Student learning is at the core of Palmer College of Chiropractic’s mission and the main focus of Dr. Dennis Marchiori since he became chancellor in 2009. As the college developed new initiatives to improve student learning and strengthen the organization, it also began to focus on public perceptions of the  profession.

To develop initiatives and ensure those could be attained, the first objective was to strengthen Palmer College of Chiropractic as an organization. “One mentor told me at the time, ‘no margin no mission,’” Marchiori says. “If you don’t take care of the organization and make sure it’s as strong as it can be, especially fiscally, you can have the most aspirational mission and vision, and you won’t reach it.” 

Marchiori started with internal communications by establishing full employee meetings at the campus level and encouraging similar meetings at the department level at each of Palmer’s its three campuses in Davenport, Iowa, Port Orange, Fla., and San Jose, Calif. “We started to have conversations about what we needed to do to improve the organization,” he adds. “That communication was key. From there we started to adopt some key measures across the institution that influence all employees, codified them into an annual college report and that report was disseminated internally to employees and externally to alumni and friends.”  

Upward Communication

Communication between Marchiori and all stakeholders in Palmer College of Chiropractic improved, including communication with the board of trustees through the addition of open dialogue sessions at the beginning and end of the multiple-day meetings. “Instead of having only business items on the board’s agenda, we scheduled time for open communication between the trustees and chancellor. These sessions encouraged strategic thinking to inform our planning, which was beneficial,” Marchiori says.  

Creating a “strategic thinking zone” resulted in more participatory meetings and board engagement. “We also developed a predictable schedule of the different administrative reports during the business portion of the board meetings, so members could anticipate the agenda, prepare and participate in a deeper discussion,” Marchiori explains. “That led to, I think, a more organized, relevant and meaningful engagement for trustees.”

Palmer College of Chiropractic also believes in building a strong, supportive community around the institution, and two years ago it began actively engaging alumni to accomplish more. The annual college report is a useful tool in engaging alumni. “We want to get from here to there and this is how you can help,” Marchiori explains. “When you’re transparent about where you are and where you want to be, alumni get behind you.”

External Projects

Palmer College of Chiropractic began looking outside its own walls and how it could do more at the professional level. “We started to discuss what we needed to do with limited resources to impact the chiropractic profession in a positive way,” he adds.  

The college committed to study and improve the industry’s professional identity and public perception. This began with an elaborate effort to establish a succinct statement to identify chiropractors: “The primary care professional for spinal health and well-being.” “Identification is not to be confused with description,” Marchiori says. “Identity is this thin slice. If you had one elevator floor to tell someone about chiropractors that’s what you would say.” 

Through that research, Palmer College of Chiropractic realized how naïve the public may be in regards to what chiropractors do and the need for more research in that area. 

Although many people see a chiropractor, Marchiori says there is a large number who have spine complaints, headaches, etc. that are not seeing one. To understand why, the  team decided to collaborate with the Gallup organization. The college signed a three-year contract to survey the public about chiropractic. 

Gallup and Palmer recently completed the first of the three-year survey project. Gallup surveyed 5,400 Americans on topics related to chiropractic care, which Marchiori says is the first survey of its type in terms of scale and focus on the public’s point of view. “We needed to stop thinking we know what the public wants and actually go ask them,” he adds. “The survey found chiropractic was utilized to a greater degree than we thought and a greater proportion of the public is open to seeing a chiropractor. But we aren’t exactly sure what’s holding them back.” 

In the years to come, Palmer is looking forward to tracking points of misinformation and getting the facts out there. “One of my big tasks over the last year has been to travel as much as I can and get in front of people to let them know that this work exists, how they can use it and how it will make a difference,” Marchiori says. “I want to change the attitudes and behaviors on points of misinformation leading to greater access and improved care for patients.” 

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