Affiliation with York University is in the works
On any other wall it might be regarded with raised eyebrows by cultural elitists; a framed, low-relief leather sculpture of... a spinal column.
But it looks right at home in an office at the CMCC where fourth-year student Adrian Anger describes what is taught as "an art, a science, a philosophy."
No longer the Rodney Dangerfield of medical disciplines, these days chiropractic gets respect if not full OHIP funding. And a move is afoot to affiliate the college with York University, with York offering a doctor of chiropractic degree.
A final decision is expected by the end of this year or early in 2000, says Jean Moss, president and an alumna of the college.
"We're really excited about it," she says. "We'd erect a new building on the York campus.
"We're already a national institution. We have more than 600 students. We're very highly qualified. But we've also been a little isolated and this would open up the whole academic milieu of the university. That's important.
"There's the potential within the faculty for some very interesting research collaborations. We already have collaborations with the U of T, University of Waterloo and University of Calgary, but with a full affiliation we'll also have the ability to develop new courses for York students and vice versa."
The Chiropractic college, established in 1945, has buildings on either side of Bayview Ave., north of Eglinton Ave.
Moss says 80 percent of the chiropractors in Canada have come through here. "But there are actually more Canadian chiropractic students in the U.S. because of the demand. We take 160 students a year. We get 600 to 800 applications.
"There are two programs in Canada; this one and one at the University of Quebec, which graduated its first class this year."
She estimates the number of chiropractors in the GTA at just under 1,000; some 2,300 in Ontario and almost 5,000 across Canada.
Still, it must be said that many still regard what chiropractors do as some kind of voodoo science.
"Why?" says Deborah Kopansky-Giles, a practising chiropractor, assistant professor at the college and director of its rehabclinics. "Lack of knowledge. I don't like the world `ignorance.'"
"Our provincial association has done research, including polls, and people with that perception simply don't understand the training and education involved. They think it's one of these community college courses you can do in three weekends."
For the record, the CMCC program takes four years, and more than 80 percent of the students come in with an undergraduate degree. Courses include the same "gross anatomy" dissection of cadavers that a medical student does.
"Though we concentrated more on dissecting the nervous system, the spine and muscles," says Moss.
Chiropractic was born, if not out of quackery, then at least from a late 19th century fad treatment -- "Magnetic healing, very common at the time," she says.
Daniel David Palmer, a Canadian from Port Perry, practised a laying-on-of-hands technique he had learned from a healer who believed disease could be cured by changing the polarity of the body's organs.
In 1895, Harvey Lillard came to Palmer's office in Davenport, Iowa. Lillard had been deaf for years after a spinal injury. Palmer's diagnosis was that the nerve serving the ear was being pinched by a displace vertebra. If the vertebra was realigned, he reasoned, Lillard's hearing would return. And it did.
A 1993 study by University of Ottawa health economist Pran Manga, commissioned by the health ministry, concluded that chiropractic is the most effective, least costly treatment for lower back pain.
Manga's report said hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved if back pain sufferers went to chiropractors instead of doctors. The government, it said, should encourage co-operation, between chiropractors and medical doctors and fully cover chiropractic services under OHIP and incorporate them into the health care system.
Even so, less than half the treatment fee today is covered by OHIP. But there is, say Moss and Kopansky-Giles, more and more collaboration with doctors.
"As a practitioner, since 1982, I find very little resistance," says Kopansky-Giles. "Many, many patients are referred by physicians. I worked with a group of physicians and I've had physicians as patients."
The college has five external clinics. Moss says the college recently completed a project with ObusForme to design new lecture room seats: "The first time they'd done theatre-style seating. The seats we'd had were so bad. We were probably creating back problems."
Students practise on each other to learn the correct techniques. Anger is wearing one of those hospital gowns that seem designed to gape embarrassingly at the back.
"For chiropractic, that's absolutely necessary," says Moss, 26, and student council president.
Lina Liu, 27, the council's social director, cam through kinesiology. "That was my degree and I was working for a chiropractors. To work in healthcare was a life-long ambition but chiropractic hadn't been in my mind until then. I researched and I found this was the most practical and non-invasive of the health care professions."
She had also endured lower back problems which sometimes left her unable to move. "Even after the first two adjustments, I stopped having problems."
The lanky Anger saw several chiropractors for his problems. "Each is unique in what he or she does, so by going to different ones, the experience is slightly different. That appeals to me."