By Michel Tetrault, DC
– Ideas for an updated model of structuring chiropractic missions.
Short-term humanitarian missions are increasing in both the number of countries served and in the frequency of events in each country. There are two main groups of participants: secular and non-secular. Although motivation may vary from group to group, the common thread is purely humanitarian.
People living ordinary lives with only the occasional extra-ordinary experiences that bring fulfillment and satisfaction are finding themselves attracted to experiences that have the potential to “transform” their lives. Transformational experiences sought by the religious participants help them reach a closer experience and relationship with God through service to the needy. Transformational experiences sought by individuals help nurture their humanitarian tendencies and possibly also are opportunities to get closer to God.
How about the patients in the target countries? Their needs are pretty simple: They want access to a doctor when they need one. A doctor who is affordable and who is willing to become a part of their community. It’s really no different than what patients expect of their doctors where chiropractic is established.
The profession needs six things from short-term chiropractic missions:
- Attract qualified doctors who may become permanent additions to the country’s roster. Let the DCs know that they are welcome to come back and become a part of the pioneer effort in that country.
- Attract prospective students to the profession from the attention and PR produced by the event. Schedule regular “special student sessions” at local universities or have people return after the day’s clinic hours for a student talk.
- Local DCs need to be included in the planning stages and their clinic advertised to the patients who are treated by the mission team. (So patients will have a place to continue care.)
- Respect the authority of the local DCs and tap into their contacts but mostly use the “dignitary” status of the mission to further the cause of establishing the profession in a more formal or official capacity.
- Only bring licensed doctors to treat people and be fully documented at all times. The only exception is when a DC schools structures a clinic environment within the mission group and even then, only senior interns who qualify and receive school clinic credits.
- Make the mission a series of highly publicized events in each location. High profile events reach more people and have the best results across the board.
Humanitarian missions have left many of the existing practicing DCs with mixed feelings. If we are to extend the concept of outcome oriented activities, there could be special consideration made for the doctors who are pioneering chiropractic in the developing countries targeted by mission groups.
Understandably, pioneer DCs may not feel entirely comfortable with receiving too much attention since they actually live with the fear or the risk of sanctions by the local government should a chiropractic group create undesirable results. Always include the leadership of the existing DCs in any activities where chiropractic services are being delivered to the local population. They may have no interest in participating in the mission or it’s planning; being tied up with their own practice and families. Or, just the opposite, they can be a valuable ally and a primary contact. Either way, they are entitled to be notified and invited.
Chiropractic is only regulated or officially recognized in about 30 countries. These are largely “northern countries” with an advanced industrialized economy. In the other 65 countries, where chiropractic is not legislated, there is nothing to stop anyone from misrepresenting themselves as chiropractors. This is why mission participants need to be documented.
Reaching across borders, oceans, great distances and cultural differences presents many challenges. It takes resources and reserves of money, people, time and opportunities. We will likely continue to see an increase in foreign missions. How can these dedicated DCs meet the demands of today’s mission needs? Networking and sharing experiences and resources is a good place to start. Adopting an updated mission structure is the next step to take, one that addresses the deficiencies of older models and also takes partial responsibility to be a stakeholder in the establishment of the profession of chiropractic in the target countries.