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Major Conflict of Interest at the Heart of CCE

West Hartford Group Infiltrates Key Influential Leadership Positions Within the Chiropractic Profession

by Steve Tullius, D.C.


What do

CCE Chairman Craig Little
ACA President Keith Overland,
ACA Vice President Anthony W. Hamm,
newly elected ACA Chairman Michael Simone,
University of Bridgeport professor and ACA Journal ethics contributor Stephen Perle,
ACA Governor Kelli K. Pearson,
ACA Delegate David B. Dziura,
ACA Alternate Delegate Michael Kane,
ACA Alternate Delegate and tiering advocate Reiner Kremer,
New York State Representative to ACA Mariangela Penna,
Connecticut Representative to ACA and Connecticut Chiropractic Association Treasurer Nick Karapasas,
CCE Site Academy Member Charles A. Simpson,
CCE Site Academy Member Warren Jahn,
and ACA delegate and former CCE Site Academy Member Richard Cole

all have in common?

They are all listed as members of the West Hartford Group on the “think tank’s” website. 1

And what exactly is the West Hartford Group (WHG) thinking about?

If you haven’t already heard of them, it is probably because you don’t run around in the same circles they do.

From the WHG website we find that one of their objectives is to, “foster inclusion of WHG members in the fabric of the profession to promote WHG’s mission.” 1

Well, based upon the litany of members in influential positions in the chiropractic profession, it appears they have been very successful.

So we know they have been successful at infiltrating key influential leadership positions, including the chairman of the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE), arguably one of the most influential positions in the entire profession. Considering that another objective of WHG is “to advance chiropractic education (undergraduate & graduate) and scholarship consistent with WHG’s mission,” it seems that a CCE chairman, or any councilor or site team member for that matter, has no business being involved with an organization that has strictly defined and biased ideas of the direction chiropractic education should be headed. However, that alone doesn’t really tell us what they are about so let’s dive deeper into their agenda.

Again, from their website, we are told that, “West Hartford Group, Inc. was incorporated in 2006 after a group of concerned progressive reform minded chiropractic physicians realized that reform was essential to advance the chiropractic profession in order to achieve social, professional, and cultural authority.” 1

So what does that reform and advancement look like and in what context would they have the chiropractic profession gain “social, professional, and cultural authority?”

The model they advocate is listed on their homepage in the following manner: “the chiropractic physician as the spinal health care expert within the health care system, i.e. society’s non-surgical spine specialist.” 1

A specialist that may very likely have the ability to prescribe pharmacological agents.  Several of the members above have indicated that they are indeed for the expansion of the chiropractic scope to include prescriptive rights. A recent article from several of their members, indicated that such a specialist in addition to various manual therapies, would employ other “first-line treatments” such as “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and non-opioid analgesics.” 2 While the article indicated that many of these substances are available over-the-counter, the need for limited prescription rights as a tool for gaining “cultural authority” has been advocated by WHG members and others in the profession.3

The article continues into obstacles to their proposed model citing both educational inadequacies and resistance from the field. The authors state, “none of the major health care educational institutions are consistently graduating providers who meet all the criteria necessary to be successful primary spine care practitioners. However with some basic fundamental changes, and a commitment from state and federal governments, trade organizations and school administrators and faculty, this obstacle can be overcome. Institutions of chiropractic medicine, for example, provide training that is focused primarily on the spine. Many of the skills required of the primary spine care practitioner are already taught at these schools. By instituting some specific changes, that are already being discussed within this health care profession [114,115], these institutions can become at least one source of appropriately trained primary spine care practitioners.” 2

What exactly are those “specific changes” already being discussed and by whom? Both referenced articles are co-authored by the same authors of the article in question, Donald Murphy and Stephen Perle, the president and vice-president of the WHG respectively. 1, 4, 5 The remaining three co-authors of this article are also WHG members and of the three articles combined, 8 out of 9 of the authors are all WHG members.

This scenario is reminiscent of that famous line from Hamlet “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” On both their website and in their members papers they call for intellectual honestly and high ethical practices yet are clearly engaging in a professional discourse with themselves and citing it as if the profession at large is calling for their proposed changes.

Regarding the resistance from the profession to their primary spine care model, the
authors had this to say,

“For whatever profession or professions that respond to the need for a primary spine care practitioner,
this will be a significant disruption to the traditional practice patterns or self-image of these professions.
As a result, the role that we are introducing here will be actively resisted [115].” 2

Again, let’s that a look at the self-cited reference. The WHG authors opined,

“One of the problems that we encounter frequently in our interaction with chiropractic educational institutions is the perpetuation of dogma and unfounded claims. Examples include the concept of spinal subluxation as the cause of a variety of internal diseases and the metaphysical, pseudo-religious idea of "innate intelligence" flowing through spinal nerves, with spinal subluxations impeding this flow. These concepts are lacking in a scientific foundation [27-29] and should not be permitted to be taught at our chiropractic institutions as part of the standard curriculum. Much of what is passed off as "chiropractic philosophy" is simply dogma [30], or untested (and, in some cases, untestable) theories [27] which have no place in an institution of higher learning, except perhaps in an historical context. Faculty members who hold to and teach these belief systems should be replaced by instructors who are knowledgeable in the evidence-based approach to spine care and have adequate critical thinking skills that they can pass on to students directly, as well as through teaching by example in the clinic.” 5

This passage is particularly troubling on two counts. First, it makes inaccurate claims regarding the philosophy of chiropractic and second, uses their inaccurate statements and biases in calling for the removal of faculty from institutions that differ in opinion from them. What makes this so troubling is not that academics disagree with other scholars in their field, but that the chairman of the CCE is a member of this group that proudly displays the link to this article and others like it.

The article continues to advance WHG’s agenda stating,

“We see a tremendous opportunity for chiropractic medicine to become what it can and should be: a profession of non-surgical spine specialists who not only offer one useful modality of treatment for spinal pain (manipulation), but offer something much greater and more important – expertise in the diagnosis and management of spinal pain patients. ... It also means mastering a variety of non-surgical methods other than just manipulation that are useful in the management of patients with spinal pain.” 5

The icing on the cake from the political educators comes in the following passage,

“There can be no unity between the majority of non-surgical spine specialist chiropractic physicians and the minority of chiropractors who espouse metaphysical, pseudoreligious views of spinal subluxations as "silent killers" [47]. The latter minority group needs to be marginalized from the mainstream majority group, and no longer should unrealistic efforts be made toward unification of these disparate factions within the profession.” 5

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines marginalize as the following: to relegate to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group. 6

It is unbelievable that the chairman and long time councilor of the chiropractic’s sole accrediting body as well as three of it’s site team members are members of a group that has clearly made its case for radical “progressive reform” in educational standards, that calls for the removal of a segment of the profession, and yet the chairman maintains that he and the CCE do not favor a particular philosophy or directing the profession towards a particular model.

The profession of chiropractic has been hijacked by a group of pseudo politico-academics. They have effectively carried out their plan as far as possible. They were correct in their predictions regarding resistance from the field. Apparently though they tried to advance it too quickly before sufficiently marginalizing those with different ideas and methods.

I would like to note that the authors’ papers are not completely without merit. They have some accurate assessments and suggestions for furthering the profession such as increasing the rigor of our academic programs and increasing an awareness within chiropractic that values furthering our research.

I also echo their sentiments completely when they say, “Reform of the chiropractic
profession is long overdue.” 5

I would only add that thankfully it has arrived.



1. Accessed May 2, 2012

2. Murphy DR, Justice BD, Paskowski IC, Perle SM, Schneider MJ: The establishment of a primary spine care practitioner and its benefits to health care reform in the United States. Chiropr Manual Ther 2011;19:17.

3. Winterstein, James. FCLB Janse Speech James Winterstein, DC April, 2011

4. Wyatt LH, Perle SM, Murphy DR, Hyde TE: The necessary future of chiropractic education: a North American perspective. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2005, 13(10): 1-15.

5. Murphy DR, Schneider MJ, Seaman DR, Perle SM, Nelson CF: How can chiropractic become a respected mainstream profession? The example of podiatry. Chiropr Osteop 2008, 16:10. BioMed Central Full Text


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