Chiropractic Leadership Alliance’s versatile Co-Founder is one the most influential minds that the profession has ever known—and the perfect choice to lead the Wellness Revolution: the kind that would make him one of the most important chiropractic figures of his generation.
A Man of Many Hats, Christopher Kent is a Doctor, a Lawyer, an Author, a Researcher, an Inventor and a Wellness Revolutionary.
He was not quite 16 years old, but suffered from a Variety of health issues. His best friend, who seemed fi t and always full of energy, told him to go see a chiropractor.
A chiropractor? But, what exactly did they do? An inquisitive young Christopher Kent decided to ask his mother—who worked at a medical college.
“A chiropractor is someone who cracks your bones,” she answered.
This created a serious dilemma for the young Kent. His friend seemed healthy, but “bone cracking” sounded rather scary.
“I decided to test the waters by telling a chiropractor that I wanted to interview him for a school project. That seemed like a good way to fi nd out more without risking life and limb,” recalled Kent recently in an interview with The American Chiropractor (TAC). “My fi rst question to this doctor was, ‘What do chiropractors do?’” His answer changed my life and remains the most elegant and concise explanation of chiropractic I have heard in my 34 years in the profession,” noted Kent.
The doctor told the teenage Kent that chiropractic was based on four simple ideas:
1. The body is self-healing. Cut your fi nger, it heals. Cut the fi nger of a corpse, it doesn’t. Life heals.
2. The nervous system is the master system of the body. Every dimension of the human experience…everything you think, feel, and do is processed through the nervous system.
3. When there is interference with the function of the nervous system, not only does it compromise your physical health, but it also alters your perception of the world and limits your ability to respond to the world.
4. Chiropractors locate and correct the cause of such interference. “This doctor understood ‘wellness’ long before there was a revolution,” smiled Kent. “So, from the beginning, I was taught that chiropractic was about the totality of the human experience: physical, biochemical, and psychological,” he added.
Thanks to research for a bogus school project, Christopher Kent became a patient. His health dramatically improved. His thirst for knowledge impressed his doctor who told the young Kent that he should become a chiropractor, too.
“He made a call to Palmer College on my behalf. One month later, I left for Davenport and never looked back,” said Kent.
And, chiropractic began to look forward.
TAC: Doctor, lawyer, author, educator, inventor.… What exactly was the plan when you graduated from chiropractic school?
Kent: Well, I always wanted to be some kind of doctor. The body-mind relationship always fascinated me. Among the professions that I considered were psychology, naturopathy, osteopathy, and chiropractic. Chiropractic won because the concept of correcting interference with the function of the nervous system made perfect sense to me.
I struggled with what to do after graduation. I wanted to get chiropractic to as many people as possible. The best strategy to do so was obvious—teach others. So, I joined the Palmer faculty and had the time of my life. I also practiced after classes, usually becoming the “doctor of last resort” to medical failures. Patients consulted me with visceral, infectious, endocrine, and psychiatric problems. Most were resolved under chiropractic care. And, I saw fi rst hand how chiropractic changed lives. My patients felt more like friends than clients. Many brought their families.
My most memorable experience from practice occurred when a patient I had seen the day before was sitting in the reception room. I asked why she was back.
She said, “It just feels so good in here, I wanted to stop and sit for a few minutes.”
That’s when I knew I had found my life’s work. Through chiropractic, I was empowering individuals to realize their dreams. My practice allowed me to help many improve their overall health, while teaching gave me the opportunity to train future DC’s who would, in turn, spread chiropractic’s wonderful message.
Still, I wanted to do more. Research was an extension of my role as a teacher. I realized that, as philosophically advanced as chiropractic was, we were lagging technologically. In 1974, we were still using technology developed in the 1920’s to monitor neurological function.
TAC: Why are you so passionate about developing chiropractic technology?
Kent: Delivering the promise is where “the rubber meets the road.” I knew how chiropractic could change lives and allow people to expand the range of the human experience. Yet, there were many unanswered questions. How could one know with certainty that a patient is subluxated, or that the subluxation was effectively reduced? How often should a patient be seen? There seemed to be a large gap between philosophy and clinical practice.
A turning point was being invited to attend a National Institutes of Health conference in the early 70’s. A group of MD’s, DO’s, and DC’s, along with basic scientists, assembled to defi ne what was and what was not known about the science behind chiropractic. I was one of eleven chiropractors selected to attend. It was a peak experience, and set me on a new direction—developing technologies to objectively monitor function. I left Palmer to begin full time practice, while continuing to satisfy my thirst for teaching as a presenter at continuing education seminars.
TAC: Any breakthroughs on the horizon?
Kent: In addition to instrumentation, I have been involved in investigating applications for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the assessment of vertebral subluxation, and how chiropractic care affects oxidative stress and DNA repair. This is incredibly exciting. There is a growing body of evidence that wellness care provided by doctors of chiropractic may reduce health care costs, improve health behaviors, and enhance patient perceived quality of life. Until recently, however, little was known about how chiropractic adjustments affected the chemistry of biological processes on a cellular level. The results indicate that long-term chiropractic care of two or more years re-establishes a normal physiological state independent of age, sex, or nutritional supplements.
TAC: You sound as if you might be more passionate about preventing subluxations than correcting them. Why?
Kent: You might say that I had a life changing experience. The universe has a way of delivering a wake up call when one is needed. After a few years of practice, I had become “comfortably numb.” This was the 80’s, when it was very easy to make a good living in chiropractic with relatively little effort. At the time, I was only working a few days each week. I had a nice place to live, a Mercedes, and a share in an airplane. In short, no worries and a lot of freedom. But something was missing, and that was the passion I had experienced in my first ten years as a DC.
I had just met Dr. Patrick Gentempo, and was with his family in New Jersey. One night, while lying in bed, I turned my head. Suddenly the room started spinning, and my right side went numb. I started to hobble downstairs for help. The next thing that I remember was lying on a gurney in an emergency room with all four limbs paralyzed, and my breathing being assisted with an ambu-bag. I had had a stroke, and was being kept alive with a mechanical ventilator. My family was told that the prognosis was poor, and that, if they wanted to see me, they had better come now.
I received a visit from an old-time chiropractor friend who got into the ICU by fl ashing a badge he had received from a patient identifying him as a “police surgeon.” He took one look at me and asked, “How about an adjustment?”
I somehow indicated an affi rmative response, and he adjusted my atlas. It sounded like the report of a starter’s pistol.
The next day, I could wiggle my fi ngers, and soon was breathing on my own, out of bed, and getting around in a wheelchair. The neurologist said that I was very lucky, but should prepare myself for the likelihood that I would be confi ned to a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
That was simply unacceptable. I checked into a physical rehab hospital, and spent as much time as they would let me in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. While in the hospital, I continued getting clandestine adjustments and sneaking in nutritional supplements. One day the neurologist caught us, and gave his permission. “All I can offer you is rehabilitation. If you want to get adjusted and take supplements, go ahead.”
The results were spectacular. They carried me into the place and, in thirty days, I walked out with more function than most similar patients had after six months. This time I was the one who experienced the chiropractic miracle. At that time, I promised myself and the world that I would never sell out chiropractic or allow it to be limited to back or neck pain.
TAC: That commitment has had you championing chiropractic at some pretty high levels. Tell us about your work with the United Nations.
Kent: As an NGO (non-governmental organization) representative, I had the opportunity to attend briefings and conferences at UN Headquarters in New York City. I joined the NGO Health Committee and one day a vacancy arose on the Executive Board. I was elected treasurer, and later was elected chairperson, the first chiropractor to hold that office. During my administration, we had a midwife, a nurse, a psychologist, and a businesswoman on the Executive Board in addition to an MD/MPH. The focus of the committee remains clearly one of wellness and quality-of-life.
Two accomplishments I am proud of are having the first presentation on chiropractic by chiropractors at UN Headquarters in New York, and having a workshop at the UN’s International Conference of NGO’s in Seoul, Korea, titled, “The Role of Chiropractic Care in Global Wellness.”
We’ve also been involved with the World Health Organization (WHO) in developing their Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Chiropractic. These Guidelines specifi cally address subluxation, and note that chiropractic education should include contemporary methods and techniques in wellness care.
TAC: Do chiropractors realize the role they can play in Global Wellness?
Kent: Many do…and I believe that number will skyrocket in the near future.
I’m also President of the Council on Chiropractic Practice, which has been involved in the development and publication of evidence-based guidelines focusing on vertebral subluxation. These guidelines have been accepted for inclusion in the National Guideline Clearinghouse, are included in Healthcare Standards: Offi cial Directory, and have been sent to the Health Ministers of 191 countries.
We believe strongly in a patient-centered approach, which emphasizes outcomes related to function and quality of life, rather than a “cookbook” approach, which turns doctors into technicians. Our guidelines are designed to support stakeholders with information, recognizing the uniqueness of each individual.
TAC: Why did you decide to become an attorney?
Kent: I’ve been blessed with many opportunities. When I realized that there was a danger that patient-centered wellness care focusing on subluxation correction and lifestyle coaching could be supplanted by a limited pain treatment model, I became active politically. My involvement in law and politics began when I worked for the International Chiropractors Association while a student, developing materials for their Medicare seminars. Shortly after graduation, I represented the American Chiropractic Association at the FDA Panel on Review of Neurological Devices in Washington, DC, and was a member of the ACA Council on Mental Health. I’ve served on the board of the ICA and WCA, and am currently the World Chiropractic Alliance’s Main Representative to the Department of Public Information, affiliated with the United Nations. Becoming an attorney seemed a natural enhancement to my qualifications as a chiropractor.
TAC: What is your defi nition of the 21st Century Chiropractor?
Kent: The 21st Century chiropractor is a clinician whose vision is one of empowering individuals to reach their potential. This involves strategies that enhance quality-of-life and promote health. First and foremost is the analysis and correction of vertebral subluxations, which disrupt nerve function. The 21st Century chiropractor uses objective technologies to measure neurospinal function and overall wellness. The focus is on the entire family—not just those with identifiable conditions.
This DC also addresses the causes of subluxation—physical, biochemical, and psychological stress—acting as a lifestyle coach. This is a great niche for the chiropractor. It is not competitive with medicine or physical therapy, and provides a service that people need and want.
TAC: How important is it for chiropractors to be less dependent on insurance carriers?
Kent: I think it’s the only way to go. Insurance plans focus on treatment of specific conditions. Most exclude chiropractic wellness services, such as adjustments for asymptomatic patients, wellness coaching, supplements for general well-being, etc. Furthermore, they introduce a third party into the traditional doctor-patient relationship—one incentivized to reduce expenditures, rather than do what is best for the patient.
Regardless of whether your emphasis is musculoskeletal care or wellness services, cash practice is the model to follow. It places the wants and needs of the patient center stage, and it is the only business plan that makes sense, given declining reimbursement and the uncertain future of the healthcare industry.
TAC: What challenges and opportunities face the profession today?
Kent: It is acknowledged by almost everyone in government and public policy that our healthcare system is badly broken. Our nation spends over $2.2 trillion each year, or 15 percent of the gross domestic product, on health care—more than any other developed country. And, while we have great technology for providing medical crisis care, it is clear that what is represented as health care is really sick care. Despite these expenditures, medical errors and iatrogenic events are a leading cause of death in the United States, and we rank thirty-seventh in overall health care performance according to WHO.
TAC: What opportunity does this present for chiropractic?
Kent: A number of studies indicate that wellness care provided by chiropractors can dramatically reduce costs and improve quality of life. For example, senior citizens who participated in long-term chiropractic care (five years or longer) had 50 percent fewer medical provider visits, and spent only 31 percent of the national average on health care services as their counterparts who were not under chiropractic care. Over 95 percent felt that the care was considerably valuable or extremely valuable.
In another study, persons in a managed care plan who were permitted to select a DC as their primary care physician showed dramatic decreases in hospital admissions, outpatient surgeries, and an 85 percent decrease in pharmaceutical costs.Many providers are jumping on the wellness bandwagon. But, their services are fragmented, and omit the essential dimension of maintaining neurospinal integrity through the correction of subluxations. The chiropractor who realizes that we live our lives through the nervous system, and one who addresses the physical, biochemical, and psychological lifestyle issues that compromise human potential will save the day.
TAC: What do you want your legacy in chiropractic to be?
Kent: I hope that I will have played a role in making chiropractic a powerful, effective profession that becomes the dominant model for health care delivery. I know of nothing that one human being can do for another that can improve a life on as many levels as a chiropractic adjustment.
CLA was founded in 1987 with a vision of world leadership in healthcare, and a strategy of empowering chiropractors to improve the lives of all those they touch. CLA is proud to have stood as a leader and innovator during the past two decades, and takes pride in the relationships we have established over that time. I take great pride in our work—our contribution.
The one thing that is more powerful than an idea whose time has come is an individual who has the vision, passion, commitment, and technical skill to turn such a vision into reality. As a chiropractor, we hold that ability in the very hollow of our hands. The best part of the chiropractic story is about to unfold. I look forward to helping write that history with many of my colleagues. Together, we change the world.
Dr. Kent would like to offer TAC readers a free gift. The first 150 respondents to this offer will receive his DVD: The Science and Philosophy of Vertebral Subluxation.
To receive your gift, contact Stacey Moscaritolo at 1-800-285-2001, Ext. 141 or [email protected].