Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Doctors threaten to quit FSU over school

Doctors threaten to quit FSU over school
About 500 instructors have signed a petition opposing a chiropractic college.

By Kimberly Miller
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 01, 2005

Doctors are threatening to resign from Florida State University's teaching staff if a proposed chiropractic school is approved by the Board of Governors this month.

But a leading state senator is threatening to go to 'war' with the fledgling board if it doesn't vote for the controversial new college.

Doctors mocked the study of spinal manipulation in December e-mails, calling it "quackery" and joking that the next new addition to FSU will be the school of crop circles and past-life studies.

A petition opposing the school has been signed by about 500 FSU faculty members. At least nine assistant professors have said they will resign if the legislatively prompted, and funded, chiropractic school is allowed to open.

The university's administration, however, is supporting the chiropractic school — the first such school publicly financed in the country — and will present the proposal at the Board of Governors' Jan. 27 meeting.

"I've got hundreds of petitions saying that this school is not wanted," said Dr. Raymond Bellamy, an assistant professor who has rallied opposition. "It's a stupid idea."

Bellamy, who has scheduled a public forum on the issue on Jan. 13 in Tallahassee — the night before an FSU Board of Trustees meeting — said he's confident the Board of Governors will reject the chiropractic school.

"How can they vote for it knowing it will hurt FSU?" Bellamy said.

The chiropractic school is not controversial simply because of what it would teach. It also has become the epicenter of a political struggle over who is in charge of Florida's colleges and universities — lawmakers or the new Board of Governors.

Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, who spearheaded last year's campaign for the chiropractic school, said the Board of Governors should flex its muscle on another issue and leave the chiropractic school alone. Opposing the program, he said, would establish an antagonistic relationship between the board and lawmakers who set the higher education budget.

"To go back against a legislative body starts the issues of a war, and no one wants that," said King, who as Senate president budgeted $9 million annually for the chiropractic school. "I acknowledge that the board has rights and responsibilities, but we have to work in sync."

Lawmakers approved the chiropractic school during their 2004 session. Along with King's support, the school was pushed by Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, who is a chiropractor.

The chiropractic school has been under discussion since 1995 — seven years before Florida voters created the Board of Governors to oversee colleges and universities.

In 1998, the Florida Chiropractic Association and the Lincoln Chiropractic Educational Research Foundation — Jones' alma mater — donated $1 million for FSU to create a "super endowed chair" for chiropractic and biomedical research. In 2000, lawmakers approved a $600,000 grant to Tallahassee-based FSU to begin planning for a chiropractic college.

Opposition to the school extends to a lawsuit filed Dec. 21 that asks a judge to sort out who is responsible for managing higher education in Florida. The suit was filed by a group of educators, politicians and attorneys calling themselves Floridians for Constitutional Integrity.

The group includes E.T. York, former chancellor of the state university system.

The suit claims that the education system set up by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002 creating one Board of Education to supervise all public schools — kindergarten through college — allows for too much political meddling. The suit also is critical of the Board of Governors for kowtowing to lawmakers on such issues as the chiropractic school.

Carolyn Roberts, Board of Governors chairwoman, is keeping mum on how she or the board will vote on the chiropractic school.

Roberts is less concerned about the political aspects of the vote because she said the board is following the will of the voters by giving the chiropractic school the same kind of scrutiny it would give any proposed program.

"The senators that supported the bill are very interested that it be approved and some members of the public are very interested that it be turned down," she said. She added that the exact language proposing the school gives FSU leeway in how it spends the $9 million, hinting that there may be other uses.

But King said the annual allocation would be quickly erased by legislators if it is not used for a chiropractic school: "It would be the first thing to come off the top of their budget in the next year."

The reputation of chiropractic medicine has improved in the past decade following a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the American Medical Association was trying to destroy chiropractic medicine with a decades-long smear campaign. Since then, the AMA adopted an ethics policy allowing doctors to refer patients to chiropractors and to teach in chiropractic schools.

Jones has called criticism of chiropractic medicine "bigotry" toward a legitimate medical field.

King, who was successfully treated by a chiropractor 35 years ago, agreed. He is concerned that doctors opposed to the school are "reacting to a perceived notion that chiropractors practice voodoo medicine."

"Chiropractic medicine has a status and acceptability," King said. "The fact that some doctors take exception to the practice is not without some kind of vested interest. I guess they see it as competition."

But the doctors responding to Bellamy's petition say they are concerned about the university's reputation and the health of patients, not competition.

"I have seen vertebral artery clots with resulting brain stem strokes, spinal cord injuries and acute herniated discs caused by chiropractic back manipulation," said Dr. Steve Rothrock, an associate professor of medical sciences at FSU's Orlando campus. "I and all of my colleagues associated with the new College of Medicine with whom I have spoken will resign our appointments if this (school) comes to pass."