Close-up oblique view of human lumbar vertebra model

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The General Assembly likely will consider a proposed School of Chiropractic Medicine at Winston-Salem State University when members reconvene next month, a local legislator says. If approved, it would be first publicly funded chiropractic program in the United States.

The UNC board of governors approved the proposal last week, state Rep. Ed Hanes, D-Forsyth, said in a statement. The current state budget provided up to $100,000 for the UNC system to study whether it made economic sense to set up the school at WSSU.

Hanes couldn’t be reached Wednesday to comment on the proposed school. In the statement, Hanes said that he supports the measure.

“We are appreciative of the General Assembly’s passion for improving the health outcomes of our state, and in the implied confidence in Winston-Salem State’s ability to be the driving force to address these needs by forming a school of chiropractic,” Hanes said. “(The) national opioid crisis has demonstrated the need for alternative medical treatment and training to take place. Winston-Salem State University is uniquely positioned to take on this important mission.”

The UNC Sheps Center for Health Services Research has released its 10-page study about the proposed WSSU School of Chiropractic Medicine and the chiropractic workforce in North Carolina. The UNC board reviewed the study before it approved the project.

Four people interviewed for the study, including three chiropractors with four-year degrees in chiropractics, indicated that the demand for chiropractic services would increase because of increased public attention to the opioid epidemic, which may encourage patients to seek natural, non-pharmaceutical alternatives for pain management, according to the study.

The study didn’t examine the costs and financing for a new school. Chiropractors are health-care professionals who treat musculoskeletal and nervous system disorders, such as back pain, neck pain and headaches.

Jay Davis, a WSSU spokesman, said Wednesday that it would be premature to make any predictions about the proposed school.

“Should the General Assembly move forward with a program, we hope they will also provide the resources that are necessary — including funding for facilities, curriculum development, specialized faculty and sustained operating costs,” Davis said. “WSSU is known as a powerhouse in educating healthcare professionals.”

Dr. Ricky Sides, a local chiropractor and a member of the WSSU board of trustees, said that the proposed school is the right approach.

“It would be the first public chiropractic school in the nation,” Sides said. “It would be historic for the state of North Carolina. There is strong interest in our area and across the state for a school of chiropractic medicine.”

Sides said that the cost of establishing the school would be manageable because WSSU already has existing classrooms and instructors in its health science programs. After the school is operating, it could attract research money from the National Institute of Health and other research institutions, Sides said.

“The funding should less of a concern than getting the school going,” Sides said. “Once you have a program in place, the funding will be available.”

The UNC study stated that a chiropractic program at WSSU could increase diversity in the profession and among patients who seek treatments from chiropractors. Most chiropractors in the state are white, and blacks and Hispanics don’t use chiropractic services as much as whites, the study showed.

“It is possible that locating a school at WSSU, a historically black college, may increase awareness of the profession among potential students and patients,” the study said.

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