There was a quiet pause after my presentation, that interlude just before questions will be asked and answered. While there had been a few questions during the initial presentation, this was clearly the time for clarification and further investigation. The audience? Fourth year medical students in the dual degree MD / PhD program.
"I get all this," a student interjected. "I mean, all this makes sense to me and while you were speaking I was looking at the what the science has to say about the role of massage in health care. It looks promising. What I am wondering is, are you a representative sample of your profession? Or, in other words, are there people out there who can deliver what you show massage is capable of?"
I didn't see that one coming.
As someone in my fortieth year of practice, I was a bit stunned at where we have come. Here is a medical student who looks at the research and says massage therapy is likely to play a role in our health care system. I don't think there was a single published study on massage therapy when I started my practice. My clinic receives many referrals from physicians, which reveals their acceptance and respect for the work. Surveys about the public perception of massage are very positive. This is a level of acceptance of massage therapy that I could have only dreamed about twenty years ago.
His question however, is right to the central point that is still an issue. Wherever this young man ends up practicing, will there be qualified massage therapists in the area for him to refer to? Since we had just spent an hour going over the scientific literature in massage, will whoever he refers to have familiarity with the literature as well? Will the massage therapist be able to execute the manual approaches that can create consistent results for the people he refers?
For those of us in the field, this is our moment. Never has the need for this work nor the public perception been better. We, as a profession, need to up our game. We need better consistency across the board in our graduates and therapists in practice. We need bright and motivated young people coming into the field. We need to grow them into true professionals and they need to think and act professionally as well. The time is right. The field is set. So many people have come before us, laying the groundwork for this moment. Let's, as a profession, seize this moment and embrace the mission in front of us. The world needs what we have to offer, but we must be ready to deliver it. The time is right. The time is now.