A tale of specialization in 2 professions: Comparing the development of radiology in chiropractic and medicine

Young, Kenneth orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8837-7977 (2019) A tale of specialization in 2 professions: Comparing the development of radiology in chiropractic and medicine. Journal of Chiropractic Humanities, 26 . pp. 3-18. ISSN 1556-3499

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.echu.2019.09.001


The purpose of this article is to describe the development of radiology as a specialty in chiropractic with a comparison to the development of the specialty of radiology in medicine.

Specialization in medicine has been notably successful, with advanced training and enhanced capabilities in specialized skills leading to better outcomes for patients and increased prestige for practitioners. However, with chiropractic, as with other complementary and alternative medicine professions, no specialization has been recognized within it. Specialist radiology training in chiropractic bears a resemblance to that of medicine, with competitive entry for residencies, certification exams, and the creation of a journal and specialist professional organizations. To facilitate the comparison, I have divided the development of radiology into 4 phases from the chiropractic perspective. Phase 1 started with the discovery of x-rays in 1895, in which medicine adopted them but chiropractic did not. Phase 2 began in 1910 when B. J. Palmer introduced radiography to show chiropractic subluxations. Phase 3 started in 1942 when Waldo Poehner advocated for the mainstream diagnostic use of radiography in addition to subluxation analysis. Phase 4 started in 1957 when an examining board for certification in diagnostic radiology was assembled and many chiropractors began to embrace the mainstream medical use of radiography.

In this tale of 2 professions, radiology gained official specialty designation in the field of medicine. The medical profession had a monopoly on health care, and thus had few internal and external barriers to overcome. Chiropractic was oppressed by organized medicine, which helped to create the unofficial specialty of chiropractic radiology but which also later helped to limit the specialty. Chiropractic radiology has maintained its independence and autonomy, but also remains on the fringe of mainstream health care.

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