Chapter 11, Part 2 – 1997-1998
In February 1997, the college appeared before the Portland Planning Department again, but this time it was only a formality. WSCC and the “official” neighborhood association had come to agreement on minimizing traffic flow through the neighborhood. The Portland Planning Department rewarded the college for its commendable behavior by recommending to the Portland City Council that a limited use permit be granted to Western States Chiropractic College. Things were looking up and champagne bottles were at the ready.
Then, the Portland City Council rejected the recommendation of the Planning Department. A city rule required applicants to submit a new application if their original submission had been denied. In fact, the college’s application had been denied, but the college was never informed of the need to submit a new application. The college had simply continued on its path, believing it was being responsive to the concerns of the Planning Department and the neighborhood association. The college would have to start the permitting process from the very beginning by submitting an entirely new application. Another year would pass before the college successfully navigated the city’s permitting process.
The college did receive some very favorable news on the research front in 1997. Dr. Haas was awarded a 75% share of a three-year, million dollar grant from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), the federal agency primarily responsible for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. The grant would be used to fund a research study on chronic low back pain.
In hiring osteopathic physicians to provide care through the two outpatient clinics, the college hoped to create a fully integrated, multi-disciplinary model of clinical care. The expectation was to have osteopaths and chiropractors work cooperatively in providing the best conservative, non-invasive care possible. As cooperative as the participants may have been and as worthy as the intent was, there was not a good working model for how to actually integrate the two disciplines, a shortcoming that contributed to a less-than-harmonious working relationship.
One of the first “missteps” taken in the new clinic paradigm occurred innocently enough at the hands of the Multnomah County Health Department (MCHD). When the MCHD learned the college had employed primary-care physicians, they asked the college if the osteopath at the campus clinic would participate in their free vaccination program. The college consented to the request, allowing the osteopath to vaccinate at-risk individuals residing in Multnomah County.
As might have been expected, the conservative element of the chiropractic profession seized on this arrangement to voice its opposition and admonition. Once again, the college was pilloried in the chiropractic press for heretical practices and treasonous activities. The philosophy-based element of the chiropractic profession cried aloud that the principles of chiropractic were being violated and the college had to be held accountable. It meant very little to the opposition that from the college’s perspective, it was neither endorsing nor promoting the vaccination program; it was simply allowing the recently hired primary care provider to practice his discipline. Frustrated with the ceaseless adverse reaction to their presence, the two osteopaths resigned within a year.
Towards the end of 1997, the college invited Ted Laurer, DC, a private practitioner, to assist instruction in the Department of Chiropractic Sciences. Dr. Laurer was a very talented chiropractor with the unique gift of conveying difficult concepts of the manipulative arts to students in a pleasant and meaningful way. Moreover, his individualized attention to students struggling to master their adjusting skills ensured that no student would be left behind.
After more than 100 meetings over the span of 10 years and a permitting process that took an equal number of years to complete, the college was finally granted a limited use permit by the City of Portland in February 1998. Of course, there were restrictions and provisions. The college would have to create incentives for car-pooling, provide free mass-transit passes to students willing to leave their cars home, and charge fees for all parking on campus. Additionally, the college would have to move all outpatient clinical services off campus within five years. In exchange, the prohibition for the college to operate after 5 pm during summer term and on weekends was lifted. Also, the new permit allowed the college to increase its campus student population to 600. (The college already had a total student population of 496; if the trend continued it might soon reach 600.)
Most importantly, the granting of the limited use permit allowed the college to construct a new lecture facility, space that was desperately needed and long overdue. By the end of the decade-long battle to secure a building permit, increased student population and growth in college personnel was straining the institution to the point of collapse. Additional space for personnel had been carved out of under-utilized storage areas, vacant garages, breezeways and broom-closets. Temporary internal walls had been erected in some of the larger classrooms to provide an additional lecture or lab space. More than a decade earlier, a decision was made to temporarily use the gymnasium for instruction of the large entering fall classes. Entering class sizes had grown so large that even the gymnasium was no longer suitable. The college had not simply reached its maximum holding capacity; it had exceeded it. Without immediate relief, the college would explode.
Upon receipt of the new limited use permit, the college began designing a new lecture facility. However, before construction could begin, the college would have to successfully navigate the bureaucratic maze of obtaining a building permit from the City of Portland. Before the college could apply for a building permit, it would have to create blueprints for the entire project. But, before either of those two steps could be taken, the college would have to secure funding for the project – a formidable challenge under any circumstances. Hopes for immediate construction were diminished considerably when the college learned that costs for the proposed project had doubled over the preceding decade. The only viable option for funding a project of the magnitude contemplated was through the sale of bonds, to the tune of approximately seven million dollars. The college administration faced the stark realization that creating blueprints and a master plan, obtaining approval from the Oregon Bond Authority to sell bonds, and acquiring a building permit through the City would probably take years. They were right.
Discussion and debate on the DCM Program continued throughout 1998. Everyone seemed to have an opinion, either strongly for or strongly against the concept. The DCM proposal was remarkably polarizing; perhaps one of the more polarizing issues to surface in the profession’s history. It could not have shocked anyone in chiropractic to see a proposal like the DCM degree. The proliferation of aggressive advocacy for a philosophy-based chiropractic profession begged a countering response. Although some in the profession accused WSCC and its DCM proposal of further dividing the profession, in truth, neither WSCC nor the DCM divided the profession any more than it was already divided. The college and its DCM proposal simply put a spotlight on the irreconcilable differences that had divided the profession from its beginning.