David Chapman-Smith, a Toronto lawyer and author of The Chiropractic Profession (NCMIC Group, 2000) is Secretary-General of the World Federation of Chiropractic. He is also editor/publisher of The Chiropractic Report (www.chiropracticreport.com). His introduction to chiropractic took place when he acted as counsel for the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association before the New Zealand Commission of Inquiry into Chiropractic in 1978-79.
In the following interview with TAC, Mr. Chapman-Smith discusses his views on the chiropractic profession and its future worldwide.
TAC: Tell us about yourself.
Chapman-Smith: As my brief biography indicates, I am a lawyer, originally from New Zealand. I knew nothing about chiropractic prior to acting for the profession before the New Zealand Commission of Inquiry into Chiropractic in 1978-79. Since 1982, I’ve been based in Toronto, representing the chiropractic profession full time. My wife and two other members of the family are Palmer graduates.
TAC: What makes the chiropractic profession so special in your view?
Chapman-Smith: For chiropractors, it’s a combination of its philosophy of health, its non-invasive and drug-free approach, and the ability to help so many patients with significant problems that no one else can address as well. For me, it is special to represent a newer profession with great potential as it fights to break down unfair barriers in health care. Additionally, chiropractors are generous by nature and, therefore, rewarding to work with.
TAC: Do you have any special concerns regarding the profession of chiropractic?
Chapman-Smith: Yes, some. Now that it is established in terms of legislation and licensure, the profession urgently needs to develop its identity, allies, reputation, market share, and fair allocation of public funding for education and research within the mainstream health care system. I am concerned that the profession is not doing more to create public trust. Frankly, this requires more definitive disciplinary action against those who are flagrantly unethical, seriously undermining the reputation of the profession.
TAC: What is the role of the WFC?
Chapman-Smith: A key role is to provide a truly democratic and broadly accepted international forum where chiropractors can debate the big issues, carve out an agreed upon way forward and, thereby, promote the best possible international growth and success of the profession. The WFC exists to welcome all national associations and qualified chiropractors, whatever their philosophies and cultural differences, and to promote mutual respect and the successful advance of the whole profession.
TAC: How are chiropractors benefiting from the actions of the WFC?
Chapman-Smith: Take the area of education, as one example. The WFC has an excellent relationship with the Association of Chiropractic Colleges and other educational bodies worldwide. The WFC and ACC have held major successful conferences on philosophy (Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 2000), clinical education (Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2002) and a consistent approach to diagnosis in clinical education (Toronto, Canada, 2004)—all well attended by colleges worldwide, all yielding detailed consensus statements, and all providing a vital common basis for chiropractic education worldwide.
Additionally, the WFC has worked with the World Health Organization to define guidelines on chiropractic education that emphasize to governments worldwide that chiropractic is a separate and distinct profession, not a set of techniques.
Take legal scope of practice, as a second example. Through the WFC and its influence on member associations, we are getting a similar scope of practice worldwide—always on a primary contact basis with the right to diagnose and practice independently.
Finally, take the example of the public identity of chiropractic. This has long been debated, outside experts have explained the urgency of the profession having a better identity, and the WFC has just completed an exciting and comprehensive identity consultation in which chiropractors worldwide have agreed unanimously on identity.
TAC: Really? What is that identity?
Chapman-Smith: It was agreed at the WFC’s Assembly in Sydney, Australia, in June. This followed a two-year process led by a 40-person Task Force and included an electronic opinion survey of chiropractors worldwide, as many of your readers will know—they were part of the excellent response rate.
The core identity chosen is “the spinal health care experts” in the mainstream health care system. However, there are several important qualifying statements, including the particular focus of the profession on the spine and the nervous system. Full details can be found at www.wfc.org, under Identity Consultation on the home page.
TAC: What are the WFC’s plans for the upcoming year?
Chapman-Smith: We have more exciting projects than we can handle. First, having established an agreed identity, the WFC must communicate this widely and help its smaller national association members to implement this identity in their countries. Since 1997, the WFC has been in official relations with the World Health Organization and important current projects with WHO include collaborating in the preparation of WHO documents on the effectiveness of chiropractic and its legal status worldwide—these are, obviously, particularly important for governments in countries where the profession is not yet established.
Other important ongoing work is helping the profession’s pioneers set up the profession in countries such as Botswana and Uganda in Africa, Argentina and Chile in Latin America, and Malaysia and Thailand in Asia. There are now more chiropractic colleges around the world than in the US and several more will open within the next two years. The WFC has a major hand in putting these partnerships and projects together.
TAC: Where do you see the future of chiropractic headed?
Chapman-Smith: Chiropractic has fought magnificently to achieve independence; but to be highly successful, as Stephen Covey has told us in his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, individuals, corporations and professions must move on to interdependence. For chiropractic, this means creating collaborative relationships within mainstream health care. As the profession does this, it must maintain its distinctive philosophy, focus and clinical services. Its non-drug, non-surgical approach to health care is a major brand advantage and a key component of the identity agreed on in the WFC identity consultation process.
TAC: Do you have any other issues you’d like to present to our readers?
Chapman-Smith: I have probably preached more than enough already. I would say this, however, to an audience of US chiropractors. Notwithstanding the ravages of managed care and the much publicized reverses the profession has from time to time, you have good grounds to be optimistic about the future of the profession. From where I sit, there has been wonderful international growth and success—particularly in Asia, Europe and Latin America–during the past 10 years.
It is important, however, that we work together and pool resources. As a chiropractor, your fundamental obligation to this wonderful profession that gives you a philosophy of health and a livelihood is to belong to a state and national association—despite any shortcomings they may have. For $180 per annum, you can also be an associate member of the WFC, materially helping us to fight for legislation and your colleagues in countries as far apart as Argentina, Greece and Korea. Do that today. Much more can be done if many more contribute a small amount each.