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Homecoming session: Chiropractic and cultural authority

8/17/2010 (Archived)

On Friday, Aug. 13, all eyes were on Yvonne Villanueva-Russell, Ph.D., during the general session when she gave her provocative presentation on “Transforming the Chiropractic Profession through Cultural Authority.” As a sociologist (and assistant professor at Texas A & M University-Commerce), she spoke about the parallels between her profession and chiropractic. While she is not a chiropractor, she is married to one (fellow Homecoming speaker Eric Russell, D.C., Davenport ’96) and is therefore “sort of married to chiropractic.”

co - vilanueva russel yvonne“Cultural authority,” said Dr. Villanueva-Russell, “is a state when you are unquestioningly believed. I am in a profession that is in a similar state as chiropractic. Sociology has no cultural authority and no real identity. We have pluralism, but we don’t have a single identity.” Much like chiropractic.

“There was a time,” she added, “when Palmer had control over the profession, hegemony. But things have changed.”

She noted that there are few voices making themselves heard regarding the chiropractic profession, most of them in chiropractic journals. She also questions if they are truly representative of the profession’s majority.

In her research on chiropractic, Dr. Villaneuva-Russell said she has seen several suggestions for what the profession should do in order to move forward. “One recommendation is to do away with the term ‘vitalism,’” she said. “Another is to do away with models that are ‘indefensible from simple common sense,’ such as innate intelligence. That chiropractors who dogmatically oppose common pubic health practices such as immunization should be quiet. That philosophy classes should not be permitted to be taught at our colleges, and that philosophy instructors should be replace by (those who advance) evidence-based approaches to spine care.”

“These are all from articles in journals,” she continued. “This is a discourse put out for you to respond to and be part of the conversation. If you don’t respond, you’re not part of the conversation.”

Dr. Villanueva-Russell also noted a headline in Dynamic Chiropractic (June 2, 2003), which read “New Study Finds Unity in Chiropractic!” But what it didn’t say was that 88 percent of the chiropractors polled wanted to keep the term “vertebral subluxation” or that 83 percent want to have a wellness care identity.

“Your identity is who you are; your genuine ‘true you’ deep down inside,” she says. “In chiropractic, your Sacred Trust is under attack. It’s denigrated. What does chiropractic stand for? Chiropractic has no cultural authority; you are continually questioned. Cultural authority isn’t a prize. It is politically claimed. It is won after the results of a war. It’s a very strategic battle being fought by your fellow chiropractors. [If you don’t take an active part,] you will find that everything will be changed by your own colleagues on your behalf.”

Her advice is to be aware, join the conversation, read the journals and keep up with what your colleagues are up to. Get a more diverse perspective, attend the ACC-RAC and other conferences, and hold yourself accountable.

“Palmer is where it all started,” she says. “There is something here in the walls. There’s an energy here, a history. What does Palmer represent for you? Something to fight for? You have a Sacred Trust. Are you willing to hold your feet to the fire?”

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