Without Harvey Lillard, our field would not exist. Harvey was a janitor in the building where Dr. Daniel Palmer’s office was located. Harvey had been almost completely deaf for 17 years, ever since an incident where he crouched, heard something pop, and immediately lost his hearing. Dr. Palmer noticed a palpable protrusion on Lillard’s neck and convinced him to let him attempt a spinal adjustment-which went on to become the first ever chiropractic adjustment. Talk about making history!
Fun fact: this first adjustment took place on September 18, 1895!
Not only was he the first black chiropractor, but Dr. Fred Rubel went on to open the nation’s first “chiropractic school of the race.” The Rubel College of Chiropractic, opened in 1914 in Alabama and in 1921 in Chicago, was the first chiropractic school that allowed students of any ethnicity to enroll. Thus, this school became instrumental in the battle for diversity in the healthcare system that we are still fighting today.
Bobby Westbrooks founded the American Black Chiropractic Association in 1982 with a mission of filling the gap between the chiropractic field and the black community. He knew the black community lacked not only information and awareness, but inclusion in the chiropractic field. He hoped to empower young African American doctors to enroll and succeed in the field, and in turn be better able to serve and inform their communities on the benefits of chiropractic.
When we talk about black history, we tend to talk about it as a past event. Something that already happened. However, it’s important to note that history is constantly being made. We are making history now, which means black history is ever evolving.
With that said, Jerry Hardee is a much more recent name than the aforementioned names. He became the first African American president of a chiropractic school, (Sherman College of Chiropractic from 2001-2005). According to Hardee, in 2001 less than 1% of the chiropractic population was comprised of black people. During his time at the college he launched strategic initiatives to increase the black population at the school, and continue to bridge the gap between blacks and other minorities, and a chiropractic education.
Minorities and Wellness
Unsurprisingly, the chiropractic field is not the only sector in wellness in which blacks are underrepresented. This issue has steadily been garnering increased attention in recent years. Penn Today published an article detailing a panel of experts discussing the wide-ranging impacts of systemic racism on physical and psychological health. The panel revisited the current state of racial disparities in health and wellness and shared some alarming statistics. The average life expectancy of black populations is about 3.6 years less than that of white populations. In addition, high school graduation rates were found to be 8% higher in white communities. Finally, childhood poverty in black communities was about 34%…vs 7% in white communities.
Statistics like these shed light on why the black community has been historically underrepresented and underserved in public health. Perhaps this also explains why an industry that was born in the black community has since forgotten its roots and has not managed to close the gap left by racial disparities in the field.
Closing Thoughts: Let's Close the Gap
With that said, if you come away from this blog with anything let it be this; black history is meant to be honored and respected, but it is far from over. We are currently making history with every passing day, and there are members in our discipline fighting every day to introduce equality and diversity to the field. I want to ask us all to do one thing; don’t wait until Black History Month next year to do your part in making black history.
Put your voice, and your support, into organizations, businesses, and people that are champions of equality. Together, we can create true equality and eliminate disparities.
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