A special guest blog post by Dr. James Sigafoose
After failing as a chiropractor for eight years because I did not understand the philosophy behind why we do what we do, I was ready to give up and quit. How did I turn that around and develop one of the largest practices in the country?
First, I had a mentor which I actually used by calling and or meeting with him frequently and I did so until I achieved my goals for the practice.
I also went to philosophy meetings and only to those kinds of meetings: six times a year in Georgia, monthly in Pennsylvania and monthly in New York. I bought (at any price) the Green Books and read them faithfully and believed what they said. I still read them daily. I not only read and studied them, I did the things that were taught in them.
I was asked to speak at the Georgia meetings, because my mentor suggested same, and that began my speaking career. I started doing talks in my office and kept a video program running all day which I created to explain chiropractic and innate. I let the world know about chiropractic through constant newspapers ads. I gave x rays away. I had a family plan and I suggested a fee and expected people to pay it (or as close as they could) while coming in daily or 3 times a week.
I joined Toastmasters and became a better speaker and then had programs in the office inviting other speakers or entertainers. I would teach chiropractic after they spoke or between sets if it were music. We had an annual chiropractic day where we gave away free x rays, dinner, tea and coffee under a tent on our 20 acres. We drew as many as 1200 people, fed them and x rayed as many as 135 people on a Sunday afternoon.
We handed out written information weekly: testimonials, information about the dangers of medicine, chiropractic philosophy and chiropractic thinking. We showed no fear and were determined to do the all we could. We attracted many folks suffering with cancer, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, skin, lung and kidney problems including about 150 children and babies per day. Why? Because we believed we were capable and the best in the world. We gave a lot away and received a lot in return. It was all based on loving service. We never locked our office. It was open like church and people came in as they pleased and watched the educational tapes and children’s programs about the inner man and health.
We had fun and loved what we did. We didn’t do it for money. We did it for love and service. We did however seem to make plenty of money.
After many years of serving, we decided to retire to a beach home in Florida. That soon became boring, so we went into offices throughout the country to observe and recommend changes. That evolved into helping a management company and then helping chiropractors around the world, and of course that’s where we are now till God presents some other need or challenge.
We have opened other offices since then using the same formula and then sold them. We still go out several times a year to talk and do seminars, some our own and some for others and go on mission trips at least once a year.
We never quite feel like we do enough, but our mission is to serve God by serving mankind chiropractic, and that will be until our dying breath.
You can become the chiropractor you wish to be and have the practice of your dreams. Remember, the steps are the same for you as they were for me and every other chiropractor who has a large, thriving practice:
1) Get a mentor that has had a successful practice
3) Read and study the Green Books and own the philosophy
4) Tell the chiropractic story to those in your community (and join YourSpine.com to reach the masses with the chiropractic message)
5) Love and serve those you attract
We aim to help you with step one. Visit my website to download a stat sheet, fax it back to us and let’s see if there is a fit. I realize we aren’t for everyone, but then neither is Jesus or BJ, but that didn’t stop them, nor will it stop me.
Chiropractic America was the first company to create a chiropractic website, the first company to air national television advertisements for chiropractic, the first company to run national magazine advertisements for chiropractic, the first company to air national radio advertisements for chiropractic and is now the first company to bring a world class health care public relations firm to the table to promote chiropractic, Feinstein Kean Healthcare, the health care division of Ogilvy PR Worldwide.
It all began when The Chiropractic Alliance of New Jersey was formed in 1992 to advocate for the chiropractic profession. Almost instantly they had an impact, filing a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against the New Jersey Department of Insurance, Fraud Division and the state’s 12 largest insurance carriers (Chiropractic Alliance of New Jersey v. Parisi). Their lawsuit was designed to stop the practice of using uninvestigated and unsubstantiated allegations of insurance irregularity to essentially extort civil fines from chiropractors and other healthcare practitioners. (Most chiropractors, despite having done nothing wrong, would choose to pay the fines rather than face the prospect of the Division significantly disrupting or shutting down their practices to conduct a baseless investigation.)
The case was decided in favor the Chiropractic Alliance of NJ and this illegal practice was halted. Louis Parisi, the longtime director of the Fraud Division under whose tenure this practice became commonplace, resigned shortly thereafter. Richard Jaffe Esq., a Houston health care attorney who led the fight stated afterward that this was the first time the RICO Act had been successfully used against a governmental investigative body. “Dateline NBC” did a feature story on this lawsuit as it resulted in the reversal of similar laws disproportunately attacking chiropractors in 17 other states.
On the heels of this monumental victory, The Chiropractic Alliance of New Jersey was incorporated as the Whole Health Chiropractic Network (later renamed Chiropractic America) in 1994 with the goal of extending beyond advocacy to promotion of the profession. The vision was to create a unifying public relations and advertising campaign that would be both affordable for all doctors and reach millions of prospective patients with the chiropractic message.
Chiropractic America developed a marketing strategy for chiropractors that mirrored the highly successful 1 800 DENTIST program which was redefining dental care in the United States. Company founder, Gary Pomeroy, knew that public relations, advertising and a unified national strategy were needed if chiropractic was ever to gain the mainstream acceptance it so rightfully deserved. This was the first national marketing/public relations effort for chiropractic ever created and was one of many firsts for the profession that Chiropractic America accomplished.
On February 27th, 1995, the first full page, full color chiropractic ad ran in People magazine. For the first time in history, national media exposure benefiting the profession of chiropractic with a strong positive message about the benefits of care and a national 1-800 referral service was directing patients to participating chiropractor’s offices from New York to Hawaii. The battle to get these ads placed in Time Warner and other major publications was hard fought, but tenacity paid off. Full page, full color ads in People, Newsweek, Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Country Living, Home Magazine, Working Mother and others followed and continued through 1998.
In March 1996, Chiropractic America built the first chiropractic website, www.ChiroUSA.com. The site won several awards including the Looksmart / Microsoft award for creative sites. The ChiroUSA site was honored as being one of the first 450 database driven websites in the world. This award included a feature story in Reader’s Digest which gave the site national exposure at no cost to the member doctors. This was the first national public relations coup for chiropractic, Chiropractic America and its members: free national PR.
Throughout 1996, Chiropractic America produced dozens of 30 and 60 second television spots. The commercials were produced by Chiropractic America and Intermedia Inc. of Los Angeles and featured chiropractic patients directly from member practices along with Mark Victor Hansen, Joe DiAngelis (Mr. Universe), Judy Norton of the Walton’s and other celebrity chiropractic patients. Hundreds of commercials aired nationally on cable networks from 1997 to 1999. The first ever nationally aired, network television, prime time commercials for chiropractic ran during the NBA playoffs June 10th,12th, 14th and 17th 1998 followed by the US Open Championship, the Michigan 400 Nascar race and the Pennzoil 200 Indy car race later that same month.
Also in 1998, radio commercials were added to the effort. The commercials were written and produced by Gary at the WABC Studio in New York. More than 1,000 commercials aired on nationally syndicated radio shows including Dr. Laura, Ken Hamblin, Sean Hannity and many others.
That same year, Gary negotiated the first national major media sponsorship for chiropractic. Chiropractic America and New York’s WABC radio, the top syndicated news/talk radio station in the country co-sponsored Chiropractic Awareness Month in January and 160 radio spots aired on topics that included: chiropractic care for the prevention of illness and injury; pain relief; treating the source of disease through chiropractic care; and the vertebral subluxation and its related dangers. The spots were written and produced by Gary and were read on air by WABC radio hosts. Others were co-written and recorded for broadcast by Dr. Bob Hoffman and Drs. Stuart and Theresa Warner. In addition, WABC ran 12 public service announcements per week promoting Chiropractic Awareness Month.
While working diligently to promote chiropractic, Chiropractic America became aware that the New Jersey legislature wanted to rein in the increasing cost of automobile insurance. Their solution was to pass the Auto Insurance Cost Reduction Act on May 19, 1998. The new law established care paths that greatly restricted those injured in motor vehicle accidents from accessing chiropractic care. Under that mandate, people injured in auto accidents were restricted to four visits.
The care paths were developed by Price, Waterhouse and Coopers (PWC), a large accounting firm which used a team of “three individuals with medical degrees, two nurses, and one MBA.” There were no chiropractors on the PWC team.
On November 4, 1998 Chiropractic America, filed suit against New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, the commissioner of the Dept. of Banking and Insurance Jaynee LaVecchia, and the assistant commissioner for legislative and regulatory affairs to block the state’s new auto insurance reform law from going into effect (Chiropractic America v. LaVecchia).
Richard Jaffe Esq. again led the judicial battle for Chiropractic America. “This case has national significance,” Mr. Jaffe told the Houston Business Journal. “It will determine who makes treatment decisions: the doctor and the patient, or the state government and the insurance companies.”
And it did in fact have national significance. After a lengthy court battle, this case was finally decided in the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Chiropractic America was victorious and the insurance reform law was blocked.
Also in 1998, Chiropractic America successfully convinced the Florida Attorney General to reverse a rule that would have severely limited chiropractor’s ability to participate in any form of collective advertising. This time he was able to protect the rights of chiropractors without taking it all the way to the US Supreme Court. By testifying and presenting valid arguments, he was able to stop the rule (Rule 64B2-15.001 Florida Administrative Code) in its tracks.
Unfortunately for Chiropractic America and for chiropractic, by this time managed care was dramatically shifting financial realities and focus within the profession. By 1999, Chiropractic America’s membership numbers had begun to drop significantly. The advertising-oriented model that had been so helpful for the profession in the early to mid-1990s was no longer enough to overcome the realities of survival in a managed care driven healthcare system, and many chiropractors were forced to restrict their investment in marketing in order to afford other expenses of practice management.
In 2005, at the urging of another longtime friend, Gary was convinced that the timing was right for the effort to be revived – and that in fact it was needed more than ever before. There had been no market growth for some years and the reputation of the profession was lagging. Shortly thereafter, Gary found out he had cancer.
Gary spent the last few months he was able to work attending Parker Seminar in Las Vegas, meeting with leaders both inside and outside chiropractic in Colorado, Utah, Florida, Massachusetts and other locations garnering support for a reinvigorated and refocused Chiropractic America.
The results is a new website, www.YourSpine.com that serves as a central base to aggregate the power of thousands of doctors nationwide to promote spinal health and chiropractic. The new site is written for consumers as a spinal health advocacy and patient education resource. A program has been designed to place the site at the top of the search engine results for hundreds of health related web queries, thereby placing information about the benefits of chiropractic care in the hands of internet users at the exact moment they are in need of care.
The nation’s leading healthcare public relations firm, the Feinstein Kean Healthcare division of Ogilvy PR Worldwide has been retained to drive the message of chiropractic into the mainstream media. Establishing this relationship was literally the last act of Gary’s long and productive career as a servant to the chiropractic community. Additionally, national co-sponsorship arrangements are in negotiation that will continue and expand the tradition established through Gary’s earlier efforts.
Gary’s life work has been to spread the message of chiropractic. He inspired that passion in me, and I will continue the valuable work he began through Chiropractic America. Like many others involved with the chiropractic profession, I am indebted to Gary for his tireless efforts, and grateful for all he accomplished.
Garrison Younger Pomeroy
6-14-1957 to 11-28-2006