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.
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
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. 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
“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 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
“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.