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Research in the Spotlight

by on March 1, 2013

Yesterday, after polishing off the seventh of my ten midterms, I walked around campus to take care of some errands that I had put off during exam days, and found myself at the campus’ annual Nutrition Symposium. I slipped into a seat and listened to a couple case studies and research reviews, reveling in the knowledge on which I would not even be tested.

I love to see this sort of dialog happening in the chiropractic community, where clinically-oriented studies do not produce vast numbers of professionals interested in the research life.  Yet this was the second such symposium I have attended here this winter. At the previous presentation, the NYCC Research Symposium, professors, students and others gathered to present the research that has been conducted here over the past year. Many of my classmates and I, lured by the offer of exam bonus points from a professor, attended the full length of the event- 6 hours of presentations spread over two afternoons back in January. And I must admit, the overall theme was actually not quite what I expected.

First, what it was really like:

We were treated to lectures by sixteen different researchers, and a handful of other studies were presented via posters. This included topics as diverse as education and assessment, dietary interventions, foot geometry, barefoot running, bone physiology, the superbug MRSA, and of course clinical chiropractic technique. Far from revolving solely around the clinical applications of our profession, the presentation was a phenomenal display of the competence and analytic thinking of NYCC’s inhabitants.

Now, what I had originally expected:

I came into the symposium feeling rather pessimistic about chiropractic research. I had just written a post relaying my dentist’s recommendation that I learn to treat TMJ disorders, but had found few strong research articles regarding such treatment. Additionally, a professor here at NYCC had recently discussed a worthy study that he had finished a decade earlier, for which he never even pursued publication. As a student who chose my school based on its reputation for holding up evidence-based medicine as its guide, these were frustrating experiences for me. It was therefore refreshing to see this well-designed work receiving some public attention.

The best message of the day came from Dr. Christine Goertz, a DC with a PhD in Health Services Research, Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota. She braved the snow to travel from her usual post at Palmer College of Chiropractic, where she is the Vice Chancellor for Research and Health Policy. Adding to her credentials, she holds positions with both the American Chiropractic Association and the American Medical Association.

Dr. Goertz talked about translational research and its place in manual medicine. Translational research essentially refers to the cycle of completing basic research, applying this in a clinical setting, then allowing clinicians to give feedback to guide future research. Her ultimate message should resonate through the medical world in general, but particularly in the somewhat fractured chiropractic realm:

“If we conduct high level research, that is the way by which [medical decision-makers] HAVE to listen. … But we can’t be as effective as we need to be and all have our own individual research agendas.”

As a student trying to build the most potent repertoire of assessments and treatments that is available, this is exactly the mentality that I hope leadership throughout the profession can agree upon.

“As long as we have a good question and a good way to find an answer, the funding is there,” Dr. Goertz said. Here’s to hoping that my generation of doctors overcomes whatever perceived barriers currently prevent production and dissemination of good research, and that the knowledge communicated within research symposiums like ours finds the voices that will propel it into greater medical application.

For more on this research, check out the NYCC research webpage. Post coming soon: what I have since learned about searching chiropractic literature. 

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