By LaKia Brown, DC
During February, it is important to recognize Black History Month in the chiropractic profession. February should be a reminder that the journey towards racial equality is underway, but unaccomplished. However, it is a great starting point for clinics, chiropractic schools, and organizations to just allow the significance of the month to resonate.
Zeal for inclusivity comes from the lack of diversity that has been noticeably prolonged. Being knowledgeable about the lack of representation in the past and present is one way to change the path to the future. Understanding how we got here helps us understand how to make a difference.
Let’s take a historical, but educational, virtual road trip to become aware of how black history helped pave the way for the chiropractic profession:
In September 1895, the first chiropractic patient was a black entrepreneur named Harvey J. Lillard (top left). Lillard had lost his hearing 17 years prior. After hearing the story of how Lillard lost his hearing, Daniel David Palmer gave him the chiropractic adjustment that restored his hearing.
In 1913, Fred Rubel, DC (left) became the first known African American to graduate from National School of Chiropractic. Nine years later in 1922, Dr. Rubel founded the Rubel College of Chiropractic, located at 4041 Indiana Ave. in Chicago, Ill.
In March 1923, in Washington, D.C., Central Chiropractic College became a segregated chiropractic school.
In 1927, A.A. Cole and John User founded Interstate Chiropractic Association, the first black chiropractic association.
In 1947, Samantha P. Adams, DC, at the age of 21, became the first African American woman and chiropractor on the Ohio State Medical Board. For 33 years, she was the only African American chiropractor in Toledo, Ohio.
In 1954, Walton Russ, DC, became the first African American to be a licensed chiropractor in the state of Arkansas.
As we progress into the new millennium, African Americans continued to provide significant contributions to the chiropractic profession:
Jerry Hardee, DC (left), was the first African American president of any U.S. chiropractic college. He served as the third president of Sherman College of Chiropractic in Spartanburg, S.C., from July 2001 to July 2005. In 2005, while researching which chiropractic college would be a good fit for me, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Hardee. Sherman College of Chiropractic is now my alma mater, and I will never forget the history he made just prior to me making the decision to attend.
In the July 2019 issue of Chiropractic Economics, I came across an article discussing diversity in the field of chiropractic. The article states that African American chiropractors make up 2.3 percent of the industry’s population in the United States. I immediately reflected upon my time as a chiropractic student. During my matriculation, only two professors were African American, as was the Dean of Students and one recruiter for the college.
In January 2020, Rodney Williams, DC (left, with award), became the first African American to be inducted as a Fellow of the International Council of Chiropractors (FICC) during the American Chiropractic Association’s Engage 2020 Conference in Washington, D.C.
Moving Forward: What's Next?
As this virtual historical road trip comes to an end, I leave you with the following questions to consider in regard to how to bring more diversity into the chiropractic profession moving foward:
What type of mentorship programs can chiropractors implement to ensure that junior high and high school minority students are aware of our profession as a career choice?
How can we recruit more minorities into chiropractic colleges and chiropractic organizations?
Dr. LaKia Brown is a graduate of Sherman College of Chiropractic and has been in practice for 10 years. For three years, she has directed the physical medicine department at a multidisciplinary clinic. Dr. Brown currently serves on ACA’s Committee of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Ethics Committee; and Opioid Advisory Board. She is the alternate representative for District I for the Indiana State Chiropractic Association, and a member of the ACA's Sports Council.
- Abrams, Allen. “Dr. Samantha P. Adams: A Lifetime of Firsts as a Woman and as an African American.” The Truth Toledo, 4 October 2006, accessed February 3, 2021, https://www.thetruthtoledo.com/pdf/2006/100406pdf.pdf
- Bernat, Annette. “Engage 2020 Conference Daily,” ACA News, 31 Jan. 2020, https://www.acatoday.org/News-Publications/ACA-News-Archive/ArtMID/5721/ArticleID/1536
- Carhee Jr., Winston Kyle. “Black History of Chiropractic Timeline,” accessed February 3, 2021, https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/the-black-history-of-chiropractic
- Carhee Jr., Winston Kyle. “The “Black” History of Chiropractic: ABCA History.” Presentation: American Black Chiropractic Association on February 13, 2014, accessed February 5, 2021, https://abcachiro.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ABCA-History-New1.pdf
- “African American History Month 2013,” accessed February 5, 2021, https://blogs.palmer.edu/library/2013/02/28/african-american-history-month-2013/
- Vach, Rick, Black Chiropractors, International Association Cites 92% Whites in Calling for Diversity. Chiropractic Economics, 2019. https://www.chiroeco.com/black-chiropractors/