More than Medicine
JC Smith, MA, DC
RE: Response to Op-Ed
I applaud the president of Mercer University, Mr. William Underwood, for his innovative new Health Sciences Center at Mercer University (“Mercer University’s new Health Sciences Center a plus for Georgian’s health,” (Macon Telegraph, 10/3/2012).
As a 33-year health practitioner myself, let me ask Mr. Underwood a few questions to determine how novel his new program will actually be.
1) Blurring Tradition
“First, we will enhance inter-professional education by blurring traditional academic and professional silos. Teaching future physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, physical therapists and other health care professionals how to work effectively as a team will equip them to practice this holistic approach in our hospitals and clinics. This is critical to achieving greater efficiency and generating more satisfied patients.”
Let me ask if “other health care professionals” include the many chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, nutritionists, massage therapists, and other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers who care for patients daily in the middle Georgia area?
For nearly a century, there has been a policy of non-cooperation between conventional medicine and non-traditional care, and it may take more than a verbal gesture to bridge this gap.
Mr. Underwood’s problem is that there is more to healthcare than only medical (allopathic) care consisting of drugs, shots, surgery, and the public is eagerly seeking such natural remedies because traditional medical care often proves to be ineffective, costly, or has too many side-effects as we’ve seen lately with the contaminated epidural steroid injections.
Proof of the popularity of CAM was shown by two surveys by David Eisenberg, MD, from Harvard’s Osher Institute, that revealed Americans made more visits to CAM providers than MDs. Baby Boomers made 427 million office visits to non-MDs in 1990 compared to 388 million visits to MDs; the follow-up survey in 1997 revealed that the numbers to non-MDs rose to 629 million while the numbers to MDs went down to 386 million.
I urge Mr. Underwood to include CAM providers if his goal is to overcome “traditional academic and professional silos” in order to generate “more satisfied patients” as he mentions in his op-ed piece. Indeed, it is past time we gave the patients the best of both worlds.
2) Mistaken Identity
Mr. Underwood also confounds the situation with his remark about his intended “holistic approach.” Let’s be clear: the “holistic approach” is not simply the combination of multiple medical/allopathic methods as he suggests. Indeed, “holistic medicine” is an oxymoron similar to cheap gas, friendly fire, or FOX News contending it is “fair and balanced.” (Okay, stop laughing).
In complementary and alternative healthcare, the vitalistic and energetic aspects are also taken into account with physical aspects when assessing a person’s overall well-being. However, this primordial God-factor in healthcare has long been denounced as quackery by the allopathic profession.
This aversion to vitalism in medicine was revealed in an unnerving admission by Francis R. Collins, MD, currently director of the National Institutes of Health and the former director of the Human Genome Project. From his professional experience, he admits as many as sixty percent of doctors and elite scientists are atheists.
In effect, many atheists in the medical profession have taken the “bio” out of biology with the condemnation of vitalism in healthcare. Since Mercer is a Christian-based university, I find this atheism particularly ironic, but indicative that the power of political medicine supersedes any belief in the God factor in medical education.
3) Medical Incompetence
Another area badly in need of reform is the sub-par training of medical primary care providers in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and back pain in particular.
Not only has chiropractic care been vindicated in 1994 by the US Public Health Service as a “preferred treatment” for low back pain, researchers also discovered that the majority of medical primary care physicians were very poorly trained in back pain and MSDs as well as found their heavy reliance upon outdated treatments. Moreover, 82% of MDs flunked a 25-question MSD competency exam. 
Researchers also discovered that 50% of all medical schools do not require MSD training, evident at both Emory and Mercer medical schools. Even Scott Boden, MD, currently director of the Emory Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Atlanta, admitted that “Many, if not most, primary care providers have little training in how to manage musculoskeletal disorders.”
This is one area where MDs have a lot to learn from chiropractors who now carry the mantle of America’s primary spine care providers.
5) Medical War Against Chiropractors
Mercer students are being taught how to appreciate the strengths and roles of the various team members and how to value what the other health care professionals bring to the table.
May I ask Mr. Underwood who is allowed to sit at his table? Indeed, this reminds me of the 1967 American film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn, that dealt with the issue of racial prejudice.
Similarly, medical prejudice is an issue Mercer has yet to address. So, let me ask: Is Mr. Underwood serious about teaching students the value of “other health care professionals” like chiropractors or does his call for positive reception only include other medical personnel?
As proof of this lingering medical discrimination, let me also ask Mr. Underwood if Mercer has ever taught CAM courses or allowed a chiropractor to speak on campus?
Certainly, the exclusionary history of the medical profession clearly illustrates its lack of diversity. Indeed, does Mercer still encourage the traditional medical hate speech that typifies political medicine’s boycott of chiropractic, a topic I discuss at length in my book, The Medical War Against Chiropractors?
Considering chiropractors are the third-largest physician-level health professionals in the world, ranking only behind MDs and dentists in total numbers, to exclude chiropractors may reveal that not all healthcare providers are welcomed at his table.
Perhaps the real challenge for Mr. Underwood is a question of ethics—to teach tolerance, the power of vitalism in the healing process, and the value of diversity in healthcare treatments.
JC Smith, MA, DC
 DM Eisenberg, RC Kessler, C Foster, FE Norlock, DR Calkins, TL Delbanco, “Unconventional Medicine In The United States–Prevalence, Costs, And Patterns Of Use,” N Engl J Med 328 (1993):246-252.
 Interviewed by David Hirschman, Recorded September 13, 2010, BigThink.com
 Bigos et al. US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Clinical Practice Guideline, Number 14: Acute Low Back Problems in Adults AHCPR Publication No. 95-0642, (December 1994)
 Matzkin E, Smith MD, Freccero DC, Richardson AB, Adequacy of education in musculoskeletal medicine. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2005, 87-A:310-314
 S Boden, et al. “Emerging Techniques For Treatment Of Degenerative Lumbar Disc Disease,” Spine 28 (2003):524-525.