Individual DCs can and must make a difference with a commitment to diversity and serving a broad population of patients
Less than 1% of licensed chiropractors are Black according to estimations, yet the Black population of the United States is more than 13%. The result is a significant deficit of practitioners who serve the demographic. The same is true for other reported races. But the good news is that the country — and the chiropractic profession — is facing a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion issues with new resolve, honestly acknowledging that there are still strides to be made. So, what does diversity, equity and inclusion really mean, and how does it apply to you?
Serving a more diverse patient base
“When you talk about a diverse population, you talk about a population that has some people that are separated by certain aspects or attributes,” said Micheala Edwards, DC, and current president of the American Black Chiropractic Association. “So, in order to consider yourself or your entity, organization, school, business or whatever you would like to apply this concept to, if you want to call them diverse, then you must include every representation of every difference within that group. That’s the diversity piece.
“Inclusion means everybody gets a choice to be included. Everybody gets to have their day, have their voice heard. Inclusivity within diversity literally provides something that is more well-rounded and much more powerful because the reach of the external part of that entity has grown exponentially.”
The tumbleweed effect
The lack of a diverse and inclusive DC population means the chiropractic profession only represents a small number of people. True diversity and inclusion need to reach a much larger audience, Edwards says.
“It’s so important to increase the numbers of diverse chiropractors and students in the profession,” she said. “With that, they literally will turn around and spread back into the communities that were underserved, or that just had not been exposed to chiropractic to begin with.”
Edwards likens the movement to a tumbleweed in the wind. The wind blows, kicks up some dust, grabs ahold, and it just keeps tumbling and growing. Before you know it, the tumbleweed becomes too large to ignore.
“And now you see everybody like, ‘Oh, y’all are over there? What’s y’all doing? An adjustment, what’s that?’ And then people just begin to get excited about health and wellness,” she said.
A commitment to diversity: individual DCs can reach out
For doctors of chiropractic, better serving any underserved communities means getting creative with your efforts.
Whether it’s educating community members on the benefits of chiropractic care or recruiting and training students for a career in chiropractic, members of the profession need to show a commitment to diversity and need to be able to tackle the problem in a variety of ways.
“Just pick one of the points and start wherever it is,” Edwards said. “It’s most important that they see someone that looks like them, standing in front of them, so they can have an idea or a vision to model after.”
While it’s important for members of the Black and Brown communities to see others like them represented in the profession, it’s equally important for other races to show up as allies for those communities. For example, what can a white chiropractor in the middle of a major city do to reach these populations?
“Where’s this clinic?” Edwards asks. “That tells a lot about who you can treat, because people are not traveling out to the suburbs to go and get an adjustment. They want to be able to see whatever it is that they need work right in the community that they are in. If your goal is to reach into the urban core or other communities that are underserved, then you’re either going to have to come out of your clinic and get into the community, or you will literally have to link up with some entity in that community to pull the community to you.”
Making connections and networking and a commitment to diversity starts in your own community and expands from there.
Two of the easiest ways to get into a community of color are to utilize sports and athletics. “That’s the language we speak and if you can get the parents, guess what? You got a whole household,” Edwards says.
Chiropractors must join the conversation
It’s up to chiropractors to take ownership of the profession and let their voices be heard if they want the profession to be a major health care force serving all of the population, rather than a niche alternative-medicine choice for patients.
“We are at a crossroads,” Edwards says. “Either chiropractic shows up or just fizzles out. Don’t sit back and be the one complaining. Tell us what you think so we can have an educated conversation and discussion and think on what we need to put in or take out so that we can grow this thing and become the gold standard of health and wellness in America. If that doesn’t happen, nothing will change. It will not grow.”
The goal, Edwards says, “is to grow everything, grow your practice, grow your reach, grow the community, grow the city, grow the state, grow the nation. Our battle is not adjusting patients. It’s not reaching the Black and Brown community by adjusting Black and Brown people. It really is about the reach and what you can present and the words that you can use to actually adjust the mentality of a potential patient so that they know and understand that chiropractic is really what they need.
“I want to normalize that thought and I speak those words very intentionally, so that everything I wish for that goal to happen comes and finds itself. And then before you know it, that tumbleweed is on fire, baby, and we grow.”
Chiropractic Economics staff. Excerpts of this article were taken from an episode of Chiropractical, NCMIC’s once-monthly podcast designed to give DCs the tools, knowledge and resources they need to build and grow a practice that empowers them to create a life they love. To learn more about Chiropractical, visit ncmic.com/Chiropractical.