Jilted by FSU, chiropractic fund tries USF
USF says the $1.7-million only creates a research position, not a college as was planned at FSU.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published June 21, 2006
TAMPA — A $1.7-million donation that sparked a controversial push for a chiropractic college at Florida State University was quietly shifted to the University of South Florida to finance an endowed position in “chiropractic biomechanical research.”
USF Health officials say the Lincoln College Endowed Chair, recently advertised in the Chronicle of Higher Education and The American Chiropractor journal, is simply part of their increasing emphasis on sports medicine and physical therapy.
“The focus of this is research,” said Dr. William “Sandy” Quillen, director of the USF College of Medicine’s school of physical therapy. “This is not about creating a school or curriculum or offering any type of other services.’’
But the position is funded with the same money that the Lincoln College Education and Research Fund and the Florida Chiropractic Foundation gave FSU in 1996 for an endowed chair in chiropractic and biomechanical research.
FSU returned the donation last year after its proposal to house the nation’s first chiropractic college sparked an uproar from faculty who questioned the validity of chiropractic care. The board that oversees the state university system finally killed the project, calling it an unnecessary financial drain.
USF Health got the $1.7-million donation early this year, Quillen said.
Republican State Sen. Dennis Jones of Treasure Island, a Lincoln Chiropractic College graduate who fought for the FSU chiropractic school, said the groups donated to USF because “we would much rather have the chair at a larger university where we felt there would be better opportunities for the future.”
Jones is on the 10-member search committee that will help choose the research leader. Other members include USF Health officials and faculty doctors and Dr. Kenneth Padgett, past president of the American Chiropractic Association.
“USF has a 30-year-old medical school and a nursing school,” said Jones. “It’s located in Tampa Bay, a great place to live. It’s an ideal place for a research chair to be.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with a chiropractic school.”
USF’s position carries a similar name to the one established a decade ago at FSU, which was called the Lincoln Chiropractic College Eminent Scholar Chair in Biomechanics.
In the recent Chronicle ad, USF states that the person chosen will launch a “core research program for USF’s initiative in athletic safety. ... The goal is to build an inter-professional program that links sports medicine, chiropractic and physical therapy with orthopedics and neurosurgery.”
Candidates must be Ph.Ds with a track record in federal research and doctoral degrees in chiropractic care.
Dr. Stephen Klasko, vice president of USF Health and dean of the medical school, said he understands there is skepticism within medical circles about chiropractic care’s effectiveness and safety. But he thinks the position is important to the university’s fledgling Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma Institute (SMART), which got $2-million from the Legislature this year.
“The reality is that in sports medicine, in every one of the sports teams, there are chiropractors involved,” Klasko said.
Dr. Rafael Miguel, an anesthesiologist who heads the pain program in USF’s medical school, was unaware of the research chair until told by a reporter.
“Usually they announce those things to us,” he said.
Miguel said the position “can be a good thing if it’s done right and kept within its limitations.”
“Chiropractic care has a place, but it doesn’t do all the things it’s been touted to do,” he said. “I would welcome some well-done research in the field. But I would not favor a chiropractic school.”
FSU officials also billed their endowed research position as a way to strengthen the FSU exercise science program’s use of biomechanics, the study of a body’s movements and muscular activity. Biomechanics is related to chiropractic medicine, which is the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
A few years after FSU established its endowed position, Jones and other powerful lawmakers -- including then-House speaker John Thrasher, an FSU alumnus -- began pushing for a chiropractic college.
In 2004, the Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush gave FSU $9-million for the college. But FSU faculty revolted, with some doctors on the teaching staff threatening to resign if the chiropractic school went through.
After the Board of Governors killed the proposal in January 2005, FSU and Florida Chiropractic officials exchanged sharp letters. Florida Chiropractic leaders suggested FSU leaders did not fight hard enough for the college and should return the 1996 donation.
“Philanthropy is an act of giving and supposedly not a quid pro quo proposition,” FSU president T.K. Wetherell responded to the association’s CEO, Debra Brown. “Possibly you will find other institutions that will provide you with the services you seek because your association 'gave enough money.’ ’’
Wetherell said last year that he called USF president Judy Genshaft after the Board of Governors’ rejection to see if she was interested in linking a chiropractic school to USF’s alternative medicine program.
She “didn’t want my help or my money,” Wetherell said. He also said chiropractic school supporters also called Nova Southeastern University leaders to gauge interest.
USF faculty don’t need to worry about a repeat of the FSU controversy, Klasko said.
“I don’t know anything about any previous deals. I just know what I negotiated for this deal,” he said. “This deal is protecting the integrity of the academic institution. I would not have made the deal otherwise.’’
Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified June 21, 2006, 22:03:44]
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