Dr. Gerard W. Clum, the profession’s most senior chiropractic college president in the world, received his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1973. He was a member of the Palmer faculty and practiced in Davenport, Iowa, in 1974 before becoming a member of the founding faculty of Life Chiropractic College in Marietta, Georgia, in January 1975.
In 1981, Dr. Clum was asked to serve as the president of Life Chiropractic College West, a position he holds to this day. Over the course of the past thirty-four years, Dr. Clum has served on the board of directors or as an officer of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges, the Council on Chiropractic Education, the International Chiropractors Association, the World Federation of Chiropractic and the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. Currently he serves as the president of the World Federation of Chiropractic and as a member of the board and executive committee of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress.
TAC: Dr. Clum, tell us some of the exciting events that Life West is currently experiencing
Clum: As a part of the silver anniversary celebrations of Life Chiropractic College West in 2006, the College completed a comprehensive assessment of what was accomplished over the past quarter century as well as a plan for what we wanted to see happen at the College as we move into our second quarter century. We did identify several areas on which to focus our attention for the near future. These were not necessarily areas where we felt the College was underperforming; rather they were areas where we felt the timing was right for greater emphasis within the College. The areas have come to be known on campus as the four T’s—Tradition, Technique, Technology and Tomorrow.
Life Chiropractic College West has been a pioneer in the chiropractic profesion with respect to the implementation of digital imaging.
Life Chiropractic College West would never have come into existence had it not been for the efforts and vision of Dr. Sid Williams. The "Tradition" we speak of includes the central concepts of the Life Movement, that is, Lasting Purpose—to love, to give, to serve and to do out of our abundance. The "feel" of our campus is very important to us and we also know that that feel is created by the people who occupy and enliven the campus. The College has had a long history of being on the cutting edge of technique instruction and application. We have recently re-energized our Technique Department with a revision in our required curriculum as well as our elective curriculum. Earlier this year, the College made offerings in Activator, Blair, Chiropractic Biophysics, Knee Chest Upper Cervical and NUCCA required courses in addition to our existing technique curriculum. Further, we have designed advanced courses in each subject area that are available on an elective basis.
The Technology side of the campus covers everything from admissions to alumni and everything in between! Also, earlier this year, Life West became one of the first institutions in the nation to implement Datatel Corporation’s Version 18. This may not seem important to you but, when you are a student and you need to know your grade, this technology is a godsend!
Life Chiropractic College West has been a pioneer in the chiropractic profession with respect to the implementation of digital imaging. The fact is, we were the first to see the power of this technology and to take action to see that it was brought to the hands of our faculty and students. That doesn’t mean the first in the United States; that means the first in chiropractic in the world!
Digital imaging offers nothing but advantages. The College has been functioning in this environment for over five years and we have yet to come up with a disadvantage—unless you really like the smell of a darkroom! The utility, the efficiency, the radiation reduction capacity and the sheer simplicity of digital imaging make it an absolute no-brainer.
Our next step is almost as exciting as the movement into digital imaging, in general. Since the inception of digital imaging technology on campus, we have stored our images on a campus-based server. Recently, we completed plans to convert from a server-based storage of images to a web-based storage of images. In the web-based storage environment, images from the College’s Health Center will be available, with the appropriate documentation, on any computer with Internet access. Before the dawn of 2008, our images will be available online anywhere in the world!
As we move up the imaging food chain, the College’s next resource is the availability of a state-of-the-art weight-bearing MRI facility on our campus. The College enjoys the availability of a Fonar Upright MRI through a collaboration with True MRI, Inc., of Bellflower, California. This technology is available for use by our interns in the College’s Health Center and by our Research Department. In addition, our senior students have the option of choosing a rotation working in the MRI center on campus.
Tomorrow—an important concept to consider for all the obvious reasons—that is where we will be living and, the more we understand and appreciate about the trends affecting health, health care and health funding, the better off we will be. This focus on tomorrow has fueled the College’s activities for years and we are dedicated to making sure this continues to be our viewpoint over time.
In 1994 Dr. Gerry Clum spoke with then-House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt about chiropractic in national health care reform.
TAC: What is your involvement with the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, and what plans do they have in store for the future?
Clum: It has been my pleasure to serve for several years as a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. I have also had the opportunity to represent the Foundation as its spokesperson in various settings.
The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress is, today, the longest consistently functioning effort on behalf of the profession to help improve the public’s understanding of us and what we do. The Foundation has one primary purpose—to seek positive press for and about the chiropractic profession. As such, our focus has been on the single most important asset of the profession: the results that chiropractors see everyday over their adjusting tables.
A dogged adherence to this focus is what has allowed the Foundation to avoid the problems that befell many of the preceding efforts. Maintaining that focus is also what has caused the profession, those businesses that support our profession, and our patients to rally behind the Foundation.
The agenda for the Foundation is simple: develop and implement the most cost-effective and most consumer-responsive strategies to bring positive press for and about the profession to the world.
TAC: So, now that the WFC has had such a successful seminar in Portugal, could you describe some of the plans they have for the future?
Clum: The World Federation of Chiropractic’s Congress was held in Vilamoura, Portugal, in May 2007. It was a magnificent location for the largest gathering of chiropractors on the European continent!
The goals of WFC remain today as they were twenty years ago at its founding—to provide a worldwide forum for the exchange of ideas, information, strategies and data that will help to support the growth of the chiropractic profession around the globe. Twenty years ago the member nations of the WFC included several dozen associations; today, over ninety national associations from every region of the world are represented at the Assembly of the WFC.
The most important accomplishments of the WFC, from my perspective, are related to the activities with the World Health Organization (WHO). Beginning with the recognition by WHO as a non-governmental organization (NGO) entered into relations with the agency to the publication of the WHO guidelines on the Basic Safety and Training related to the practice of Chiropractic, the track record of the WFC has been a source of great pride for all involved.
The WHO doesn’t make a big difference to health care policy and practice in the United States and Canada. But, in much of the world, when the WHO speaks, it sounds much like the voice of God! For the profession to be represented in this environment is essential to the global expansion of the profession. I am honored to have played a part in the organization that has gained such recognition.
World Spine Day-October 2006 Dr. Clum was honored by a resolution from the California State legislature, presented by Assemblyman Johan Klehs, recognizing his 25 years as president of Life Chiropractic College West.
TAC: What are some of the difficulties students have voiced as they traverse through the program at Life West?
Clum: The most obvious and tangible difficulty for students is the challenge of funding their education. The most important difficulty for students is the effect of outdated, irrational and archaic requirements from state boards and other regulatory bodies that limit the creativity and inventiveness of their institutions to offer their curricula.
Chiropractic colleges are still encumbered by the old model of educational hours that says a butt in the seat for a given number of hours will produce quality and capacity in the student. It was dumb when it was developed and it is even dumber today.
In California, for example, students must complete a given number of hours of "syphilology," but not a word about AIDS. Another example—when we know that the lecture format is the least effective form of education, we still require X number of hours in a seat listening to faculty members lecture to qualify for a degree. Those precious hours could be invested in Internet-based instruction, research and learning that would increase knowledge and retention geometrically; but that kind of thinking isn’t allowed! We ask students to be professional and then we deal with them as they haven’t been dealt with since junior high school—it is crazy making!
TAC: Have you brainstormed methods to address those problems they do have; and what may they be?
Clum: As far as the funding question is concerned, I don’t have an answer. But I can illustrate the gap between our world and others. The money an institution invests in the education of its students is classified by the bean counters as "educational and general expenditures". In chiropractic colleges across the country, on average, a student pays about 85 cents for $1.00’s worth of education. That is, tuition pays 85 percent of the educational and general expenditures of our programs. By comparison, Stanford University’s School of Medicine is one of the most expensive medical schools in the country. At Stanford, their tuition represents 5 percent of the educational and general expenditures of the program. In this setting, the student gets $1.00’s worth of education for 5 cents.
As far as the curricular problems related to my previous rant—the answer lies with the state boards. They need to set a requirement that persons presenting for licensure be graduates of institutions or programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Chiropractic Education and/or a similar or successor organization and get out of the micromanagement of the programs and institutions.
TAC: After graduation, does Life West offer assistance to students to help support them in their growth?
Clum: Our alumni have access to the resources, human and otherwise, of the College to assist and support them as they go into practice. That being said, very few will take advantage of what the College has to offer down the road—until they get into a problem! Regardless, it is our pleasure to help them then as well as at any other time.
Our Alumni and Office maintain regular contact through typical alumni publications and we host two events per year—Spring for Life in May and Homecoming in October, where we offer our alumni, as well as our students, a broad array of topics and speakers.
TAC: What are some of the reasons a student would attend Life West?
Clum: Now this is a nice softball over the center of the plate! Thank you!! Let me approach this in Letterman style with a top ten list:
Ten: A modern, state-of-the-art campus with possibly the highest level of technology available in chiropractic education worldwide.
Nine: No snow, no tornados, no hurricanes, no dust storms, no sandstorms, no locusts
Eight: A dedicated faculty and administration, who are or are among the most experienced in chiropractic education worldwide.
Seven: San Francisco.
Six: A solid and proven curricular approach that prepares the student for National Boards as well as for clinical success within the curriculum and then on into practice.
Five: An average summer temperature in the highs 70’s and an average winter temperature in the low 50’s.
Four: The opportunity to study with access to the most sophisticated imaging technology available in chiropractic education worldwide
Three: The most senior chiropractic college leadership at the president or dean level in the profession worldwide
Two: To be able to finish class on Friday and, within one hour, be in Muir Woods, Napa Valley or on Fisherman’s Wharf in the greatest city in the world!
One: The opportunity to study chiropractic in an environment that values the heart as much as it does the intellect, functioning under the concept of loving for the sake of loving, giving for the sake of giving, serving for the sake of serving and doing for the sake of doing out of one’s personal abundance.
TAC: Do you have any recommended marketing strategies that chiropractors can do to attract new patients and/or to keep current patients?
Clum: Understand baby-boomers. Learn what they think, how they think, what they want and tailor your message to meet their needs. They are the largest most potent economic force in our country and their health care utilization pattern is coming into full bloom.
As one of my mentors, L. Joe Stucky, D.C., of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, taught me thirty-some years ago: "Tell them what you can do for them, produce the goods you tell them about and do it at a price they can afford." That strategy has worked for Dr. Stucky as he has applied this strategy for the past fifty years. The approach has proven to be timeless!
TAC: Where do you see the future of chiropractic headed?
Clum: Health care and health care delivery, as we know it, is about to implode under the burdens of the day. One of the main contributors to this load will be the aging baby-boomers. At the present time, 10,000 Americans turn sixty every day of the year and they will continue to do so for the greater part of the next two decades. Their consumption of health resources, as they age from relatively healthy forty-something’s to aging sixty-something’s, will devastate health care as we know it.
The profession should focus as much attention and as many resources as possible on making the case for the cost replacement value of chiropractic care. We have always been viewed as a cost center in health care; we need to reshape that thinking into viewing us as a cost reducer in health care. Our care costs, that is a fact; but our care replaces care that costs more. That is the economic case to be made.
We have made the case for the value of spinal care. An illustration of our tremendous success in making that case can be seen in the number of different providers who now want to do what has traditionally been our service. We can be angry about their invading our territory, or we can take a page from the playbook of Apple and we can come up with the chiropractic IPod.
We need to stratify the profession and let the public know that we are not one generic, monolithic thing known as spinal adjusting or spinal manipulation, etc. We need to add texture and taste to what we offer in the world of the adjustive arts. Medicine and the consumer see everything we do as one thing, done one way. That is like saying there is only one type of orchestra and it can play a piece of music only one way! For years we have shied away from noting the differences in our ranks; we have viewed this as divisive, which it can be if it is approached in the wrong way. Rather, we need to celebrate the diversity of what we have to offer clinically, acknowledge that many others are attempting to jump on the bandwagon of adjustive care and point out we have been at it for over a century; we have refined it, cataloged it and learned to apply varying forms of it in varying clinical situations. We need to make our care, with all of its forms and variations, IPod cool!
Dr. Clum(center) presided over the 2007 World Federation of Chiropractic assembly meeting held in Vilamoura, Portugal, in May. Also shown at the opening session are David Chapman-Smith (WFC Secretary General), Stathis Papadopolous, D.C. (WFC 1° Vice President) and Dennis Richards, D.C. (WFC Secretary-Treasurer)
TAC: Any final words for our readers?
Clum: Dr. Williams taught me in the very early days of my career to "keep the faith, turn the crank and testify." To some who did not understand his counsel, this was a religious incantation; but this came through to me to mean have confidence in what you do, how you do it and the good that can come from it, then work hard, every day, day-in and day-out, and tell the story of chiropractic and the magnificent healing capacity of the human being. In gratitude to Dr. Williams, my request to all is to "keep the faith, turn the crank and testify!"
You may contact Dr. Clum at Life Chiropractic College West, 25001 Industrial Boulevard, Hayward, California 94545, by calling 1-510-780-4500 or by e-mailing