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Chiropractic enlists in the military

In 1995, chiropractic care became a component of the Military Health System operated by the Department of Defense after the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1995. Section 706 of the law required the secretary of Defense to “develop, carry out, and report on a demonstration program to evaluate the feasibility and desirability of furnishing chiropractic care through the medical facilities of the armed forces.”

The program became known as the Chiropractic Health Care Demonstration Project, which was charged with making chiropractic available at 10 military treatment facilities. By the end of the project in 1999, the number of treatment facilities expanded to 16.

Another component of the demonstration project was the formation of an oversight committee, which included chiropractors among its membership. This committee’s recommendations paved the way for the writing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001, which President Bill Clinton signed on Oct. 30, 2000.

The law required the secretary of Defense to develop a plan that was to be phased in over five years and “provide chiropractic health care services and benefits, as a permanent part of the Defense Health Program for all members of the uniformed services.”

Today, chiropractors at authorized military treatment facilities provide chiropractic care to patients after being referred by primary care providers, which is the standard procedure for healthcare specialists within the military.

William Morgan, D.C., West '85
Chiropractic Clinic, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.
In 2005, Dr. William Morgan, right, presented the Military Health Care Leadership Award to then-U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Donald Arthur, Medical Corps.
Donald Arthur presents award to Dr. William Morgan

The National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda, Md., became one of the Chiropractic Health Care Demonstration Project’s first designated military treatment facilities in 1998. That was also the year that Dr. William Morgan joined the facility.

Dr. Morgan was chosen to open the chiropractic clinic at NNMC in part due to his experience as a hospital corpsman in the Navy and for having served as corpsman for a platoon of Navy Frogmen. Dr. Morgan also believes that he benefitted from being credentialed at two civilian hospitals and having a hospital-based chiropractic practice.

Among the patients Dr. Morgan sees at the clinic are service members who’ve been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Serving our American heroes is an honor and sacred trust, and should be regarded as a calling, rather than a job, which can be a very rewarding and challenging career for a chiropractor,” said Dr. Morgan.

His clinic is similar to traditional chiropractic clinics with the added advantage of being close to the other healthcare providers of all of his patients. On his more complex cases, some of the physicians with which Dr. Morgan has worked closely include neuroradiologists, spine surgeons, neurologists and internists.

A key proponent of chiropractic students interning at military hospitals, Dr. Morgan has supervised the rotations of a number of students, including the recently graduated Chelsea (Pfeifer) Haponski, D.C.

As chair of the American Chiropractic Association’s Department of Defense/ Veterans Affairs Committee, he advocates for chiropractic’s continued growth in the military. In addition to his duties at NNMC, Dr. Morgan spends two or more days a week in a U.S. Capitol clinic caring for the nation’s leaders.

Arthur Durham, D.C., Davenport ’75
Division Head, Chiropractic Clinic, Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point, Cherry Point, N.C.
Dr. Arthur Durham

Dr. Durham is a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran who practiced privately for 27 years before establishing the chiropractic clinic at Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point, which is part of the base’s physical rehabilitative department. His patients are referred to him by flight surgeons and hospital physicians.

“What’s happening here is the way chiropractors should be practicing in the civilian world, without restrictions and having the ability to practice fully for the benefit of the patient,” he said. “Inter-professional competition does not exist due to the fact that the main mission is to keep Marines and Sailors healthy and in a state of readiness.”

Dr. Durham sees a bright future for chiropractic in the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration (VA).

“The ability of chiropractors to serve patients within the military and/or VA will greatly expand the acceptance, respect and growth that our profession so rightly deserves,” said Dr. Durham. “As long as chiropractors take care of patients the way they want to receive care, our profession will continue to flourish.”

Chelsea (Pfeifer) Haponski, D.C., Davenport ’08
Former chiropractic intern at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.
Dr. Chelsea Haponski, center, participated in the 2008 Face of America Bike Ride between Bethesda, Md., and Gettysburg, Pa., May 3-4. She and Dr. Bill Morgan, who supervised her internship at the National Naval Medical Center, were ride medics at the event, which supports and features wounded veterans.
Dr. Chelsea Haponski with two wounded veteran cyclists

Dr. Chelsea Haponski became Palmer College’s first student to be part of a chiropractic internship at a U.S. military base when she began a six-month internship at the National Naval Medical Center in November of 2007.

Under Dr.William Morgan’s supervision, Dr. Haponski accumulated 630 hours of hospital-based chiropractic and 337 hours of rotations in departments such as musculoskeletal radiology, research, obstetrics, gastroenterology and pain management.

“I learned something from every patient encounter and every rotation I was involved in,” said Dr. Haponski. “Everything I learned at Palmer helped prepare me for real patients and real issues.”

One patient in particular had a traumatic brain injury from an improvised explosive devise blast. After just a few adjustments from then-intern Chelsea Pfeifer, the patient began to show improvement.

“He told me that I was his hero,” she said. “To have one of our nation’s heroes tell me that I was his hero was the biggest honor I could have received.”

Dr. Haponski also feels fortunate to have worked with Dr. Morgan. “He is a great teacher and loves to share his knowledge with interns,” said the recent graduate, who is in the process of opening a chiropractic office in Bellingham, Wash., with husband Garrett Haponski, D.C., Davenport ’07.

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