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Academic Integrity and Corporate Funding

by Feb 9, 2010

Home » News » Academic Integrity and Corporate Funding

Allopathic medical schools, researchers and professionals have come under fire for accepting money and perks from pharmaceutical corporations and other medical suppliers. The chiropractic profession has not proven immune to the same ethical dilemma. Today, many schools offering chiropractic degrees boast buildings, student lounges, auditoriums, fountains, and other features that are named after corporate vendors of chiropractic medical supplies or services. 

You won’t find that type of sponsorship at National University of Health Sciences. We interviewed NUHS’ President James F. Winterstein on the topic of accepting donor money from vendors or others who may have expectations of product use or visibility in return. Here’s his response.

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nuhs president doctor james wintersteinNational’s long-standing policy on accepting donations from those who have expectations of something in return predates the current furor in the medical profession concerning this issue. For example in 1988, we were offered $1 million to do research. My first question was,  “From whom?”

When I learned who it was, my response was “no” because that individual had taught many members of the profession to do things that we, under no circumstances, would expect, teach or allow our students to do. So there was no point in taking what I would consider to be ill-gotten gain. Now, that being said, that money was subsequently donated to the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research (FCER) and they granted it to us. That was fine because there were no strings attached.

In a recent meeting with a vendor known to give a good amount of money to chiropractic institutions I said, “As a philanthropist, if you’re going to offer money to National, it comes with no strings.” Our position is that any time there are strings attached, sooner or later you’re going to impair the ability of your educators to teach what should be taught. The natural response is going to be “use this product or use that product.”

National doesn’t support that kind of approach and it has clearly cost us some money over the years. This is demonstrated by the preponderance of vendor-named facilities and services that are prominent features on the campuses of some other schools.

When I visited one president of another chiropractic institution, I asked him, “But what do you do when that same company that gave you a million dollars requires you to use their product?” He said, “We just tell our clinicians they have to use it.” I asked, “What if it doesn’t fit the need of the patient?  He said, “Well you gotta play the game.”

We’re not in the game-playing business when it comes to vendors.

That’s not to say we don’t have the solid support of businesses that serve our profession. We have many who contribute generously to our capital campaigns, endowment and general causes, or who help sponsor events like our annual Homecoming. The difference is, there are no strings and no permanent vendor-named facilities or advertising on our campus.

Does National’s stance on vendor contribution result in higher tuition? No, since the vendor donations to these other schools that we are talking about now are generally one-shot deals that have a limited effect to ongoing cost such as faculty and staff salaries and benefits. One-time donations have little to no effect on tuition since they do not affect the day-to-day ongoing cost of an institution. To offset that, donations really need to be made to a school’s endowment fund – but again, ideally with no strings or advertising commitment attached.

When you study in National’s DC program, you’ll be introduced to a wide variety of clinically proven techniques, methods and equipment for both diagnoses and treatment. You’ll learn to choose from among the tools of your profession those that best fit the needs of the patient. In our clinics, the good of the patient far outweighs any “brand loyalty.”

Because of our firm policy, when you read research findings coming from our university’s research department, you’ll know that the research was conducted under scientifically controlled conditions with objectivity and integrity.

We teach our students that their integrity as professionals is paramount. As an institution, we must hold ourselves to that same standard when preserving our academic integrity.

Next month, read more from our interview with President James Winterstein titled: “Substance vs. Fluff: What Makes a Doctor?”

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