JC Smith, MA, DC
With Thanksgiving upon us again, it’s time to count our blessings and not our problems. We’re taught to give thanks for not only our blessings, but for our troubles too, which are used by God as tools to teach us and to mold us into better people—such as the old adage: “Great sea captains are not honed in the calm of the bay, but in the stormy oceans.” As my favorite minister, Rev. Robert Schuller, has often said, “Tough times never last, but tough people do,” and as everyone knows, it’s especially tough being a chiropractor, especially here in Georgia with a string of recent unusual events.
Undoubtedly it’s been tough times for chiropractic for a very long time here in the Peach State where the Williams’ regime has controlled the fate of chiropractic for nearly 30 years, not unlike the same time span Saddam’s regime has held an iron grip over the good people in Iraq. Indeed, the analogy is strikingly similar—if Baghdad is the center of militant Islam, Marietta has been the Mecca of radical chirovangelism. Both have megalomaniacal leaders ideologically-driven by fringe religions and supported by a shadowy network of sycophants with un-American values such as anti-democratic rule, anti-science, anti-education, anti-freedom of speech, anti-enlightenment to outside cultures, and both created societies that bred terror within their subjects—“my way or doomsday.”
Yet, with the downfall of the Williams’ regime at Life, I’m reminded by many colleagues that now is the time for reconciliation, not revenge. I’ve been asked by a national leader to cease my attack on the remnants of the Williams’ regime at Life, and now I’m being asked by my good brethren within the Peach State to refrain as well. Now is the time to kiss and make up, they suggest, but to them I must say, while one battle has been won—the ouster of Big $id—the war against regressive radical chirovangelism is not over by any means. As long as this skeleton of cultism remains in our closet ready to be worn by the next charismatic charlatan, how can any of the rational DCs rest assured?
Despite the downfall of $id, the culture that created this mess at Life is still mostly in tact. As I’ve written before, simply changing a policy or selecting a new prez will not change anything as long as the same BOT and administrative cronies are in charge, just as Iraq will not change by only eliminating Saddam and leaving his son in place. As long as chirovangelism prevails on campus, as long as $id’s Little Chicken and Healing Hands statues still glorify his existence (just as the many images around Baghdad glorify Saddam), one can easily say the root ideological underpinnings of the problem still persist.
But the skeleton of $id E. Williams is not alone in our chiropractic closet. The same can be said about the GCA and GCC—both leaderships are tainted by their pasts. Of course, the GCC has been the lap dawg of $id forever, obstructing legislation, espousing chirovangelism, and it continues to put forth misinformation thru its DECE group about a fictious version of the loss of Life. Just as Saddam’s downfall will be seen as his quest for totalitarian power, these Lifers cannot admit $id’s own quest for power and money was the root cause of the recent upheaval at Life. “See no evil” continues to be the GCC’s attitude.
Aside the skeletons of $id and his GCC is the other chiro association of good ol’ boys in Georgia who are still reeling from their own political miscalculations. Now with the change in political power in Georgia with the Republican overthrow of the 132-year old Democratic machine, these yella dawg chiropractors in the GCA shot themselves in the foot by backing the losing candidate who promised to solve their problems in exchange for a $60,000 contribution. After his electoral defeat, the GCA still asked the lame-duck governor for these favors, he instead deferred it to the next governor. Bait-and-switch, indeed, for these rednecks who now have no one to turn to at the capital for help.
Let It Be?
Nonetheless, I’m asked now to put aside our political differences and ignore these skeletons in order to rebuild our fractured profession. Ethical and legal blame and the inevitable recourse will come in the near future from the student lawsuits and the IRS and Medicare investigations, but just like the defeated Confederate States experienced, we’ve now been left bankrupted by poor leadership, disenfranchised soldiers in the field, and a public and press that looks upon our cause with suspicion and skepticism galore. Indeed, for chiropractic in Georgia, tough times do seem to last, and last, and last.
If the loss of Life just had been the result of a financially starved institution as in other cases of failed chiro colleges, the public relations damage would not have been as bad. But that wasn’t the issue with Life, the largest chiro college of all time headed by a very visible spokesman parading on national TV commercials during the Braves games on TBS, as well as being seen as an outspoken and controversial leader—the self-proclaimed “Defender of Chiropractic”—with a shocking personal appearance, to say the least. Indeed, there are few Georgians who don’t have an opinion of the ignoble Dr. $id E. Williams or the tsunami of his graduates now flooding the market place.
The downfall of this eccentric celebrity quickly reaffirmed the worst of the medical belief that Life chiropractic, indeed, was a suspect health ideology with a nepotic network of greedy administrators, as evidenced by the Williams clan’s outlandish salaries, hucksterism, and cronyism. The fact that the CCE has branded Life’s curriculum as inadequate proved to detractors that their suspicions were right all along and the CCE’s decision simply verified this belief. All DCs are now guilty by inference, just as all Iraqis—innocent or not—are all guilty by association with Saddam and will suffer the consequences of his intransigences.
The same can be said about the innocent students and staff who will suffer from the antics of their leader. Although members on the BOT contend that $id’s skeleton is firmly in the closet and he is no longer involved in the affairs of Life, $id and DD Humber showed up at the November 14 meeting of the GBCE in Macon with students and an attorney in hand. They were there to argue that the Georgia Board should continue to accept Life grads because the law in Georgia allows “graduates from schools accredited by CCE or a board approved successor, or a college that is actively seeking accreditation and is approved by the board,” thereby qualifying Lifers since two days after losing accreditation it submitted another letter re-applying for accreditation from CCE. Obviously with the recent edict from the CCE denying Life permission to reapply for accreditation for at least two years, this argument is null. Plus, the board voted 4-1 against the proposal to allow the students to sit for the board exam.
Moreover, if $id has resigned and no longer involved in Life’s issues, why were he and DD at this meeting? Obviously they both are still active in Life’s effort to fight the powers to be, making the assurances of members on the BOT rather disingenuous and illustrates $id’s unwillingness to accept the new order in Georgia. He will not let go of his Life. As one member of the GBCE told me, “Yes, Sid and DD were there. They sat quietly on the back row, but did sign in as ‘observers.’ The official minutes of the meeting will register their attendance. This is certainly evidence that Sid has not just ridden off into the sunset. He is still very much involved and still appears to be influencing the process at LUCC.” The oddest aspect of this scenario is $id sitting quietly without saying a word. Rattling his sword is more like him than sitting quietly at any meeting.
Whistling Past the Graveyard
The embarrassment of Life was not merely the academic bankruptcy of a college, but it has proven to be ethically bankrupt in the minds of many observers. In the eyes of the public and press, the downfall of this charismatic leader and the loss of Life have shaken the very moral foundation upon which chiropractic had been built here in the Peach State. To many, Life had always been a college built on cards, and when it finally collapsed, few were surprised and the public outcry was minimal. In fact, most were happy to see it happen—in his 28-year reign of terror, $id made many enemies inside and outside the profession—illustrating that, indeed, you eventually reap what you sow.
Not only does Life and Georgian chiropractic need a complete Reconstruction to rid itself of all vestiges of the Williams’ regime as I’ve written repeatedly (but has fallen on deaf ears), it also needs a cultural change in identity by disassociating from the obscure ideology that created this mess in the first place–chirovangelism. Sadly, the leaderships of our two state associations have yet to begin a damage control PR effort to resolve this issue; hence we all remain tainted via tacit approval by the hesitation to disassociate the mainstream from this Life’s befallen character. Still, the leadership at the GCA and GCC refuse to accept this point, perhaps out of sheer embarrassment to admit their mistakes.
With the many skeletons in the chiropractic closet and the unwillingness of the leaders to address these issues, I contend an extensive damage control PR program should be implemented to salvage what little is left of the chiropractic reputation in Georgia. We simply can no longer ignore these skeletons hoping the public simply forgets about them. If this isn’t making light of a serious situation, what is? As the ol’ timers might say, it’s like whistling past the graveyard, and as ol’ chiropractors might say, it’s whistling past the skeletons in our closet.
If chiropractic as a whole is to rebuild itself in Georgia, it requires more than ignoring the skeletons in our closet and simply kissing and making up within our own profession. It needs immediate action to rise from the depths of this complex cultural, public perception, and political entanglement in which we all find ourselves. All DCs are now tainted regardless of their like or dislike of $id—our two yella dawg Democratic-led associations are now disconnected from the new Republicans in office; we still have two dueling associations plus a silent-majority of disenfranchised DCs; and the only PR about chiropractic locally has been very negative to the millions of folks who need our services.
No Quid Pro Quo No More!
Yet we’re now asked to bury our hatchets and to rebuild our fragmented profession. If East and West Germany can overcome ideological differences and a failed communist dictatorship, I imagine so can chiropractic in Georgia, but not without the price of reparations and reformation.
Realistically, I would think it would mean both of these associations should acquiesce to the new power in Georgia, and that Life’s new prez and BOT would come with hat in hand seeking help from the rational mainstream DCs who worked successfully to overthrow the Williams’ regime. There must be a shift in power if chiropractic Reconstruction is to succeed, just as the old South was rebuilt on a new ideology by a new power in government.
In other words, it’s not just a matter of forgiveness or burying the hatchet to rebuild this profession. It’s also not just a matter of permitting the same ideologues in the GCA, GCC and at Life to simply lick their political wounds and start over with the same failed leadership and agenda. If Georgian chiropractic is to rebuild and prosper, realistically it starts with the unification under new leadership led by the new agenda in this state. Until the GCA, GCC and Life understand this new order, we all will remain politically disconnected, fragmented as a profession, and heaped by public skepticism.
And knowing these ideologues as I do, they’d rather go to their graves in denial, hanging on to their waning power in defiance (just as $id did to the bitter end) instead of relinquishing their control to the new order in Georgia. If these yella dawg leaders practiced principled-center leadership as our new governor recommends, maybe the significant changes would occur (okay, I know I’m well-wishing). Rather than being accused of being negative, let me give my recommendations to salvage the dire straits chiropractic now finds itself in Georgia.
If I were to think out of the box of chiropractic, I would immediately:
- Call for a democratic election for leadership of one unified organization—the UCG, the Unified Chiropractors of Georgia—voted upon by all licensed DCs in the state. I would pool the treasuries and staffs of the GCA and GCC to consolidate member services and to speak with one voice to the legislature.
- Begin a PR damage control program on TV and in news shows to articulate the loss of Life as the end of bad education, not chiropractic in general; describe the change in chiro culture from $id’s cultism to modern evidence-based methods; and elaborate on the potential cost and clinical benefits of chiro care to the citizens of Georgia. If image is everything, chiropractic’s image is nothing right now.
- Create a focused lobbying campaign—a state version of NCLC—for all state legislators on the new version of rational chiropractic in Georgia and expunge all remnants of the Williams regime’s radical ideology in the minds of these politicians.
- Approach the new Governor with a plan to end the virtual boycott of DCs and to incorporate chiro care into the Workers’ Comp program to lower costs and return injured workers back to work quicker.
- Recommend the Community Health Dept use DCs and Life students to do scoliosis programs in every school district, and to use the facilities at Life for spinal rehab of impaired workers and failed back surgery victims to reduce welfare costs for the state programs.
- End the chiro vs. medical war by mending broken bridges with the medical society by renouncing chirovangelism, the anti-anything-medical (including vaccines) attitudes, stand by only evidence-supported chiro methods and treatments, and begin an integrated program to give patients the best of both worlds.
- Begin an After-Life continuing education license renewal program to re-educate DCs what Life failed to teach in differential diagnostics, laws, rules, ethics, and risk management as PCPs.
- Begin a Practice Boosters program to empower field docs with ethical and effective practice management methods and to encourage membership by showing the field docs that an association can actually do something pragmatic for them on the practice level.
- Begin a Poli-Sci seminar to teach DCs the state political issues; national legislative issues and lawsuits like HCFA, VA, Trigon, BCBS issues; research trends, clinical guidelines, practice parameters; and political action on the local level.
- Encourage the GBCE to stop all DCs who give free services including NOOPE and TWIP by sanctioning those presently using these predatory pricing scams; encourage the board to license practice management companies to make sure they’re teaching ethical methods—just as practitioners need a license to practice, so too should practice managers be licensed due to their influence on so many.
The Reconstruction of Chiropractic in Georgia now that Life has fallen must become more than simply forgiving and forgetting the transgressions of our Southern Secessionists at Life. While we may bury the hatchet between the two associations, we must unite into one progressive entity with a new agenda in mind—such as passing a new scope bill with CCE provisions. We must rebuild the chiro college under a new name (Life is a stupid name that connotates chirovangelism), with a new administration, new BOT, new mission, and new curriculum focused on quality, not quantity—no more diploma mills teaching chirovangelism.
If we are to count our blessings, it must begin by addressing our problems with principled-centered leadership and an empowered membership. If the loss of Life was a blessing, it may be seen as “growing pains” for chiropractic to learn a valuable lesson that has been thrust upon us by the change in the political climate from CCE and from the Republican revolution in Georgia. Indeed, will the chiro profession and Life be “born again” in a new spirit or will it continue along with the same old attitude of chirovangelism, working on the margins of healthcare, spurned by the mainstream, and viewed with suspicion and skepticism by the public and press? The choice is obvious to me, but to many here, I simply ask them: Can we afford to wait any longer?