Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Homeopaths and naturopaths and CAM, oh my! Quackademic medicine corrupting medical students

Time and time again, I’ve complained about the infiltration of woo into medical school and medical education, so much so that I’ve echoed Dr. R. W.’s term for it: Quackademic medicine. One tool advocates of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) use to try to “get ’em while they’re young,” so to speak, is to promote themselves among student groups. I’ve complained about the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) before, but AMSA is not the only culprit. Beware the student-run interest group in “cross-cultural and integrative medicine,” especially when it hooks up with a CAM institute.

Tim Kreider, whose experience is a little closer to home than I really like, tells the tale of homeopath named Dr. Larry Baskind and a naturopath named Peter Bongiorno giving talks on campus, truly painful for physicians who want to teach medical students science- and evidence-based medicine, rather than woo. Unfortunately, having been in contact with Tim, I know there’s more to come, and it may not be pretty. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out why Tim is one of the best new medical student bloggers out there.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

6 replies on “Homeopaths and naturopaths and CAM, oh my! Quackademic medicine corrupting medical students”

I teach at a small undergrad colllege, out health professions direction loves woo. I used to spend a lot of time countering ID and creationism, but feel woo is a greater threat to lives than being a creationist. I would love to get involved, are there groups? good places to get caught up? I want to join the front line, not just be a back seat whiner.

Homeoquacks and witch doctors, a/k/a naturopaths, can be pretty nasty when confronted by science based medicine people. I read Tim’s excellent article on SBM, and would like to offer up my somewhat worn, but still servicable level 2 vest. He is going to need it.

I’m for full-on ridicule. The problem with treating the CAM folk “respectfully” is that it gives them exactly what they want. The medically-qualified ones refuse to engage with the idea that it is placebo / stealth talking therapy, and it is viewed as too “combative” / non-PC to call them on it. So “integrative” medicine ( a.k.a. Woo) gets a pass again.

Anyway, like I say, I think straight ridicule is the way to go. My own small contributions can be found on my blog, e.g. here. For homeopathy I particularly recommend this song-lyric, while for Woo in general another musical (lyric) offering is here.

Sorry for the self-aggrandizing plugging of my blog, but you gotta do what ya gotta do… and I think a few protest songs might be just the thing to rally support for reality.

Here in Barcelona, the medical profession seems to be completely indifferent to the woo-takeover. I’m tired of hearing that colleagues have been recommended all sorts of “alternatives” by their doctors – or the latter have stood by whilst patients resolve (?) their health problems with woo, commending the practitioners in question with fulsome praise. Osteopathy and chiropractic are promoted without the slightest reserve and veterinary woo is rife. Why can’t the medical faculties make some sort of pronouncemnt on the current state of scientific thought on this stuff?

Surely the problem plaguing outright trust in professionals across multiple disciplines stems from the repeated and unchecked uncovering of schemes, kickbacks, sponsors, lobbyists, paid “research studies”, and other minor findings that are found to disprove long-time popularly held beliefs and proclaimed “truths” such as the earth being round.

One recent story from the NYT highlighted such a case that only serves to further the public’s distrust of institutions supposedly serving the best interest of its patients. This leads to questioning how prevalent such practices are in current patient care and can only be extrapolated to every other discipline of study from dentistry to finance.

Start holding your ground towards drug companies and lobbyists and start standing up to Congress with the boisterous emotion you carry on this website and maybe the public will once again begin entrusting its medical professionals with the respect they deserve.

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