Stepping Stones


Time to Step Up!


Stepping Stones




In the annals of the chiropractic profession, historical events occur that have defined our profession. Rather than isolated, these major events should be seen as stepping stones to our present professional state of affairs. Without these seminal events, our present profession would be much different, if not totally eliminated as the AMA would have preferred.

 The late chiro historian Joe Keating, PhD, listed 40 major milestones in chiropractic history and another noted historian, Walter Wardwell, also wrote about “The sixteen major events in chiropractic history,” in 1996. Today I want to add another major stepping stone that demands the attention of the entire profession.

 Although the chiropractic profession has had success in litigation and legislation as Keating and Wardwell noted, in terms of public relations, however, our stepping stones are few and far between.

 Indeed, today if DCs are in the news, it’s generally for insurance fraud, sexual abuse, or the remote possibility of causing a stroke as the medical demagogues keep reminding the public.

 However, the public has seldom been told how chiropractic care has helped millions of people and could save billions of dollars in our strapped healthcare system. Nor do many DCs want to talk about the medical war against chiropractors because it recalls many painful memories and the present Cold War of attrition—to have “chiropractors wither on the vine”—that never seems to end.

 Nonetheless, there have been a few bright spots, too!

 Repositioning Readers Digest

The goal to confront the AMA-manufactured suspect image of chiropractors has been addressed many times, but few compatriots have had the wherewithal to actually produce any PR effort.

 One notable exception was Lou Sportelli, DC, past ACA Chairman, former WFC president, and current president of NCMIC, who was the brains behind an insert in Readers Digest magazine in 1988 that many of you may recall.

 His reflection of this event is very interesting and hopefully a harbinger for the future in terms of positively influencing the public and the press:

 The issue of the insert came about because, if you will recall, Readers Digest (RD) did a few negative articles on chiropractic. Post the fuel crisis, I noted that Shell Oil had an 8-page insert on how to save gas that was a nice PR piece softening the image of the big bad oil companies.

 Irv Davis and I talked about chiropractic putting an insert into RD. We met with the RD folks and they thought they were dealing with Big Oil who could write them a check because it cost one million dollars per insert (8 pages, full color). Obviously that was out of the question, so we thought, “would the profession support such an effort?”

 As Rev. Robert Schuler did in raising money for the Crystal Cathedral, we could get one individual to give us one million dollars, 2 to give $500,000, and so on. We stopped at 5000 DC’s each giving $200. The ACA gave us some “start up money” with $50,000 to get the program launched.

 Before the bills came in from the promotion we had enough money to not tap into the ACA fund. We got 5000 doctors to give $200 for this event, NOT ONCE BUT TWICE.

 Now included in this program were “focus” groups which RD is famous for, and we went around the country and learned a great deal about public opinion, public perception etc. We targeted the RD program to those issues.

 The RD pre-information on chiropractic perception was very low prior to the program launching, and increased significantly post. So, in fact, we helped to mold the public opinion immediately post AMA/Wilk.

 Additionally we printed one million inserts, packaged them in quantities of 100, and gave a packet to each of the 5000 who donated and sold the rest to DC’s. Imagine 100 8-page full color inserts for $15, quite a bargain. By the way, the ACA sold those flyers that was a great value for the DC and a great value for the ACA.

 As in all things, doctors expected to see a flood gate of patients into their office, but that did not happen. So if that is the measure the program failed. If the measure was to see if we could move the public perception needle, it was a huge success. If we were to look back and see if RD published any more negative articles about chiropractic, they did not—another success marker.

 All these issues are cumulative, and I think the program was an overwhelming success. It should have been followed up by more programs like the F4CP is now doing.

 Dr. Sportelli also recently wrote about the huge significance of PR in his article, The Tipping Point of Public Relations for Chiropractic May Be Close at Hand.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Another huge PR step occurred seven years later in 1995, an entire century since our profession’s inception. I can still recall the excitement at the Chiropractic Centennial Celebrations when the Chiropractic Centennial Foundation produced From Simple Beginnings, a documentary of the history of chiropractic that also aired nationwide on CNBC to an audience of millions.

 This documentary was the first national video stepping stone for the chiropractic profession. The documentary was hosted by newsman/celebrity Jack Perkins and was written by Dr. Guy Riekeman and Jim Hancock and directed by Dr. Riekeman and Ted Ferrari.

 Seventeen years later, we can include another stepping stone to this journey with the upcoming release of a new documentary produced by Jeff Hays and directed by Bobby Sheehan. With the release of their new movie, Doctored, now our profession may be looking at the most impactful PR event in our lifetime. To show the avid support for Doctored, it raised $241,948 from 1,417 backers within the profession in just a few weeks.

 In an interview with Dynamic Chiropractic, producer Jeff Hays spoke how this new documentary will address the issue of medical demagoguery and how it hurt not only our profession’s image, but has hurt the health and lives of millions of Americans who have suffered greatly from the medical boycott. Indeed, the medical monopoly has victimized millions of civilians as collateral damage in its war against chiropractors.

 The World Premiere will be in NYC on Friday, Sept. 21st. The next Friday, Sept. 28th, will be the Premiere in Atlanta, which has already been sold out when Dr. Riekeman, prez of Life U., bought out the entire theater.

 Other Premieres will be held in Dallas, Chicago and L.A. on the same weekend of Sept. 28th. Hopefully the other chiro colleges nearby these towns will follow suit and buyout the entire theatre to promote their own college as well as to promote a realistic image of chiropractic as America’s primary spine care providers rather than an “unscientific cult” or “pseudo-science” as the AMA and ISM demagogues would prefer the public and press to think about chiropractic.

 It’s past time to tell our story on the silver screen. Not only will this movie leave a lasting impression on viewers, but it may also bring together the various tribes in our profession—those factions in philosophy, technique, colleges, associations, or whatever reason DCs use to avoid joining arms together. We need a rallying point that transcends all factions, educates our students and, of course, informs our consumers to the benefits of our brand of spine care.

 I hope DCs can see the value of this new movie to reposition our image to the public and to the media that have been complicit with the medical propagandists. We remain the Mystery Science profession despite being the third-largest physician-level health profession in the country, if not the world. And we continue to get short shrift in the media despite the evidence validating the superiority of our care.

 Recall when nationally-syndicated columnist Ann Landers wrote that chiro care as effective as “goofus feathers,” and you can understand the power of the press to sway the public’s opinion about our profession.

 Indeed, when the number one columnist in our country bashes our profession without any push-back, we must assume the “unscientific cult” image is still alive in the national narrative, which is the theme of my website, Chiropractors for Fair Journalism.

 Sadly, a 1984 survey found a similar skepticism from one respondent: “chiropractors are seen as being fine for many people in the community, but ‘I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one.’”[1]

 I seriously doubt the effectiveness of any PR effort that does not address the decades of professional slander that created such a profound and open prejudice. It’s equivalent to ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Indeed, the medical propaganda remains in the minds of many as the core identity among many Americans to this day.

 Judge Susan Getzendanner also saw the damage to our reputation when she wrote, “The activities of the AMA undoubtedly have injured the reputation of chiropractors generally…In my judgment, this injury continues to the present time and likely continues to adversely affect the plaintiffs.  The AMA has never made any attempt to publicly repair the damage the boycott did to chiropractors’ reputations.”[2]

 We must crack this nut of skepticism if we want to progress in the court of public opinion. Certainly in this era of evidence-based healthcare, chiropractors stand ready as America’s primary spine care provider.

 As Tony Rosner, PhD, so boldly told the Institute of Medicine, “Today, we can argue that chiropractic care, at least for back pain, appears to have vaulted from last to first place as a treatment option.”[3]

 Dedicated to the Unknown Chiropractors

This movie will not only redeem our image to viewers, it will give tribute to the 12,000+ DCs who were arrested over 15,000 times in the first half of the 20th century—those nameless heroes who fought the early battles against “the most terrifying trade association on earth” as Harpers magazine once described the AMA.[4]

 Wouldn’t these early chiro warriors be pleased to know their sacrifice has been vindicated by the latest research evidence and practice guidelines for the pandemic of pain?

 Moreover, wouldn’t they love to know their successors—you, me, and thousands of DCs today—would celebrate this victory for them by attending this movie premiere?

 Undoubtedly such a pinnacle would make their sacrifices meaningful while being publicly humiliated in their home towns by prejudicial and petty MDs parroting medical propaganda who slandered these noble DCs who were brave enough to practice under the threat of incarceration.

 Let me ask: are you a chiropractic warrior or an accidental tourist watching from the sidelines? Indeed, would you have done the same by going to jail for chiropractic?

 Would you have the backbone to practice under the threat of being arrested and defamed by the local authorities? Granted, defamation still occurs today for most of us, but we are no longer arrested for getting patients well with only our hands as our pioneers were.

 Imagine how Chester Wilk, James Bryden, Patricia Arthur, the late Michael Pedigo, attorney George McAndrews and his brother, the late Jerry McAndrews, would feel to see a large turnout to honor the horrendous ordeal they also experienced during the 14-year long Wilk v. AMA trials. These brave warriors spent much of their careers in battle to bring justice to our profession and, namely, to their successors.

 Imagine yourself being deposed, investigated, skewered, and attacked in the witness box by the AMA et al.’s relentless zoo of 23 attorneys, and you might feel the torment they experienced so we might have some semblance of fair treatment today. To ignore their sacrifice battling medical bigotry would be equivalent to young black baseball players today forgetting the torment of Jackie Robinson who broke the race barrier in MLB.

I urge you to consider attending the Grand Premiere as a tribute to the thousands of unknown chiropractors such as Franklin Lear, Mildred Crevling, Fred Courtney, DS Tracy, AL Sterns, Frank O. Logic, Lindon McCash, Katherine “Kitty” Scallon and her husband, Mack Scallon, to name just a few of the 12,000+ martyrs who sacrificed their livelihood for our profession.

 There is a Bell Tower at Life U. dedicated to the memory of the thousands of unknown chiropractors 

who were jailed. $id Williams certainly had many dubious issues, but this monument was one he got right. Although not as grand as a Bell Tower, your presence at these premieres would ring loudly in the spirit of our chiropractic camaraderie.

 Time to Step Up

Let’s not be disappointed again by a poor attendance at these movie premieres as we saw in 1995 at the two Chiropractic Centennial Celebrations when only 1,000 out of 60,000 DCs took the effort to attend these outstanding conferences. The apathy was a huge letdown for the ACA officials who produced these events as well as a missed opportunity to commiserate with your colleagues.

 Perhaps a stunning reminder might motivate you to attend this upcoming movie premiere by quoting Herbert “Chap” Reaver, Sr., the most jailed chiro in America, who was asked what it was like to be jailed:

“A sizable portion of my life was spent behind prison walls because I practiced chiropractic. What was it like, you ask? We were hounded. We were treated like criminals. We were subjected to harassment, treachery, and trickery. 

 Words come to me kind of slowly, but you ask what was it like? We were always being spied upon and arrested, tried and jailed.”

 If you have any empathy for our forefathers, let this movie premiere be one time to show your appreciation for the thousands who paved your way to success. Although you may feel you alone “built your practice,” to quote President Obama, in truth there were many stepping stones in your journey to success laid by our forefathers—clinically, politically, legally, and economically.

 So, it’s time for every DC to step up to the plate and support this documentary. I urge everyone to get off the bench and take a swing for chiropractic by attending one of the premiere shows nearest to your home. You can also purchase DVDs of this movie for your personal use, such as showing it in your office—a great tool for internal marketing.

 This seminal event is a once-in-a-lifetime affair that you need to attend. It’s time to get out of your comfortable rut staying in your office or home and letting others do the battling. It’s time for you to show your support of this monumental occasion by attending the World Premiere in NYC.

 Please join me and my wife, Christy, at this event. As well, we plan on touring the Big Apple, taking a boat cruise around Manhattan, and enjoying dinner and a Broadway show on Saturday. Why not do the same and join us?

 I may be just a country chiropractor from Georgia, but we plan on tooting our horn on Friday, Sept. 21st at the World Premiere. We’ll be as excited as Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly who starred as sailors on shore leave in the old 1949 MGM musical film, On the Town, that included a song “New York, New York”:

“New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up but the Battery’s down. The people ride in a hole in the ground.”

 We may ride in the same hole in the ground, but I’ll bet we’ll be as high as kites after viewing this landmark documentary. Won’t you please join us in this remarkable event that will go down in the annals of chiropractic history? I expect it will be an experience that we will never forget.


[1] “Attitudes toward chiropractic health care in Oklahoma,” Welling & Company and Oklahoma Chiropractic Research Foundation in cooperation with the Chiropractic Association of Oklahoma (1984)

[2]  Opinion p. 10

[3] Testimony before The Institute of Medicine: Committee on Use of CAM by the American Public on Feb. 27, 2003.

[4] MS Mayer, “The Rise and Fall of Dr. Fishbein,” Harper’s Magazine (Nov. 1949):76-85.