The American Chiropractic Association recently presented Dean Smith, MS, DC, PhD, a 1997 NUHS alum and senior clinical faculty member at Miami University, Ohio, with the George B. McClelland, DC, Researcher of the Year Award during the National Chiropractic Leadership Conference (NCLC) March 2.
The award honors individuals for developing, refining and/or expanding the body of knowledge in chiropractic. Previous winners include Dr. Smith’s mentor Gregory Cramer, NUHS dean of research.
“I was in disbelief,” Dr. Smith said. “I called Dr. Cramer after I found out and when he told me it was true, it started to sink in. To be considered in such company as those previous award winners is such an amazing honor and very humbling.”
Some of Dr. Smith’s recent research has examined the effect of chiropractic extremity adjustments on postural control and how aerobic exercise impacts movement time. As part of a recent research grant awarded from the U.S. Department of Defense, Dr. Smith has also studied the effect of chiropractic treatment on improving reaction and response times of special operation forces (SOF) military personnel.
“I do have a significant research interest in how chiropractic care affects human performance. Because athletes and military personnel are high performers, they are populations I have particular interest in studying,” Dr. Smith said.
In an effort to encourage students and chiropractic physicians to pursue research, Dr. Smith also hosts regular Chiropractic Science podcasts in which he interviews leading chiropractic scientists about their research.
In the following, Dr. Smith discusses his experiences conducting chiropractic research.
Why did you first decide to conduct research in chiropractic science?
During my first year in full-time practice I had many interesting cases that helped me decide to go back to school and want to pursue chiropractic research. One case involved a young boy with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). The boy’s surgeon wanted to remove his spleen. I told his parents that I didn’t know if I could help. I did find significant mechanical dysfunction in his mid to lower thoracic spine and began adjusting him twice a week. At the end of one month his platelet count was significantly improved, his arms looked less red, and his surgeon cancelled his splenectomy.
While practicing in Ontario, I had the opportunity to provide chiropractic care to several professional women tennis players at the Canadian Open in 1997. Their quick recovery and immediate performance improvement also helped convince me to go back to school and has also motivated my research.
How has the field evolved since you first started to conduct research?
Research methods and analyses are becoming much more sophisticated. In addition, there are many more researchers in our field. I see more chiropractors expressing interest in becoming researchers earlier in their careers which is a significant and positive shift. The culture of evidence-based practice is gaining momentum in chiropractic. Practitioners are becoming more savvy to research designs and are contributing more to our scientific literature. It is exciting to see the evolution of the profession.
Why is it important for students and chiropractic physicians to engage in research?
Research is only going to become more important to the continued growth of our profession. It is a significant part of evidence-based practice and really is the currency of today’s health care marketplace. For these reasons, it is vital for students and chiropractic physicians to contribute to and/or engage in research. They could make a donation to an organization that funds chiropractic research or contact researchers directly to inquire how to donate. They could contribute by writing case studies, letters to the editor, or through any other research design. They could contribute by spreading the research message to their patients, their friends, their community and perhaps most importantly to policy makers.
Where do you see the field headed in the next ten years?
I look for chiropractic to be included in more national guidelines. I expect we will see expansion of services within Medicare, Medicaid and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a greater integration into the health care community. I expect our continued research will continue to drive referrals from medical physicians and other health care practitioners.
How do you feel NUHS helped prepared you for a career in research?
To me, research has much to do with being curious, asking questions and wanting to learn more. This is where NUHS excels. When I had questions, faculty and administration did a wonderful job of nurturing my interests. I have so many fond memories from NUHS. Some of these include attending post-graduate courses on weekends, talking about research with Dr. Gregory Cramer, observing and learning from radiology residents and Dr. Knudsen and so many more great experiences than I can mention. All of these experiences contributed significantly to my interest in pursuing chiropractic research.
What advice do you have for students interested in research?
Get involved. This can take many forms. Join a ‘journal club.’ Ask questions of your professors on a regular basis. Ask professors how you can get involved with research at your school. Read journal articles…lots of them. Be curious. Attend chiropractic research conferences and introduce yourself to researchers in our profession and communicate with them. Consider getting a Master’s degree or PhD. Listen to my podcast, at chiropracticscience.com to hear from the best researchers in the profession and their advice for students/practitioners to get involved in research.