Changing Tactics


idea:  Navy SEAL-Turned DC Shares Amazing Stories at NCLC

During NCLC, Howard Wasdin, DC, a spokesperson for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, discussed his previous career as a member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6, and the incredible events that led to his career in chiropractic. Watch here 


 Changing Tactics



You may have seen Dr. Howard Wasdin on The Daily Show, FOX News, or other recent news programs. He has written a popular book about his experience as a Navy SEAL Team 6 member whose unfortunate events led him to chiropractic as a second career. The above link will take you to the first of three videos of him made at the 2012 NCLC convention that are well worth watching.

Not only did he tell interesting stories of his SEAL experiences, he also spoke of the need to pass HR 329 to give vets access in all VA facilities to chiropractic care. He also spoke of his suffering from post traumatic disorder as well as from three gunshot wounds and his inability to sleep for seven years.

Like many of us, he had an interesting chiropractic epiphany. After just three visits to a chiropractor after those seven tortuous years of pain and insomnia, his constant pain diminished and allowed him finally to sleep an entire night. Not only was he relieved, it motivated him to attend chiropractic college at Life. He now practices in Jesup, Georgia.

It also made him ask why he had not been referred to a DC by his military MDs and PTs. He admitted that he did not even know DCs were doctors, thinking they were some type of massage therapist. Like many people, he had no knowledge of our profession due to our lack of an effective PR program.

One point he repeatedly states in this video is the need to change tactics. As a SEAL leader, whenever a mission failed or a member of his team went down, he would always reassess his tactics in order to avoid future failures.

He uses the same mindset in chiropractic when he sees our failures. He deplores the fact that DCs see only 8.5% of the public, our graduates are ill-suited to begin careers, the constant in-fighting within our profession, the anti-vaccine position some DCs still harp over, the low membership in the ACA, and the “we vs. them” fight with the medical profession.

I think most DCs would agree with him about these issues although some of our straight brethren would disagree about vaccinations and the need for unity, two intransigent issues within the ICA rank and file. As Dr. Wasdin noted, we still circle the wagons and shoot inward.

One point in particular he noted was our lack of PR, although he mentioned the good work of the F4CP. Despite its effort, we remain, I believe, obscure due to our lack of a presence on television, especially in the news programming. It’s one thing to have the occasional testimonial as we recently saw with Derrick Rose, NBA star, or an endorsement by Jerry Rice, former 49er great, but until we have a consistent presence in the news media, we will continue to be ignored.

Considering our market share has decreased as well as our college enrollments have fallen 35% from 15,000 to 10,000, the need to change tactics in our PR is obvious. PR is not just a luxury, but a necessity if we are to avoid “withering on the vine” as the AMA intended years ago.

We need voices and faces in the media to educate the public and to re-brand our image as the best primary spine care providers. Until we address the negative issues planted by medical propaganda in the public’s mind, we cannot assume this valuable position.

I believe until the public understands what Morris Fishbein did to ruin our image, just as the Committee on Quackery and H. Doyl Taylor did a few decades later, the pubic will have no reason not to think the propaganda is true. We must teach the injustice of the medical war on chiropractors for what it was—the attempt by a medical monopoly to demagogue its competition.

Although Dr. Wasdin has been able to promote chiropractic via his book and speeches, it is a rare event when we have a Navy SEAL who can gain such notoriety and access to the media. Similarly, using celebrities to push our agenda is also a short-lived tactic that does not get to the underlying issues plaguing our profession—the bad imagery from the cold war medical propaganda.

Although Judge Getzendanner mentioned the AMA never repaired the damage it did to chiropractic’s overall reputation, our profession has avoided this issue, too. Perhaps we are hesitant to relive those dire years when chiropractors were openly defamed, arrested, and thrown in jail as 12,000 of our predecessors were.

But the fact remains, we are still being defamed today. Just recently, NPR aired a program on its Morning Edition (·  Military Pokes Holes In Acupuncture Skeptics’ Theory WPLN) in which Dr. Harriett Hall, former Air Force flight surgeon and replacement for Stephen Barrett as the AMA’s quack buster, was again defaming chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage therapy: “We call that ‘quack-ademic’ medicine when it gets into medical schools.”



I wrote a complaint to NPR that this was not a fair and balanced article inasmuch as there was no counter-point by a chiropractor, acupuncturist, or massage therapist to defend these CAM professions. Just as I’ve seen on CNN and other cable news programs, rarely is chiropractic presented in a thorough and positive fashion—they always have to mention the medical propaganda, for example, “While some doctors think chiropractors are quacks, this patient swears by them.”

Obviously we need a presence on television. While the F4CP has done a lot in the printed media, until we have a constant presence in the national electronic media discussing the underlying issues that have tainted our image, eg, the AMA propaganda campaign, we will continue to suffer from this medical quackery stereotype.

Instead of spending thousands on one ad in The Wall Street Journal that few people on Main Street will ever read, may I suggest using that same money to hire an agent to gain access to the cable news programs? I’d much rather see and hear Mike Flynn on the evening news than reading one ad in the newspaper.

Nor has the electronic media promoted the newfound research decrying opioid drugs, ineffective ESIs, or disabling and most often spine surgeries based on an outdated disc theory.

Over the last few months, the mainstream media has jumped on the unnecessary, risky, expensive, and corrupt spine surgery scam. For example, here are a few recent media exposés on spine surgery:

  • Surgery May Not Be the Answer to an Aching Back,” by Joanne Silberner, NPR, April 6, 2010.
  • Back Surgery May Backfire on Patients in Pain,” by Linda Carroll, MSNBC, Nov. 14, 2010
  • Top Spine Surgeons Reap Royalties, Medicare Bounty,” by John Carreyrou and Tom McGinty, Wall St. Journal, Dec. 20, 2010
  • Highest-Paid U.S. Doctors Get Rich with Fusion Surgery Debunked by Studies” by Peter Waldman and David Armstrong, Bloomberg News, Dec. 30, 2010.
  • Spinal Fusions May Cause More Harm Than Good,” by Terrance Pagel, Daily Health Report, Jan. 20, 2011
  • Medicare Records Reveal Trail of Troubling Surgeries” by John Carreyrou and Tom McGinty, Wall St. Journal, March 29, 2011

Despite these exposes on ineffective medical treatments, none mentioned our profession as the likely alternative for most spine ailments. Indeed, we have a fascinating story to tell, yet we have no avenue to tell it to the world.

If I were to add to Dr. Wasdin’s recommendation to change tactics, especially in PR, first, I would urge the ACA to demand the Fairness Doctrine in the news. Although Ronald Reagan had this federal law dismantled under the guise of free speech, it still may strike a nerve among ethical journalists who believe in fair play.

But the ACA needs to get off its back side and demand fairness in journalism by talking directly with the major cable news directors or going public with an outcry of unfair journalism. I know it is not the nature of the ACA to ruffle its feathers in public, but someone there needs to strike this chord.

 Secondly, I would urge our chiropractic colleges to offer creative writing courses to develop writers in the public arena to spread our story. If the colleges were to educate their students to the history, events, characters, and politics of the medical war against chiropractors, it would do wonders to enlighten and empower them in order to write responses to one-sided articles as we just heard on NPR. But we need to train students in these issues as well as train them in creative writing. Like any skill, it demands practice, teaching, and more practice. Indeed, I speak from experience, ya folla?

We simply need more voices in our profession who can articulate the benefits of our brand of spinal health care. We need to change our tactics and go on the offense rather than being defensive. We must tell the Good News to replace the Bad News told by our medical adversaries.

We must address the medical propaganda as unethical and erroneous, and we must give the public the bad news about the medical methods of spine care—addictive drugs, ineffective/expensive ESIs, and the ungodly epidemic of spine surgeries that have escalated in the last decade.

We have a great service to offer a suffering public, but we need a new tactic to deliver this message.

I hope to see you at ACC-RAC. Come by my vendor’s table and give me your opinion on this important issue.