Written by: Stephanie Halloran
University of Western States SACA Immediate Past President
Two years ago, I decided to go to the National Chiropractic Leadership Conference (NCLC) as a 2nd quarter student. Part of the reason was the opportunity to leave school for three days, but mostly it was an attempt to appease my older sister. She was in her third year studying law at Florida State University and constantly telling me to be more active in the efforts to change health care laws and regulations instead of gripe about them. My thought process: go lobby one time and you’ll forever have a free ride to complain.
NCLC, for those who are not familiar, is a chiropractic conference that centers around three or four important issues identified by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) that are addressed in individual meetings with legislators. The weeks leading up to NCLC are spent learning about the issue briefs, why they are important and how to talk about them with Congress. The first year I attended I was dating a veteran, so it made sense for me to gravitate toward the brief addressing veterans access to chiropractic care. As of right now, chiropractic physicians are only in 50 out of 1,200 Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities around the country. At the same time, the opioid epidemic is skyrocketing in this demographic because a majority of the musculoskeletal complaints are being managed through pharmaceutical treatment and surgery. By the end of lobbying day, presenting that brief became less about proving a point to my sister and more about fighting for the rights of our servicemen and women.
Following my inaugural attendance at NCLC, I was determined to get more students involved. In 2015, we were able to bring 19 students and in 2016 we took 38 students and one alumnus. Our campus support and participation throughout the year has been unparalleled, as was demonstrated when we took home SACA Chapter of the Year at the welcome meeting. Not only that, we were also the chapter to raise the most money for the ACA-PAC, the Political Action Committee of the American Chiropractic Association, and placed third at the SACA’s Got Talent show.
Ignoring all the awards and accolades, why is NCLC so important? Being able to talk about your profession to a layperson is one of the most valuable tools in promoting it. Chiropractic medicine is very misunderstood in the public and can be difficult for even established doctors to communicate about what it is we do exactly. We train our attendees how to describe chiropractic and its benefits in a short and concise way that is not defensive or derogatory toward other health professions. NCLC also offers an avenue for students to connect with other students and doctors at a national level. It is very easy to get trapped in the UWS bubble for three years and this conference prevents that bubble from forming. The people who show up for NCLC are some of the most driven and inspirational people in our profession. They are the ones working tirelessly to make the chiropractic future so bright, and helping to drive it into the future.
Chiropractic medicine is a service profession. We are being trained to treat the public and enhance the quality of life for our patients. This year we fought for veteran’s access to care, our inclusion in TRICARE, consideration for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and National Public Health Service Corps, as well as started a petition to change the coverage we have under Medicare. A majority of these issues are occurring due to lack of knowledge by the public as well as lawmakers and chiropractic physicians themselves.
I encourage current students to attend NCLC at least once while you are still in school. I promise you, the educational experience you have following your trip will forever be changed and you will have a renewed inspiration for what you have set out to do. If you are alumnae, I challenge you to reconnect with the ACA community as well as your local SACA chapter and offer your services. Your passion breeds our passion and our passion will breed the passion of future chiropractic generations. Our growth will inherently allow us to serve more of the population and help change the discriminatory laws we currently face.
Next year, I will be returning to Washington D.C. as an alumnus of UWS and nothing would give me more joy than to see 80 UWS students surrounded by fellow alums. Don’t be defined by what you did not know or did not do. Be proactive and be the change you wish to see in the world. And always – #SACAup!
Mark your calendar for NCLC 2017!
Thanks in large part to Dr. Vern Saboe (class of 1979) and the Oregon Chiropractic Association, SACA received $3,500 in donations to help get them to the conference.