Many observers note that chiropractors are a bigger threat to chiropractic than its detractors could ever be. How? Rivalries, disagreements, egos all get in the way of professional cohesion. Future observers may determine that, because the external threats to chiropractic were so great over the years, chiropractors naturally internalized all that animosity and aimed it at one another. Only time will tell.

However, at the 2019 Chancellor’s Plenary session, the audience was privileged to see one such supposed rivalry being negated as Dr. Gerry Clum fondly welcomed his friend, Dr. Lou Sportelli, to the stage.

So, who is Dr. Sportelli? He has been a member of our profession’s leadership for more than half its existence. He was a central figure in the successful outcome of the renowned Wilks case, in which it was determined that the AMA had engaged in activities designed to “contain and eliminate” the practice of chiropractic and maintain its monopoly on healthcare.

Please take 30 minutes to watch the video below (or scroll down and read the transcript) and find out more about how our profession has been illegally targeted and managed to thrive in spite of it…and enjoy hearing from one of our colleagues who was central to chiropractic’s win against AMA interference.


TRANSCRIPT – Dr. Louis Sportelli speaking at the 2019 Fall CElebration Chancellor’s Plenary Session

Dr. Clum:
As this event was coming up, I called Dr. Riekeman to ask him if I could impose upon him with a request to introduce next speaker this morning. And to tell a quick story about my experiences with him. As you heard from Dr. Riekeman’s opening remarks, this gentleman has had a profound impact upon the profession and quite frankly he was in the other camp. We were the ICA crowd he was the ACA crowd and, in the early days of my career, he was the devil personified.


Might as well get it on the table. And the idea that I would talk to him was beyond the pale. The idea that I would cooperate with him was unimaginable. The idea that I might work with him was bizarre. But then I had the good fortune along the way [to have] our paths have crossed on a number of points. His career began in 1962 as a Palmer graduate. That means he has lived 50 percent of the history of this profession. And it also means if you know anything about him you know he was very active politically on a state level, very active nationally with the ACA. He went through all their chairs, was chairman of the board, and went on then to become active with the National Chiropractic Mutual Insurance Company, NCMIC, went through their chairs and then ultimately went on to be their president, and retired from that and went on to chair their foundation and the charitable work that they’re doing. Along the way, he spent a stint of a number of years on the WFC board of directors called the Council.


And that’s where we met. And I had to sit across the table him. There was only 12 of us. It’s kind of hard to avoid each other. And I was there for ICA. He was there for ACA and this was the challenge of my life. The devil’s there; what do I do with him? How do I deal with him? And the devil and I were in Nicosia Cyprus. And we were at a meeting and I had picked up some fruit off the table and eaten it, and I shouldn’t have done that. And I was sick that night. Miserable, terrible, maybe I’ll die before the morning sick. And 9 o’clock comes around. The telephone rings and it’s Lou.


“Are you OK?”


“Yes, I’m sick.”


He said, “I told them. I said you’re never late for a meeting…if you’re not there at the meeting, something’s wrong, you need something.”


Three minutes later, he’s at the door of my hotel room. Adjusts me. Comes back at a break with some soup, comes back at lunchtime with another adjustment, more to eat, takes care of me throughout that day and I’m left to reconcile with my arch enemy. The devil himself has come to my rescue. In a moment when I was very ill, I wasn’t going to die, but I sure as hell hoped I could.


And, I had that moment, where Dr Williams used to talk about this idea, and forgive the sexist nature of this remark; I’ll clean it up afterwards. But he used to say, “There’s more in the man than there is in the stand,” and the contemporary interpretation of that is, “There’s more in the person than there is in the position.” I was dealing with the with the position.


And all of the sudden, I was confronted with the person and the man and the humanity who came to my aid. It changed my perspective. It changed our relationship. We have become good friends. We have had great opportunities to cooperate and to work together and I have learned one thing: That while we may have had different strategies about how we would accomplish the given goals for the profession, the intention for the best interests of the profession on both of our parts was unquestioned. The sincerity and the dedication that I thought was isolated only to my camp, I realized was universal.


And with that, your next speaker, representing half of the history the profession, brings as much sincerity and dedication for the best interest of chiropractic, the chiropractor and the patient who receives our care of anybody that has ever commanded this campus. I ask you to join me this morning, on behalf of Chancellor Riekeman and President Scott, to welcome Dr. Louis Sportelli.


Dr. Sportelli:
Gerry, thank you for that very kind and embarrassing [introduction]. I hated to be nice to him, to tell the truth.


Ladies and gentlemen, the sign that’s up there right now, “Contain and eliminate.” I want you to let those words just kind of sink into your cerebral cortex. Is not the right area, Stephanie? [laughter] I just want to make sure that it sinks in. Those words are not just words.


Those are simply the annihilation of our entire profession. In 1962, ladies gentlemen, I graduated from Palmer College and, honestly, Guy and I had the same instructors. When you left Palmer College you thought you could grow hair at a bowling ball. I mean, there is nothing that a chiropractor couldn’t do.


We looked at that and we and the instructors that we had were good old time practitioners who actually saw and did things in an era when there was no proof at all, except the results to the patient.


So, I was naïve; I was believing. I thought that this thing chiropractic was really something unbelievable. And that’s how I that’s how I left the school. So, little did I realize that one year later, in 1963, the AMA formed a Committee on Quackery, in a clandestine fashion., to contain and eliminate the profession I had just entered. Now I want you to keep in the back of your mind, that they were absolutely clever. Nobody knew anything about this subversive, clandestine deep state of the AMA. As a matter of fact, in their documents, they basically said that the hand of the AMA should never show. That’s how they wanted to make sure that nobody could trace what they were doing back to the AMA.

…After the suit was filed, [of the] the documents from the AMA, this particular one is just amazing. This is the one where it says…that they never wanted to be exposed. Now, George McAndrews kind of jokes and says that the AMA were historians with a death wish, because they wrote everything down and the bottom line is, when they wrote everything down, everything they wrote down was discoverable, and much of what was discovered during those million documents was unbelievable. Here they say, since the AMA board of trustees the decision of the meeting on December 2nd, 1963 to establish a committee on quackery, their committee has considered the prime mission to first be the containment and secondly the elimination. Wow. That’s comforting as hell.


So, I want you to just imagine this for a moment. How naive I really was, that in 1966, I wrote to the AMA  – and [as an aside] I didn’t like what the literature, I’m to be perfectly frank with you, I didn’t like any of the literature that was put out the 60s, I mean, it looked hokey, it was kind of lousy and I thought well, we need a little more professional image. So, I thought, “OK I’ll write to the AMA. I mean, why not? And I wanted a better literature. So, in the mail, I got this pamphlet… [as an aside] Here you go, Guy; I have one of these for you. I…actually saved the one I got back from the AMA and I had others printed: Chiropractic, the Unscientific Cult. I got it back and I think of myself. What the hell? I wrote to the AMA, thinking that they’re a good group, and they send me back this pamphlet that I’m supposed to use? I don’t think so.


Now, …we could literally talk for days, but during that time the profession of chiropractic was involved in a number of things. They were involved in trying to get our schools accredited because, without accreditation, there was no government funding. We were trying to get into Medicare, …not because of the incredible reimbursement, but because once the federal government gave their imprimatur, that chiropractic was approved by the feds, it changed the entire dynamic of how the profession was perceived. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we were wondering, and I was involved, to Gerry’s point, up to my eyeballs in the political aspect. We couldn’t figure out why we could never get anything about Medicare. Well, in the documents, let me tell you what. Isn’t it interesting the documents show that Congress was never told – in 1968, (incidentally it was called HEW, Health Education and Welfare) – Congress was never told that the results of the study they were supposed to have, was already concluded five months before the study was ever started. Now, does that sound like a fix to you? And, B, that the AMA had secretly coached – [feigning shock] can’t believe it – coached members of the Committee to vote no. So, here we are with Medicare; it was already fixed. Wilbur Cohen was the secretary of HEW at the time. Congress was fixed. I think that’s illegal. Or, at least I thought it was. And here we arem 50 years later, fighting this silly Medicare battle that we have not been able to overcome, not because the evidence doesn’t support us, but it’s because, in the words of the judge, in her absolute brilliance (she was just an incredible jurist)… when she concluded her case, she basically said that the lingering effects of this conspiracy will last for decades. And she was absolutely right. She was absolutely right.


So, we’ll talk about some of this. Now, for those of you who don’t know this particular name, he loves us dearly. His name is Stephen Barrett. If you ever want to have some fun and you want to have get yourself irritated, get your nervous system all atwitter, go onto Quackwatch dot org. Stephen Barrett. And Stephen Barrett in 1969 – actually, I owe my involvement in this profession to Stephen Barrett, because he lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I was about 20 miles away and one day the son of a bitch…formed a committee on quackery. He began to fight quackery. Who’s not opposed to quackery? So, they were going to discuss topics like nutrition and nonsense the history of quackery, the organic food fad, megavitamins, arthritis, Scientology, chiropractic… All of that was nonsense. He was really a committee against chiropractic. So, I was. I was opposed to quackery, so I went to the meeting.


And they wouldn’t let me in. So, being young and dumb at the time, there were reporters there conveniently. I guess he wanted this project to be to be publicized. Reporters on the outside and I basically went over to the reporter. I said, “The story’s not in there. The story’s out here.” I said, “That’s not really a committee on quackery. That’s a committee against chiropractic. I’m a chiropractor.” And, interestingly enough, I formed a relationship with that reporter that lasted probably 30 years. We helped to expose Barrett. He was opposed to everything… His wife was an M.D. He was a psychiatrist and never passed the boards and he had a tragedy occur under his watch; somebody hung themselves in jail after he had given them a clean bill of health. And som his reputation in the community was not… sterling, but he was essentially… The AMA, as I look back in retrospect, the AMA basically knew that they were having some problems from ‘63 to ‘69 and so they wanted to make sure they started to insulate themselves away from the AMA having to do anything, so they basically funded a stooge like Stephen Barrett. He got more publicity… No human being would have gotten the publicity that Stephen Barrett has gotten if it wasn’t for the AMA support.


The AMA was actually brilliant in their execution. They had a two phase program. Number one was the AMA and all of the medical community and every health care group that began with American: American Heart Association, American Cancer Society. American…yada, yada, yada. That was their program. Make sure that every person affiliated with medicine had a negative view of chiropractic. That was half the program; the other half, of course, was the consumer part which we’re still suffering from today.


The consumer part: Have a word association. I can guarantee you that if you stopped anybody on the street in the 60s and 70s and said let’s have a word association. What’s the first word that comes to your mind after chiropractic and I guarantee you that the word “quack” would have been the next word out of their mouth. So, what did they do? They were absolutely brilliant. I have to give them credit for being brilliant in execution. They took the most prestigious, the most well-read document at the time to – remember we didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have iPads, we didn’t have any of this stuff. We had credible magazines. The most credible magazine in the country at that time was Reader’s Digest.


And in 1971, the Reader’s Digest did an article about chiropractic and Medicare. And it basically once that was out, here’s what the headline said: “should chiropractors be paid with your tax dollars?” The cost to Medicare is about 60 million a year. Critics of chiropractic, the AMA, maintain that it’s a form of quackery. Now, Reader’s Digest, ladies and gentlemen, was read by everybody. As a matter of fact, I can tell you that Reader’s Digest was in most medical doctors’ offices for decades. They never took them out of their offices, so if you want an old Reader’s Digest, just go to any medical doctor. They got them free and they got them two weeks before the general public did, so they knew what was happening.


But not only did they do a job on Readers Digest, but for those of you who are familiar, Ann Landers was one of the most well-regarded syndicated columnists of our time. All of the papers, basically, carried a syndicated column of Ann Landers. Well, I hate to tell you this, but during the discovery, they found out that Ann Landers was taken by the AMA on a trip to China right after her column. And the column basically told this writer – here’s the column [indicates slide showing column] – Darren, that aches and pains sometimes respond to chiropractic heat lamps, but do not recommend chiropractors as diagnostician because they lack the training to diagnose properly. So, Ann Landers in her column that was read by millions of people who believed her, basically was part of the public relations campaign. And that wasn’t enough. The other journal at the time that basically mirrored Reader’s Digest was the Consumer Reports, and it’s still a very, very prestigious journal to this day.


In 1975, Consumer Reports – in September and October – gave a one-two punch. Chiropractors: Healers or Quacks? was the title. Now, here’s the two Consumer Reports from that time. They ran the entire article, Part One and Part Two, and that was a popular magazine, and everybody read it. And, of course, it was credible; it was Consumer Reports. Who could dispute what Consumer Reports basically said? Well, now you start to say now you got Readers Digest. You got Ann Landers, you got Consumer Reports, you got the public’s opinion now totally and completely anti-chiropractic.


Now, this is the 1976 article. The Pennsylvania Medical Society devoted their entire medical journal -and I shall have that journal. It’s a reprint. What medical journal would do a reprint from Consumer Reports as their journal for that month? Nobody. So, in May of 1976. Now remember…back in those days, Pennsylvania was the hub of medicine. I mean, you had all of the medical schools in Philadelphia and everybody else. I mean, so when the Pennsylvania Medical Society printed this thing, it was a blockbuster. It killed us legislatively in the state of Pennsylvania, virtually, for a long, long time.


So then, we owe, frankly, a debt of gratitude to the Scientologists. Because, I’ll tell you why. I mean seriously. The Scientologists were under siege by the AMA. And the Scientologists, under L. Ron Hubbard, were absolutely clever and they stopped at nothing. Nothing would be built beneath what they would do. So, what they did was, they infiltrated the AMA headquarters for two solid years. Secretaries would be hired who were scientologists. They were hardworking; they’d get there before their time, they’d stay over time, they’d work on any projects. Two or three other folks were hired by the AMA and became confidants. And they were looking for…how the AMA was going to destroy Scientology. I mean, that’s really what the bottom line was. Well, they came up actually with pretty much nothing, except the documents that the Scientologists had were anti chiropractic. They’re the ones who basically blew the whistle on the AMA. They looked at these documents and all of a sudden, we only knew this, of course, post the Wilks suit filing, when depositions were taken.


And now, I just want to give you a little story here. Once the suit was filed, the AMA was sent a notice of a stay, preservation of documents. So, the AMA ,in their total and complete willingness to comply, had one big cart. They saved all of the AMA documents in this cart. I know, [sigh] it’s hard to believe but the janitor took it for trash, and it was never to be seen again. Now, I want you to think about that. It was a big deal, because George McAndrews in his brilliance knew that we had the documents. In the books that came out in the public interest, except they were unvalidated. Nobody could validate the authenticity, but we knew what the documents were, so George travelled to 30 or so states across the country to the medical societies with subpoenas, and in the medical society records were the documents AMA claimed they never had. And so, I’m going to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, this was a big deal. And when you…think about this for a moment, it really starts to get your blood boiling a little bit.


In ’76, all of these folks were sued. Judge Getzendanner, God bless her, in ’87, “following eleven years of legal action, a federal appeals court judge ruled that the AMA had engaged in a lengthy, systematic, successful, and unlawful boycott…” ah, God, those words were wonderful…”designed to restrict cooperation between M.D.s and chiropractors in order to eliminate the profession of chiropractic as a competitor in the United States health care system. During the proceedings it was shown that the AMA attempted to undermine chiropractic schools, undercut insurance programs for chiropractic patients, conceal evidence of effectiveness of chiropractic, subvert government inquiries, and promote other activities that would control a monopoly.” This was in the court documents, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you that that. That judge saw through this; she didn’t validate chiropractic, incidentally. So, I must tell you what she did was recognize that this was an illegal boycott and conspiracy. Now, it isn’t over yet. Don’t get too confident here for a moment.


In 2012 and ’13, Mike Vanderwall, a Texas chiropractor ran for the House of Representatives. Now, I want you to think about this tonight. The opposition from the Texas Medical Society. Here was their ad in a newspaper that, basically think about that, “Quack quack quack.” And here they wanted to make sure that the people knew that. Dr. Vandewall was not really a doctor; he was only a chiropractor. He wasn’t a real doctor and they wanted them to know that he was an impostor. Unfortunately, his colleagues did not rally around him as well as they should have. So, here we are in 2019 lots of information. I’m going to hurry this up for a moment, but I want you to see the issue.


Here’s the evidence that we have the profession’s making advancements. OK. First of all, we have Coulter’s paradigm, which Dr. Riekeman so eloquently talked about this morning in his first few minutes. We have vitalism versus. mechanism; we have holism versus reductionism; naturalism versus artificialism; humanism versus authoritarianism; conservative therapeutics versus high risk interventions. That’s the paradigm that’s now being shifted. That’s the paradigm that’s blowing everybody away. Now, remember, the Consumer Reports. OK. They did a study and Consumer Reports – of fourteen thousand subscribers – and 58 percent had tried chiropractic. They couldn’t bury that because it was a survey done of 14000 subscribers. They had to publish the results of the survey. I’m sure they must have hated to publish that, that people actually were very satisfied and were helped most by chiropractors.


Now, this little slide here is probably the utopia. This chiropractor by the name of Gary Tarola. Gary was practicing in Allentown, Pennsylvania, home of Stephen Barrett, a lousy chiropractic situation and Gary had a phenomenal practice. One of the largest hospital systems went to him acquired his practice at, by the way, fair market value. [They] took him, his three associates, and his staff as employees of the hospital. Today, there are seven or nine chiropractors in the process and pretty soon they’ll be a DC in every facility of that hospital. He continues to get the highest level and the highest awards from all of the press… They ask him, “Dr. Tarola, how do you get this patient satisfaction issue?” He says “I don’t know. We just do what we did as chiropractors.” But, think about this now. We go from jail to this kind of a situation in which the hospitals are after us. Now in 2019, the practical neurology…this doctor must have had a stroke or damn close to it because he writes, “…practical neurology done by hand,” it’s an interesting article and in conclusion, he basically says…”Modern science tells us there’s no nourishing vital force flowing through the nerves.” But he also says we need to…adopt what chiropractors do with patients. That’s almost, “We care.” You’ll have a medical physician on the circuit now talking about the iPatient, that the medical physicians are now so engrossed with EPIC and every other system that they forgot there’s a patient there. So, instead of looking at the real patient, they’re looking at the screen and he dubs it the iPatient, a phenomenal way to look at the situation.


So, Harvard Health Publishing, from Harvard Medical School just so you have that, basically wrote an article [about] where to turn for low back pain relief and it has, in most cases, a primary care doctor or chiropractor can help you resolve the problem. It couldn’t leave the primary care guys out but that’s from Harvard, to say go to a chiropractor. Think about that.


Here’s the next one. Dr. Heather Tick, an M.D. advocating for chiropractic patients, this is last February 15th 2019. Bottom line, she basically makes a compelling case for all of the insurance companies to talk about paying chiropractors in their reimbursement.


Now, here’s the one that I think Dr. Koch and Dr. Riekeman are going to like. Now, we were talking about this this morning. Look at this, ladies and gentlemen. How do you figure out we’re going to solve this opioid crisis with another drug? We’re going to solve the antibiotic crisis with another antibiotic. When you see the evidence so clear that penicillin was overused, and it resulted in problems, then they had methicillin, and then they had vancomycin. What the hell do they think is going to happen when the next antibiotic is discovered? You give the antibiotic to the patient and the patient will die. And I guess that’s OK. The thinking process is absolutely absurd in the community. We’re not going to solve the problem by doing the same thing that got us there.


And so, all I want to say, is that the spinal cord the brain are smarter than we think. And here is the natural advancement of science, just happened a couple of weeks ago, five chiropractors on the panel. Dubois County Herald,  bill seeks to manage pain without without opioids. Chiropractic is involved in there. And, we’re winning ladies and gentlemen. We’re winning because the paradigm is shifting. From jail to Yale. I say that because we had 15000 chiropractors jailed. Now we have chiropractors in Yale informatics program, two of them. We are going for fee for service to value-based reimbursement. We’re going from integration versus isolation. We’re going from inclusion versus exclusion. We’re going from marginalized to mainstream. We’re going from rejection to acceptance and I will say this. The weapon of choice tomorrow. isn’t legislation, isn’t litigation. It’s research. And that’s what’s going to take us to the next level.


Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you something. I have about 30 seconds. The best moment of my life was when I arrived at my office on a Saturday morning. And there was a brown manila envelope unmarked and I knew I didn’t order anything porn. So, in this package was a ream of paper and I’m going to tell you something. In it were the “Sore Throat” documents. I remember vividly finishing up my office that morning and sitting down and reading those documents, a transformative moment; we finally knew what was happening to our profession and to our world. And I all I can say is, nothing is going to stop us now.