As a vice-president, he drove a Jag and wore polyester and I, as poor student, drove a VW bus and wore blue denim. I used his Peter Graves Renaissance video tapes and later attended his Quest seminars. Indeed, Guy and I go back a long way and have had some rocky bumps in our road down chiropractic lane.

 

I was curious to hear of his agenda as president of Life University, so I attended the first class on the first morning at Homecoming to hear Guy teach professional leadership. Actually, it reminded me of many concepts taught at Quest by such notables as Mike Vance, the right-hand man to Walt Disney. Not to be disappointed, Guy again spoke of the Disney model of Vision & Values applied to the chiropractic paradigm.

 

Guy also tells the story of his arrival at Life when he announced to the student body that he wanted the national board scores to be among the highest in the profession. Afterwards, he overheard a few shocked students remark, “Why does he expect us to be smart?” Certainly Sid never held such expectations, ya folla?

 

Fortunately, when Sid fled, so did his mindset. Instead of viewing education as constipating the mind, now the new Life emphasizes stimulating the mind. According to Riekeman, Life ranked third overall in the three-year average of the national boards; on Part 4, an astounding 96% passed. Life also has the third-fastest growing masters program while it ranks ninth as the least expensive program in the country.

 

On the research level, huge progress has been made since the overthrow of Sid. Both the CCE and SACS reports noted the lack of budgeting for genuine research at Life under the Williams clan. According to the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics, in its first 25 years, Life published a grand total of 7 peer-reviewed papers while National College of Chiropractic published over 220 in the same time period.[10]

 

The repressive atmosphere has totally changed according to Stephanie Sullivan, DC, Director of the Office of Sponsored Research and Scholarly Activity. “It is truly an exciting time here at Life University with all of the research. We have over 180 active research projects that either just finished or that are currently taking place on campus. Dr. Carrick and the unique and impressive perspective of functional neurology has really added the icing to the cake.”[11]

 

According to Dr. Riekeman, Life now has more neurophysiologists on campus than all other chiropractic colleges combined and, indeed, the icing is Dr. Ted Carrick who gave a 4-hour presentation on his exciting work. Little did I know neither of his work nor of the current controversy he finds himself in the professional hockey world — both of which turned out to be fascinating stories I least expected to encounter during this weekend event.

 

I have never seen such intriguing chiropractic analysis and treatment. I cannot begin to explain Carrick’s 4-hour show, but I can say the results he has attained with Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, and concussion cases were incredible. Instead of correcting nerve interference below the occiput, Dr. Carrick’s treatment via neuroplasticity aims to reroute nerve circuitry intracranially. As well, they balance the cerebral and cerebellum hemispheres via unique para-spinal adjustments and, most notably, via the GyroStim Balance Trainer. Indeed, this high-tech chiropractic care is a far cry from the “pop and pray to Innate” brand I was taught 30 years ago.

 

Icing on the Ice

Dr. Carrick presently finds himself in the limelight, or to some medical critics in the crosshairs, with his treatment of the NHL’s MVP and Canadian superstar, Sidney Crosby, who sustained two concussions in the first week of January at the end of last season. Despite months of care at the Univ. of Pitt Medical Center, he still had severe headaches, dizziness, and could not skate well enough to play professional hockey. After a few weeks under Carrick’s care, Crosby felt he was nearly 90% improved, back at practice skating full speed, much to the surprise of the medical neurologists at Pitt.

 

Dr. Carrick joined Crosby at a news conference recently, but Carrick’s public thoughts weren’t necessarily welcomed by others in Crosby’s care group. Susan Manko, the media relations director for UPMC, indicated that “we are all very surprised that Carrick would do any media interviews about Sid.” Apparently she doesn’t believe in giving credit where credit is due.

 

At the press conference, Dr. Michael Collins, director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, explained that Crosby’s concussion mainly affected the vestibular system—the portion of the brain that controls “space in motion” and is particularly important to professional athletes.

 

Dr. Carrick also raised a few medical eyebrows when he said:

 

It’s Christmas for Sidney Crosby and the people who care for him. It’s Christmas because it’s a celebration. Our greatest direction is to ensure that Sid has a very fruitful and positive life, that he can do anything he wishes to do in hockey and after hockey. This is going to have a very good outcome.

 

He’s markedly stable. His progress is absolutely marvelous. The problem is that the length of time that he’s had this aberrance has led him into patterns that he now has to break.[12]

 

You can view the entire press conference on YouTube @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ktx-zna3muA&feature=player_embedded#!

 

Despite the monumental gains made by Crosby from Dr. Carrick’s treatment, needless to say, his success has opened up a can of worms with the medical establishment that remains skeptical. It must be a bitter pill to swallow for Dr. Collins and his team at Pitt to be upstaged by Carrick. Like the relief pitcher who saves the ball game in the last inning, plus the fact that Carrick is a DC with a new pitch, it must cause some professional jealousy.

 

I asked a chiropractic colleague, Mike Schneider, DC, PhD, who happens to work at Pitt, of his opinion of this situation:

I think the bitterness toward Carrick by PTs and MDs here at the Univ of Pittsburgh is a combination of the lack of experimental research on his methods and his “lone cowboy” attitude. I don’t believe it is due to antipathy toward the chiropractic profession in general... the method of functional neurology is the red herring in this conversation….it is Carrick’s personality and delivery of the message that is the real issue. It’s truly the messenger who is being criticized….not the method!

This is really too bad and a missed opportunity…I don’t know how his work can be a huge breakthrough for the chiropractic profession unless it gets studied in a scientific manner and published in the peer reviewed indexed literature. Simply making press announcements does not change the minds of scientific people and researchers at large educational and medical institutions such as the Univ. of Pittsburgh. [13]

 

These are definitely challenging words from Dr. Schneider who has the unique perspective as a chiro working with the sports medicine guys at Pitt. On the other hand, if Carrick was an MD, his success with Crosby might be heralded as an example of modern scientific medicine. Hopefully time will tell, but knowing the medical antipathy toward all things chiropractic, it is difficult not to think there is a bit of envy by the Pitt MDs toward Carrick for stealing their thunder.

 

The Sports Illustrated article about this event further illustrated the typical medical skepticism. “Getting Inside the Head of Sidney Crosby"[14] contained a few comments by the modern-day Stephen Barretts—Harriet Hall, a retired air force flight surgeon, and Ruth Macklin, professor of bioethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC who decided it might be all placebo and suggested “Patients’ testimonials should basically be discounted. The placebo effect can be 30 percent.”

 

Apparently Crosby has no right to say he feels better. Reminds me when patients were told their chiro results were ‘all in your head.’ At least they were right about the location, if not wrong about giving credit to the treatment.

 

You might remember Harriet Hall from the Obamacare debate. She feared that “ill-informed members of Congress will elevate practitioners of alternative medicine to the same level as medical doctors.”[15] Dr. Hall continued to show her bias about alternative healthcare when she said, “If it were shown to be truly effective, it would be part of regular medicine.’’ She is obviously evoking the ghost of Morris Fishbein speaking from the grave.

 

This medical bias didn’t faze Crosby who said in the SI article, “I don’t think this is a case of trying to do something wacky. When someone came along and invented the airplane, people must have thought they were out of their mind. Who thinks he can fly? I’m sure people thought that person might have been stretching it a bit…At the end of the day, as long as the person getting the care is comfortable, I think that’s what’s important.”[16]

 

To illustrate the ingrained medical stubbornness, in the same SI article the Colts neurosurgeon, Henry Feuer, admitted, “I just can’t get a grasp of what he’s doing. If I had another guy like Crosby, would I send him to Carrick? The answer is no. I just see anecdotes, and that’s not what we’re looking for. The real evidence-based stuff is where medicine is today.”[17]

 

Medicine is “evidence-based”? Okay, stop cringing, and permit me to digress once again.

 

Let’s be frank: the medical over-use of “evidence-based” treatment is very deceptive. While medicine may use scientific methods, medicine itself is an applied science at best. David Eddy, MD, the father of evidence-based care, admitted in 2005 that only 15% of medicine is evidence-based.[18]

 

Yet MDs like Feuer banter around this phrase as if all of medicine were evidence-based when it certainly is not to be the case. I find it odd that any medical professional, especially in the spine care field, professes “evidence-based care” when, in fact, their modus operandi of drugs, shots, and surgery have proven anything but based on evidence considering every international guideline on back pain recommends hands-on care first and medical care last (AHCPR, Manga, UKBEAM, UKNICE).

 

Notable spine researchers like Scott Boden and Rick Deyo have exposed the fallacy of abnormal discs as “trivial, harmless, and irrelevant,” to the point of labeling them “incidentalomas.”[19] Yet today hundred of thousands spine surgeries are still predicated on this outdated disc theory.

 

Moreover, in January, 2011, a policy change by the North Carolina Blue Cross Blue Shield shocked the spine care industry when it said it would not pay for spinal fusion if the sole indication is disc degeneration or herniation.[20] Recently another paper appeared showing conservative care again trumps surgery for degenerative disc disease.[21] Yet patients are rarely told by their MD that the disc theory is outdated, surgeries are at best a last resort, and to try hands-on care first. Instead, many are lied to about chiropractic care.

 

If Carrick’s medical critics demand peer-reviewed research, perhaps the medical bureaucrats should fund for such studies. In his testimony before the National Institute of Medicine, Anthony Rosner, PhD, and former director of the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research, with his usual wit and candor mentioned the scant “homeopathic doses” of federal monies awarded to chiropractic research:

Even more remarkable is the efficiency of chiropractic research. When compared to the NIH budget of nearly $20 billion, the $10 million investment in federal funds is substantially less than a tenth of 1 percent, which makes it less than a rounding error. Put another way, as a couple of wags have offered in the past, the federal government must believe in alternative medicine, because it has given chiropractic researchers homeopathic doses of money with which to work.[22]

 

Furthermore, medical stubbornness to change is alarming not only toward chiropractic care, but to any progress. During the Obamacare debate, President Obama himself mentioned at a press conference that researchers have found that it takes 15 years for a new treatment to be incorporated into mainstream medical practice and, more shocking, it takes 44 years for a method proven to be ineffective, dangerous, or outmoded to be removed from practices.[23] I chide my medical friends that if the electronics industry were as slow to change, we’d still be in the vacuum tube era.

 

Like Frankenstein, outdated medical monsters like spine fusion just keep living despite the proof of their ineffectiveness. Certainly the growing dispute over the disc theory, the obvious over-use of fusion by surgeons, and the call for reform in spine surgery in particular illustrates the deep rut spine care finds itself.

 

After I stopped gagging on Dr. Feuer’s snide comment about Carrick and his illusion about evidence-based medicine, lest we recall his own team and the Indianapolis Colt’s best player, Peyton Manning, is presently disabled after two neck surgeries. Apparently Dr. Feuer’s evidence-base rational for cervical fusion—the outdated disc theory—backfired considering Manning may never play again.

 

Coincidentally, it was announced during Dr. Carrick’s class that later the same afternoon he was to examine a “very prominent NFL player” who is disabled. Due to HIPPA, we can only guess who it might be, but wouldn’t it be ironic if this turned out to be Manning?

 

Nonetheless, Carrick's work is definitely on the leading edge (or should I say, on the bleeding edge) and gaining much publicity for his brand of chiropractic care. It reminds me of a statement once made by DD Palmer, “Is it possible that the science of Chiropractic has arrived before its time?”[24]

 

As Dr. Carrick’s clinical work continues, his research clarified, and the list of cases helped by his unique method grows, perhaps DD Palmer’s theoretical reaches of chiropractic care will come to fruition. With the aid of automation, fMRI, and NASA-style innovation, hopefully the ability to help these desperate cases gains a greater reality.

 

Just imagine the impact this may have upon society and upon our image if functional neurology performed by DCs can help the millions of patients suffering from Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, and concussive disorders. This work may also be a breakthrough to the medical media barrier that has ignored chiropractic’s success with musculoskeletal disorders. Indeed, it’s an exciting time to be a chiropractor and, if I were 30 years younger, I would pursue this course of study.

 

However, I digress from Life’s Homecoming and Academic Spring, but this controversy was just too coincidental not to mention. I find it very ironic that the most progressive research in chiropractic now stems from what once was the most regressive college. Paradoxically, while one Sidney brought Life to its knees, another Sidney has elevated the image of Life. (BTW: Crosby was cleared for full contact on October 14.[25])

 

Hopefully in the new pro-research environs of Life under the leadership of Guy Riekeman and Brian McAulay, they will shed the anti-educated image of Big Sid. Let me give Sid recognition for starting the college, but it would never have grown to the present stature under his regime. Time will tell, but at least now they are on the right track instead of stuck in the 19th century as Life once was.

 

As one of its staunchest critics for thirty years, I must admit it’s time for me to give credit where credit is due. I applaud the new administration and faculty at Life for their recent contributions to our science and to our profession’s image. Hopefully other formerly disgruntled Lifers like me and DCs from other colleges who resented the machinations of the Williams clan will learn of these new achievements and lend their support, too.

 

I am happy to say there is a Renaissance at Life with its Academic Spring that I hope continues to bloom.

 

 



 



[1] Editorial Staff, “Florida Legislature Approves Funding for Chiropractic College at FSU,” Dynamic Chiropractic 22/8 (April 8, 2004)

[3] Keating, JC, B.J. of Davenport: The Early Years of Chiropractic (AHC, 1997)

[4] Sid E. Williams, Health, July 1993.

[7] Suggs, Welch, “At Life U., an Omnipresent President Pushes the Institution and Its Specialty,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 8, 1999.

[9] Chair blasts Life founder's compensation Williams, wife will receive nearly $5M, Marietta Daily Journal, Feb. 21, 03

[11] Stephanie Sullivan, DC, private communication with JC Smith, 10-7-2011

[14]David Epstein and Michael Farber, “Getting Inside the Head of Sidney Crosby, Sports Illustrated, October 3, 2011.

[17] David Epstein, Michael Farber, “Getting Inside the Head of Sidney Crosby,” Sports Illustrated, October 3, 2011.

[19] Richard Deyo, MD, MPH and Donald Patrick, PhD, MSPH, Hope or Hype, The obsession with medical advances and the high costs of false promises. 2005 AMACOM books.

[21] Paul S. Mueller, MD, MPH, FACP, “Surgery Doesn't Trump Rehabilitation in Patients With Degenerative Disk Disease,” 08/24/2011; Journal Watch © 2011 Massachusetts Medical Society.

[22] Anthony L. Rosner, PhD, National Institute of Medicine Hearings, Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research, February 27, 2003.


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