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).

Friday, January 21, 2005

Opponents Try to Kill Plan For FSU Chiropractic School

Dec. 13, 2004

Opponents Try to Kill Plan For FSU Chiropractic School

St. Petersburg Times

TALLAHASSEE -- By the stroke of a pen, Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature allocated millions of dollars this year to create the nation's first public chiropractic school at Florida State University.

The school is a longtime dream of Republican state Sen. Dennis Jones of Treasure Island, a chiropractor who hopes to someday play a role in the school.

But now, doctors, FSU faculty members and alumni are trying to kill it.

A petition being circulated on the Internet questions the need for the school, claims it is being rushed through without debate and carries a familiar tone: Doctors have little faith in chiropractors or the care they offer.

"Our position is not so much to attack chiropractic itself but to say there's no need for a doctoral program in spinal manipulation," said Dr. Raymond Bellamy, an orthopedic surgeon and FSU graduate leading the opposition. "I think it would irreparably harm the scientific effectiveness and reputations of all the other great programs at the university."

FSU's trustees and the state Board of Governors for higher education must approve the school in separate votes in January. Opponents plan to present their petition and their arguments to trustees Jan. 14. The Board of Governors votes a week later.

Critics say the new school would devalue other FSU degrees and they call chiropractic "pseudo-science." They say critics in FSU's medical school and student body were hushed by pressure politics, and that holding two key votes on the issue soon after the holidays is an attempt to stifle opposition.

Dr. Steve Rothrock, an FSU graduate who teaches at his alma mater's medical school, called chiropractic "quackery." In an email to Bellamy, Rothrock said he would consider resigning if the school is established.

Dr. Steven Blumsack, a 36-year member of FSU's math faculty and a faculty senator, said he had no opinion on the need for the school, but said too many education decisions are made in haste.

"We need to have a discussion. To my knowledge, it hasn't happened," Blumsack said.

With little public discussion or debate, the 2004 Legislature appropriated $9 million a year for FSU's new School of Chiropractic Medicine in a deal brokered by Bush and legislative leaders before the session began.

Former Senate President Jim King, an FSU graduate, wanted the chiropractic school as part of a package that included millions for then-House Speaker Johnnie Byrd's priority, an Alzheimer's research institute at the University of South Florida.

Bush said Thursday the deal bought peace between King and Byrd, who did not get along.

"I did so without a love for building a public chiropractic school," Bush said. "I did it because I wanted to make the effort to try and bring some harmony in the legislative process."

Even though King is no longer running the Senate, Bush said he will keep his word and support the project in his proposed budget. But he said the Board of Governors, whose members Bush appoints, have the authority to approve or reject the program.

King was the chiropractic school's most powerful champion but Jones is its true father.

"This is not a new issue," Jones said. "It's been over 10 years in the making."

Jones calls the criticism "nothing new" and said he expects opposition from the medical establishment.

"Chiropractic care is some of the safest care that's offered in the world," Jones said. "But any time we've tried to move our programs forward, they've always stepped up in opposition."

He said 600 to 900 students leave Florida every year to attend private chiropractic schools out of state. That may explain why so few Hispanic and black chiropractors practice in Florida, he said.

After his legislative days are over in 2012, Jones said, he would like to play a role in the chiropractic school. He suggested as a possibility a distance-learning program in which FSU students would work in chiropractic clinics in the Tampa Bay area.

"I would like to be involved in that," said Jones, who runs Northeast Chiropractic Center in St. Petersburg. "But that's looking pretty far down the road, if you ask me."

FSU's proposal calls for hiring more than 100 new faculty members for a graduate level College of Complementary and Integrative Health. Students seeking a doctor of chiropractic degree would also have to complete a master's degree in a five-year program in one of five areas: food and nutrition, movement and exercise science, public Health, Health Policy Research or Aging Studies.

Even if the FSU and state boards approve the new school, it must also seek accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and from a separate chiropractic accreditation board.

"It's not a done deal," FSU provost Larry Abele said. "There are a lot of steps to go through."

Some members of the Board of Governors said they were irked that the legislative deal seemed to block their involvement in a key decision. Two board members wouldn't say whether they would vote to create the school.

"When it comes before the board, we will do the right thing, and see if there's a need for that," said Zachariah Zachariah, a Fort Lauderdale cardiologist. He seconded a resolution at a November meeting when the board demanded FSU submit the program for its approval.

Board member Steve Uhlfelder, a Tallahassee lawyer, said he would be guided by what the FSU trustees decide. But he said the chiropractic school was the reverse of most state university programs.

"Usually you approve a program and then there's funding. In this case, they got the $9 million, and the question is, `Do you want to do the program?' The cart's before the horse," Uhlfelder said.