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A look at 14 women Palmergraduates who’ve playedkey roles in chiropractic

Any discussion of chiropractic pioneers has to begin at Palmer College. After all, it was at Palmer that the world’s first chiropractors received their chiropractic degrees. Among those graduates was the world’s first female chiropractor, Minora Paxson, D.C., in 1900.
Since then, female Palmer graduates have recorded numerous other firsts in a variety of areas. The profiles in the following pages highlight just some of Palmer’s many innovators, each a leading lady in her own right.
Minora Paxson, D.C., Davenport 1900
Dr. Minora Paxson

Unlike many professions in the early 20th century, chiropractic counted a sizable number of women among its practitioners, the first of which was Minora Paxson, D.C. After earning her chiropractic degree at D.D. Palmer’s Chiropractic School and Cure in 1900, Dr. Paxson is reputed to have been the first chiropractor to obtain a license under the Illinois Medical Practice Act, which regulated drugless healthcare providers. She then began her career as an educator at D.D.’s second chiropractic college, known as the Palmer Chiropractic School in Santa Barbara, Calif. Dr. Paxson then cofounded the American School of Chiropractic (ASC) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with the help of Palmer graduates Oakley Smith, D.C., 1899, and Solon Langworthy, D.C., 1901.

At ASC, Dr. Paxson was the first professor to take chairs on gynecology and obstetrics in a chiropractic school. Then, with Drs. Langworthy and Smith, she co-authored the first chiropractic textbook, “Modernized Chiropractic,” in 1906. Dr. Paxson was also a lecturer on physiology and symptomatology.

 
Mabel Palmer, D.C., Davenport 1905
Dr. Mabel Palmer

After marrying B.J. Palmer in 1904, Mabel (Heath) Palmer became the first woman in the Palmer family to help chart the course of chiropractic. Following her graduation at the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1905, Dr. Palmer went to Chicago to study anatomy and wrote the textbook “Chiropractic Anatomy.” Then, as a professor, she would lend her expertise in anatomy to Palmer for nearly 40 years. She also helped support future women chiropractors as the charter president of the first-ever women’s chiropractic organization—Sigma Phi Chi.

Mabel occasionally took a break from her faculty and administrative careers at Palmer by traveling around the world with B.J. to spread the word about chiropractic. Their adventures were covered in the books “Stepping Stones,” which Mabel wrote, and “Around the World with B.J.,” which she co-authored with her husband.

In contrast to B.J.’s somewhat unconventional personality, Mabel would gain the title of “First Lady of Chiropractic” for her diplomacy. Her defining role in the history of Palmer College is recognized by the inclusion of her bronze bust in Heritage Courtyard on the Davenport Campus, next to the busts of B.J., father-in-law D.D. and son, David D. Palmer.

 
Sylva Ashworth, D.C., Davenport 1910
Dr. Sylva Ashworth

Dr. Ashworth helped champion the cause of chiropractic as a founder of the Universal Chiropractors’ Association (UCA)— today’s American Chiropractic Association—which was formed to defend chiropractors from medical prosecution. She also founded the International Chiropractic Congress in 1928 to help chiropractors of various philosophies work together, and the National Chiropractic Association in 1930.

In 1938, Dr. Ashworth was the first woman to be elected a fellow of the International College of Chiropractors, which was created “to promote the philosophy, science and art of chiropractic and to promote the teaching and the study of chiropractic.” One of her children, Rose Ruth Ashworth, D.C., Davenport 1919, would, with husband Carl Cleveland, D.C., Davenport 1917, found Central Chiropractic College—now known as Cleveland Chiropractic College.

 
Helen McKenzie, D.C., Davenport 1916
Dr. Helen McKenzie

After establishing a practice in Brooklyn, N.Y., Dr. Helen McKenzie moved to Sydney, Australia, where she would become the first woman chiropractic graduate to practice chiropractic in Australia.

 
Kathryn “Kitty” Scallon, D.C., Davenport 1926
Dr. Kathryn "Kitty" Scallon

In 1949, after practicing chiropractic for more than 25 years, Dr. Kitty Scallon and her husband, Michael Scallon, D.C., Davenport 1926, were charged with “practicing medicine without a license,” in New York. Both in their fifties, Michael served a one-year prison sentence while Kitty served six months. Within hours of her release, Kitty started caring for patients again.

The Scallons later joined the American Bureau of Chiropractic, which sought the help of its members’ patients to lobby politicians on the importance of chiropractic. In 1963, the New York Chiropractic Practice Act became law.

 
Lorraine Golden, D.C., Davenport 1942
Dr. Lorraine Golden

In 1954, Dr. Golden founded the Kentuckiana Center for Education, Health & Research in Louisville, Ky. Now known as the Kentuckiana Children’s Center, the facility offers free educational and rehabilitation services, psychological and family counseling, audiological and dental referrals, and special education to indigent multi-handicapped children. The clinic was established on property that was purchased through the first federal grant given to an organization providing chiropractic services by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In an interview in ICA Review, she said, “I’ve always loved children, and I’ve always wanted to see that they got the very best we have to offer—not just chiropractically but any way at all.”

 
Lelia Schlabach, D.C., Davenport 1947
Dr. Lelia Schlabach

Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Schlabach lobbied for the chiropractic cause in Arizona. At Palmer, she was the first woman named to the first Board of Trustees in 1973 following the passing of Dr. David Palmer. As a Trustee, she submitted a resolution to the Board in 1980 for Palmer to acquire the struggling Northern California College of Chiropractic—now known as the West Campus of Palmer College of Chiropractic. That initiative earned her the title of the “founding mother” of the West Campus by chiropractic historian Joe Keating, Ph.D. She is now in her 60th year of practice.

 
Nell Kimbrough Williams, D.C., Davenport 1956
Dr. Nell Kimbrough

With her husband, Sid Williams, D.C., also a 1956 Palmer graduate, Dr. Nell Williams founded Si-Nel Publishing in 1957 to publish chiropractic brochures, pamphlets and tapes. In 1966, she co-founded Life Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports chiropractic research, education and service on a worldwide basis. With her husband, she founded Life Chiropractic College in Marietta, Ga., in 1974. As a faculty member there, in 1981 she wrote the “Basic Chiropractic Assistant Textbook: Practice Administration and Management.” A charter member of the Georgia Council of Chiropractic, she’s been called “an active and effective proponent of legislation that helped bring chiropractic into the mainstream of public acceptance.”

 
Mary Ann Chance, D.C., FICC, FACC, Davenport 1959
Dr. Mary Ann Chance

In 1975, Dr. Chance was appointed to the position of executive officer of the Australian Chiropractors’ Association (ACA). That same year, the premier of Victoria, the state in which she lived, declared that there could be no licensure for chiropractors as long as there were no Australian colleges where they could qualify. The ACA then founded the International College of Chiropractic, which evolved into the current chiropractic program at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Also during her tenure in the ACA, Dr. Chance was part of a team that lobbied for chiropractic legislation throughout Australia, government funding of chiropractic education and health coverage for chiropractic services. She was also a signatory to the Articles of Incorporation of the Australasian Council on Chiropractic Education and the Australian Spinal Research Foundation. Since 1983, Dr. Chance has co-edited the Chiropractic Journal of Australia with her husband, Rolf Peters, D.C., MCSc, FICC, FACC, Davenport 1957.

 
Maxine McMullen, D.C., R.N., Davenport 1971
Dr. Maxine McMullen

Originally a surgical nurse, the native of Auckland, N.Z., decided to come to the U.S. to become a chiropractor after she found chiropractic offered her relief from a pancreatic condition. As a chiropractor she has devoted much of her career to the area of pediatrics, including her years as a professor at Palmer’s Davenport and Florida campuses, where she was the first woman at a chiropractic college to be named academic dean. An international lecturer on pediatrics, Dr. McMullen has served as vice president of the International Chiropractic Association and founded the ICA’s Pediatric Council. She also created the council’s Diplomate in Pediatrics program, and was one of the first members to earn certification in the program. She has been an editor of the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics since it was first published in 1996.

 
Bobby Doscher, D.C., Davenport 1977
Dr. Bobby Doscher

Since 1977, when she accepted a position at Oklahaven Children’s Chiropractic Center in Oklahoma City, Dr. Doscher has been helping severely neurologically disorganized children. “Dr. Bobby,” as she is known to her staff and patients, became president/CEO of the Center in 1979, a position which is especially meaningful for her as she wore leg braces the first year of her life. “Chiropractic gave me my health,” she said. In 1986, Dr. Doscher developed Oklahaven on the Move to provide chiropractic care for children around the world through seminars and clinics. Oklahaven is currently marking its 45th year of service, which holds its Have-A-Heart Campaign each February.

 
Kelli Pearson, D.C., DABCO, FICC, West 1982
Dr. Kelli Pearson

In 1992, Dr. Pearson became one of the first three chiropractors in the U.S. to earn an HMO appointment and have staff privileges at Group Health Cooperative, a consumergoverned nonprofit healthcare system. “Back in the early ’80s, it was an unusual dream for a D.C. to want to work with M.D.s,” said Dr. Pearson. “But the tables slowly turned over the next 15 years to the point where D.C.s began to show interest in working with the medical community, both in and outside of the managed care arena. It was fun to break new ground.”

Today, along with operating her own practice, Dr. Pearson has other venues, including a collaborative care clinic with physical therapists, a collaborative care clinic with a sports medicine family physician and a clinic at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash, that treats the university’s athletes.

 
Joan Fallon, D.C., FICCP, Davenport 1983
Dr. Joan Fallon

Dr. Fallon is recognized internationally as an expert on chiropractic pediatric care, with a master’s degree in clinical investigation from Massachusetts General Hospital. A fellow of the International Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics, Dr. Fallon has co-anchored Palmer’s postgraduate program on pediatrics and done extensive research into the causes of autism. After discovering a relationship between the lack of protein digestion due to a missing enzyme in children with autism, she received a special commendation from both houses of the New York State legislature and has been issued four patents.

Dr. Fallon is one of the founding members of the International Chiropractic Association’s Council on Pediatrics and co-edits its Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics. As an author, her work with ear infections in children has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Parents, Parenting, Baby Talk and Autism Digest. She has also written extensively on children with autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as on chiropractic care for children and pregnant women.

 
Lisa Killinger, D.C., Davenport 1983
Dr. Lisa Killinger

Dr. Killinger was the first chiropractor hired, in a chiropractic capacity, by the U.S. government as a consultant to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Chiropractic Program (HRSA) in 1999. She was selected because of her track record of directing and co-directing several HRSA grants and contracts on the topics of geriatrics, interdisciplinary care and education. She currently serves as a governing councilor for the American Public Health Association’s Chiropractic Health Care Section after two terms as section chair.

As a professor in and Chair of the Diagnosis and Radiology Department on Palmer’s Davenport Campus, Dr. Killinger teaches healthy aging and gender-related health, among other courses. For the chiropractic profession, she has authored and co-authored five book chapters and 30 papers in peer-reviewed journals and made more than 120 presentations at scientific and educational conferences, primarily on health promotion, wellness, and geriatric care. However, when asked to reflect on her achievements, Dr. Killinger said her “most important accomplishment has been raising four children, one of whom is currently a student on Palmer’s Davenport Campus.”

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