Opening doors that remain closed to Black DCs and potential patients are just a few of the goals of the new American Black Chiropractic Association president
In July the American Black Chiropractic Association (ABCA) nominated Micheala Edwards, DC, president of the organization to further its mission of “Integrating and improving outcomes for persons of color entering the profession of Doctor of Chiropractic.”
The ABCA was founded in 1981 by Bobby Westbrooks, DC, from St. Louis, who recognized that many African Americans were unfamiliar with the benefits of chiropractic care, and that chiropractic colleges struggled to attract minority students into their programs. Approaching 40 years later, the chiropractic industry comprises less than 5% Black chiropractors, which Edwards estimates is closer to 1-2%.
The 2009 graduate of Logan University says the focus during her term will be on membership, scholarship, and diversity and inclusion, and that the ABCA membership of late is seeing a surge of non-Black members in support of the ABCA’s mission and inclusion efforts.
Revamping membership and strengthening partnerships
Edwards says the ABCA “has a lot of work to do” to fulfill her vision during her term in regard to strengthening membership, membership benefits and partnerships.
“We are focused on revamping our membership options to better provide benefits to our students and newly-graduated DCs,” she says. “We’ve added some key affiliates to our arsenal of resources for board reviews, hands-on training and mentoring of our younger member groups. We will also be focusing on plans to fully fund an endowment for our Harvey Lillard Scholarship Fund. This will be an ongoing effort until our goal is reached and we can add additional awards to our applicant pool.”
The partnerships will include research endeavors showing the benefit of diversity in chiropractic care in serving minority populations to higher education within the industry.
“The ABCA is currently in talks with other affiliates to partner and assist with a future research project that has the goal of providing information to the education sector that is vital to ensuring that the profession’s educational curricula include data that best ensures future DCs are also trained to provide top-notch chiropractic care in our diverse and ever-evolving multicultural world,” she says. “This study will likely spark future studies in the profession relating to diverse communities.”
A ‘Call to Action’ for 2020
The ABCA will also be following up on a “Call to Action” that was sent to each chiropractic college and university in the nation to encourage a review of their internal controls for diversity and inclusion.
“Our goal is to find that all of our schools at least has someone — staff, committee or department — committed to the topic, or that the school uses the ABCA in an advisory role for such,” Edwards says. “We seek to promote qualified minority DCs throughout the nation for consideration in roles such as teachers, speakers, faculty or staff, and board members at our schools, all while maintaining a positive experience for our student members currently enrolled in DC programs. In short, the next two years will be all about membership, scholarship, diversity and inclusion, and research.”
Transforming a profession
Approximately 92% of chiropractors are white, and around 70-75% of practicing DCs are male, although the male-female ratio in schools has approached close to 50-50 over the last few years. The answer for more chiropractors of color to serve constituents of color across the U.S. is better recruitment programs that communicate the benefits of chiropractic care.
“In order to transform the profession into one where doctors more resemble patient populations, recruitment for DC programs nationwide would become an area of focus,” Edwards says. “Recruitment in the urban core that includes programs which inform the community about chiropractic and its benefits are crucial. The ABCA looks to working with the schools to aid in such programs through our Community Outreach Initiative that is incorporated into our ABCA National Conventions each year. The long-term goal of the initiative is to link urban populations, through various local organizations and charities, to chiropractic schools in their area. Often, these programs are the very first exposure to the profession that participants get. Interaction with the ABCA and its leaders, both students and doctors, within these events is helpful when one considers chiropractic to be a field of interest.”
‘People search for a familiar face’
Various research studies have shown that patients of color will not only seek care more often if they have access to a doctor of color, but that they will also receive more effective care.
“From the urban view, there is definitely a need for Black chiropractors within the community,” Edwards says. “In the nation’s current state of civil unrest, more and more people are searching for a trusted source when it comes to their family’s health and wellness. A stigma still exists in our communities surrounding the validity and acceptance of the holistic approach to things. Typically, people search for a familiar face when seeking help from a trusted source and would be more willing to give chiropractic a try with a Black doctor. But without exposure to one in their area, they simply miss out on all of the benefits that chiropractic care offers.”
Along those lines of trusted care in the Black community, a stunning research report out of George Mason University earlier this year found that Black newborns are three times more likely to die when looked after by white doctors. “The findings suggest that Black physicians outperform their white colleagues when caring for Black newborns,” the authors wrote.
Edwards says that expanding doctor availability in communities is essential, and “Although the ABCA currently has a ‘Find a Doc’ directory linked to our website that anyone can use to search for our registered members, we’ve experienced an influx of requests for referrals that have come in through our social media pages and by email.”
A lack of higher education support
Astonishingly in this age, among the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, Edwards points out that not every chiropractic school recognizes the ABCA as a national organization. The new president looks to break down some of the last barriers to students of color on chiropractic campuses by partnering to allow all students to join an ABCA student chapter who so desire.
“The ABCA’s goal is to have an active student chapter at each chiropractic school in the nation,” she says. “There are currently schools that do not have a chapter, but not because there are not any students interested in joining, but because their school does not openly support all national or unaffiliated organizations within the profession. While students at these schools can still join the ABCA on their own and apply for our scholarships, they are unable to learn leadership skills in managing a chapter; conduct meetings where doctors in the area are brought in as guest speakers and hosts for shadowing; or host our annual regional conferences. This prevents students from enjoying all of the benefits that our memberships offer.
Included in our previously referenced Call to Action, the ABCA plans to pick up the advisory role on campuses by means of either members from our leadership board or through local students who are members of the ABCA or SABCA. In this manner, Black students will have representation on each campus to ensure that their concerns surrounding diversity and inclusion are addressed.”
Bringing a healing energy
As a certified energy healer, Edwards is a big believer in energy channeling and healing as part of the holistic arts. Like the partnership between chiropractic and massage, she believes patients benefit from becoming more in touch with their bodies, function and the energy of healing.
“Either through Reiki, Qigong, or Chakra meditation work, patients become more fine-tuned with their bodies, leaving them with heightened positive effects of an adjustment,” she says. “Just as you commonly see massage therapy being offered at chiropractic clinics, there is a growing number of DCs that offer or implement a form of energy healing within their practice. While I see the focus in the profession staying with the chiropractic adjustment, there may be a growing future need for alternative modalities.”
And while the ABCA’s Board of Directors and Executive Board have traditionally comprised a gender mix, this year for the first time the ABCA Executive Board is made up solely of women.
“While this was not intentional, the feminine energy is definitely welcomed!” Edwards says.
For more information on the ABCA and its current and future initiatives, visit ABCAchiro.com.
RICK VACH is editor-in-chief of Chiropractic Economics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.