Just over one year ago, a small group of chiropractors in Georgia set out to create a new organization of likeminded individuals committed to evidence-based practice and collaboration between DCs and the medical community. The group, which would come to be known as the Academy of Georgia Chiropractors (AGC or “The Academy”), has been successful in bringing together a broad spectrum of practitioners who seek to not only work together but also learn from one another. ACA Blogs caught up with one of AGC’s founding partners, Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC, of Griffin, Ga., to learn more about what inspired the group to strike out on its own.
What was the impetus for establishing AGC?
The Academy of Georgia Chiropractors began with seven business partners who came together to dream and talk about what could happen if we put our minds to it. We met in a cabin nestled in the woods by the Flint River in what we called the “River House Consortium.” The seven were former presidents, chiropractors of the year, and committee chairs of another state organization. Some were former members of the state board of examiners and current examiners for the National Board. All were successful doctors, and each unique in practice style, but all evidence-based philosophically.
We dreamed of a new kind of organization—not a 501c(3) group whose leadership and direction may change every one or two years, but a proprietary organization with stable leadership and direction. This structure would enable us to reach out to potential business partners for long-term mutual benefits.
The prime issue that brought us together was the need for an evidence-based, science-driven organization to support a broad spectrum of musculoskeletal practitioners. We dreamed about what could happen if we assembled the best and brightest in multiple related fields for the purpose of collaboration, mutual education, and cross-referral to maximize the impact of our skills sets for the best possible patient outcomes. We believe that clinical excellence is driven by education, and we wanted to create a platform for not only our continuing education events, but also ongoing exchange of ideas and research pearls.
There is a Proverb that says, “As iron sharpens iron, so does one life shape another.” Because we want to be the best we can be at what we do, we want to associate with others of like mind. The multidisciplinary composition of the group also means we will have multidisciplinary continuing education, so we will learn from each other. We will discover other disciplines’ cutting-edge research and practices and how those may be useful in our own patient population. Other disciplines also learn what chiropractors do on a daily basis, and that has proved enlightening for many.
How many members do you have now?
Although hampered early by COVID-19 issues, we are up to about 130-140 members at this point. We are multidisciplinary, so our membership includes chiropractors, orthopedists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and physiatrists. We have had discussions about moving into physical therapists, licensed massage therapists, and mental health professionals who deal with musculoskeletal issues.
Since adding non-chiropractic members to the group, we have shortened the name of the group to “The Academy” to reflect inclusion of new professionals. The name implies the scholarly nature of what we are trying to accomplish.
Why is the Academy’s membership by invitation only?
Our concept is to attract the best and brightest, to create an “elite” group that is known for clinical excellence. Very quickly we decided to adopt a model similar to the International College of Chiropractors. Our members are nominated by other members or one of the seven partners. They are vetted to be sure licensure is unencumbered and web site and social media content are consistent with our mission. Potential members are then voted into acceptance by the partners.
Potential AGC members sign a pledge that unites them philosophically:
"The Academy of Georgia Chiropractors is a scholarly, evidence-based organization of practitioners who are committed to the acquisition of the social, cultural and professional authority for the chiropractic profession, where the Doctor of Chiropractic serves a vital role in the mainstream health delivery system and is totally integrated as a non-surgical spinal care specialist. The Academy is dedicated to clinical excellence, intellectual honesty, professional integrity, ethical practice and the delivery of patient-centered, patient-safe, evidence-influenced care and best practice. I agree to a routine check of my background and professional licensure history in order to demonstrate to the Academy my personal commitment to excellence, integrity, and honesty."
While some may see this process as cumbersome, it enables the Academy to set and maintain a high bar of quality members. We believe this strengthens the Academy. It also maximizes the positive influence we may have across professional lines.
How has the medical community responded?
One advantage the Academy has is that it fosters cooperative relationships, both intra- and inter-disciplinary. I have been very pleased with the “cross-pollination” of referrals within the group.
Members of the group have confidence making referrals because they know the high clinical standards to which Academy members have committed. For example, if I need a surgical opinion for a patient, I can feel confident in any of the Academy members I might select. The reverse is also true, as referrals from surgical groups to DCs are made with the same confidence.
The confidence in referrals applies to intra-professional relationships as well. This may be controversial, but I ask this seriously: How often have we heard someone say to colleagues, “I need a chiropractor in Atlanta, BUT I NEED A GOOD ONE.” What does that mean? Implied in the comment is the recognition that there is wide variety in quality of practitioners of every kind. This is why we need the Academy: we need only to look for a member in the target area for our referrals.
Will ACG be involved in advocacy in Georgia?
The Academy has no immediate plans to engage in advocacy or lobbying. However, we do have a desire to reach out to the public via the media to make our presence known. We will occasionally make statements on specific health issues that are evidence based and in the interest of public health.
Are there any future plans for ACG you would like to mention?
The first convention (a “joint meeting,” if you will pardon the pun) of the Academy will happen Sept. 10-11. It will focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and disability rating. Members will see a multidisciplinary approach to the care of TBI patients and identify resources for their acute and ongoing treatment. We will establish a stronger and larger network for our members.
We will also roll out a new web platform that will greatly facilitate our mission and daily activities and communications.
The Academy will continue to grow in numbers and influence. As a former ACA delegate, I am especially proud of what we are accomplishing. ACA has long advocated for DCs to have a place at the table with full integration into the healthcare team. To me, the ACA dream is operationalized in the Academy.
To learn more about the Academy of Georgia Chiropractors, visit academydoctors.com/.