REDWOOD: You’re describing some extremely positive and unprecedented developments here.
MEEKER: Sources of money are not our problem any more. Our chiropractic research problem is writing high-quality proposals to get the money and then doing the research in a high-quality way and getting it published. NCCAM says, "Here's the money, folks. Here are the rules you have to follow to get it. If you follow the rules, you can get it." We've got to find the people who know how to follow the rules. That's a major change from 4 or 5 years ago. Totally different.
REDWOOD: Having been in chiropractic academia for a couple of decades, would you say that the anti-scientific attitude that you mentioned earlier has diminished substantially?
MEEKER: I think so, but I have to sometimes remind myself to take the long view here. I think we need to do a much better job of teaching chiropractors how to critically evaluate scientific literature, and more importantly, how to apply it in their own practices. Research is still seen by many chiropractors as a way of validating the profession, of proving it rather than improving it. That's an attitude and behavior change that we're still in the midst of. But on the other hand, I have to say that the leadership of the chiropractic profession has begun to understand that science is not just public relations. It's a process that we have to engage in. Engaging in the process properly is as important as the outcomes themselves.
REDWOOD: How is the Consortial Center for Chiropractic Research, aside from its financial support for particular studies, trying to change chiropractic's internal culture?
MEEKER: The CCCR has 12 specific aims and only a few of them are actually related to specific research projects. The rest all have to do with developing the infrastructure to be able to do those things. This includes training programs, skills development, assisting investigators to develop higher quality projects, linking practitioners to scientists so they can collaborate, and developing biostatistical and data management capabilities within institutions. Basically, all the things that have to be done to put the machinery together to do research.
The most visible thing we've done, aside from sponsor specific research projects, is to sponsor annual Research Agenda Conferences (we’ve now had five), which have really gone a long way toward developing a sense of community among the relatively small number of chiropractors who want to do research. It's developed their skills, their confidence levels, and given them a shot in the arm. These conferences are supported financially by two federal agencies, the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) and the NCCAM.
REDWOOD: What are some of the studies going on right now at the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research?
MEEKER: The Palmer Center has about 50 projects going on, both basic science and clinical science. In basic science, we have a biomechanics emphasis and a neuroscience emphasis. Joel Pickar and Chuck Henderson are both neuroscientists, each with his own set of projects looking at basic physiologic mechanisms and the nervous system. Chuck Henderson is focusing on an animal model of a spinal subluxation, where he’s fixating spinal segments in laboratory animals and assessing the effects. Joel Pickar is using basic neuroscience methods to figure out what happens when we exert a manipulative load on spinal tissues. How does the nervous system react to that? What are the pathways? What actually happens?