What led to your decision to become a chiropractor?
After I was discharged from the military, I herniated my L5-S1 disc and suffered with severe back and leg pain. Frustrated with medicine's approach to my pain, I tried chiropractic. Within a week of seeing a chiropractor, Dr. Bill Westfall, I was 90 percent better. This was a major turning point for me; I changed majors in college and sought a career in chiropractic.
When did members of the military become eligible to receive chiropractic services as part of their health care?
In 1995, the military began a chiropractic demonstration project at 10 bases. I joined the project in 1998 when the Navy implemented chiropractic at its "flagship" hospital, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda.
Is chiropractic now available to all members of the U.S. military? Will it be available to all in the future?
Currently chiropractic is available at about 55 military training facilities. Recently a law was passed by Congress to provide chiropractic to everyone in the U.S. military.
How were you chosen to serve at Bethesda Naval Hospital and to provide chiropractic services in an official capacity for members of Congress?
I believe that I was chosen to open the chiropractic clinic at Bethesda because of my experience in military medicine as well as my experience as a hospital-based chiropractor. Prior to coming to Bethesda, I was credentialed in two civilian hospitals and had a flourishing hospital-based chiropractic practice. Back in those days there were few chiropractors with hospital credentials and fewer still that had a robust hospital-based practice.
I am not at liberty to talk about my practice in the Capitol.
Let's talk more about your work at Bethesda in a moment, but first I'd like to ask you about your work in those other hospitals prior to coming to Bethesda. Was it difficult, as a chiropractor, to get credentialed by these hospitals?
It was the easiest thing in the world. The credentialing department does most of the work; the hard part is creating a profitable practice model so that a hospital will want you on staff.
What are the advantages that you've seen for patients, for chiropractors, and for the hospital itself in having a chiropractor, or more than one chiropractor, on staff?
Our presence here offers a non-medical and non-surgical treatment option. Also, the physicians become accustomed to chiropractic care with time and many actually become advocates for chiropractic.
Chiropractors on staff may benefit a hospital in several ways. Directly increasing the profitability of the hospital is one way, but another benefit is by making the hospital more attractive to potential patients. Patients who desire non-surgical, non-drug treatments would prefer a hospital with chiropractic available, making that hospital more competitive.
Are there large numbers of patients who prefer that?
Yes, more and more patients are seeking alternatives to drugs and surgery.
How is chiropractic being integrated into the military health care system?
Chiropractic integration has progressed differently with each service and with each base. I have heard of professional turf battles at certain bases and harmonious integration at others. I have certainly met individuals within military medicine who are opposed to implementing chiropractic. Most of them base their opposition on personal prejudice rather than any evidence. Usually those with unsubstantiated opposition to chiropractic can be swayed in time.