Sorry, JHU, but there's only one kind of medicine: treatments that work. Using words such as "traditional," "integrative," and "alternative" is little more than marketing hype to disguise the fact that none of these treatments actually cure anything.
Having JHU endorse this nonsense is a big coup for proponents of these bogus treatments. But I should point out that many - I would venture to bet most - JHU medical researchers and physicians don't support this apparent endorsement by their institution. I was a professor at JHU myself not long ago, and I have many good friends and colleagues there who don't buy into quackery.
So just for entertainment, let's look at what JHU's own newsletter says about the new "herbal consultations":
"Allegra Hamman, CRNP, clinical herbalist and wellness consultant, will be administering the new services for the SHWC. Over the past three years, she has studied herbal medicine at the Tai Sophia Institute, where she received her master's degree in June. As part of her studies, Hamman spent a year and a half treating patients using herbal remedies."Great! The Tai Sophia Institute is a hotbed of quack treatments, including homoepathy, Qi Gong, and acupuncture. Their own website says their "values" include:
- Operate from an acknowledgement and declaration of Oneness.This is New Age gobbledegook, not medicine. Gee, it's a good thing that Hopkins has a nurse who trained at Tai Sophia! I wonder how much they're paying for these valuable services.
- Use nature and the rhythms of the earth as a guide in teaching our students and one another.
By the way, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School started a joint master's degree program with Tai Sophia in 2005, but they came to their senses shortly thereafter and severed the relationship. Before they did, though, they were fiercely criticized by skeptics such as David Colquhoun:
"What on earth was the University of Pennsylvania thinking about when it associated itself with such pathetic twaddle [as Tai Sophia]? Is it that their senior people are so in the grip of the delusional age that they no longer care what's true and what isn't? Or did they just spot a good chance to make money from the gullible public?"Too bad JHU didn't talk to UPenn before they went down this path. Here's more from nurse Hamman about her new herbal consulting practice: "From the point of view of the medical community, I function as a bridge," she said. "I can speak the language of herbs, and I can speak the language of medicine." The language of herbs? What? Is that supposed to mean something, or is it just more New Age nonsense?
She goes on: "Herbalists would say that there's an enormous written record: thousands of years of information about herbal medicines. Traditional use counts for a lot."
Actually, Ms. Hamman: no, it doesn't. What counts is scientific evidence that we can gather through proper studies. Some plant products do indeed have great benefit - take aspirin, for example - but before we can offer them as medicine, we need to show that they work. (Not to mention we need to understand how to identify the active ingredients and how to provide a controlled dose.)
The JHU Newsletter also published an Editorial on this article in which they expressed mild criticism of the move: "While a clinical herbalist may provide an alternative option that appeals to students who do not wish to undergo conventional treatments, the addition of a general practitioner rather than a specialist should be prioritized. Yet, if the University were to hire specialists, there are others who would better serve the needs of the student body, such as a gynecologist or dentist, whose availability should take precedence over the option of an alternative medicine practitioner."
The Editorial misses the main point entirely, though, when it endorses alternative medicine: "Alternative medicine has been proven to be a safe and effective form of treatment for some conditions, and the attractiveness of this more natural form of medicine has propelled it into the realm of mainstream Western medicine including at Hopkins's own Hospital and medical school." And they also say "we supported the Hospital in taking the progressive step of creating a branch for alternative medicine." Sorry, Newsletter editorial staff, but you're wrong. You've been sold by the marketing hype of quack practitioners. "Alternative" medicine has not been proven to be safe and effective for anything, and I challenge you to provide examples. There's only one kind of medicine - the kind that works - and we don't label it "alternative."
Surprisingly, the JHU Newsletter includes a skeptical comment from a student, junior Rick Carrick: "I think that Health and Wellness has some issues just servicing people with regular medicine," he said. "I think that they should focus on getting people the treatment they need normally before they focus on any sort of essentially fake medicine."
Bravo! At least some of the students are too smart to be fooled by this nonsense. Now if only JHU would listen to its own students - and doctors.