It occurred to me. For someone looking for last minute Christmas gifts for the credulous, perhaps the Chi Machine, which I mentioned this morning, won’t fit the bill. One thing about it is that it’s too limited in what it can do, and if I’m going to give the gift of woo for Christmas, I really want to give the gift of woo.

That’s why I’m really grateful to a regular reader who, for reasons that will become obvious, will probably want to remain nameless, who turned me on to another great gift for the holidays. Even better, it comes from a most unexpected source. Yes, with the help of Duke University’s Integrative Medicine Program, you can give the gift of woo for the holidays by purchasing a gift certificate, good for some grade A primo woo. Even better, it’s academically endorsed by Duke University, which means that it has to work. After all, a high-powered research institution like Duke wouldn’t sell you this stuff if the modalities didn’t have a sound basis in science and clinical trials behind them, would it?

Of course not. Perish the thought that it’s a marketing gimmick.

Be that as it may, though, you can use these fabulous gift certificates to get what looks like, in essence, a spa treatment (which at least will make you feel good, with a massage or or sauna treatment). But that isn’t really woo. Fortunately, for the credulous who get one of these gift certificates, Duke Integrative Medicine offers a veritable cornucopia of real woo, including acupuncture and even reiki therapy (one of the woo-iest of woos). Not enough for you? Duke even offers reflexology, a discipline that tells us that every disease humans suffer is some how linked to various points on the feet and hands and that by massaging those points the body can be cleansed of toxin and conditions as diverse as anemia, earaches, heart disease and kidney stones treated. Of course, if you go into it looking at reflexology as nothing more than a glorified foot massage with delusions of grandeur, then you’ll probably find it relaxing. Just don’t expect any diseases to be cured.

Not enough woo? How about polarity therapy, whatever that is? The brochure describes it as “working with the body’s energies through light touch,” but who knows what that means? I had never heard of it before, which is surprising, given how long I’ve been at this. So I went to the source, so to speak, the American Polarity Therapy Association, which states:

A blend of modern science and complementary medicine, Polarity Therapy is a comprehensive health system involving energy-based bodywork, diet, exercise and self-awareness. Scientifically, it works with the Human Energy Field, electromagnetic patterns expressed in mental, emotional and physical experience. In Polarity Therapy, health is viewed as a reflection of the condition of the energy field, and therapeutic methods are designed to balance the field for health benefit. There are 3 types of energy fields in the human body: Long line currents that run north to south on the body; Transverse currents that run east-west in the body; and spiral currents that start at the navel and expand outward.

In the healing arts, Polarity Therapy is special in its comprehensive exploration of the different dimensions of the human condition (physical, mental and emotional). Polarity Therapy seeks to bridge the full spectrum of body, mind and spirit: the body is designed by nature to heal itself. Polarity Therapy assists in this natural occurrence). Applying the Polarity Therapy system can take diverse forms, always based on the underlying intention to support the client’s inherent self-healing intelligence as expressed in its energetic patterns.

In other words, polarity therapy is every bit as much much woo as reiki therapy. Thanks, APTA! Now I know.

You know, as a surgeon, it depresses the hell out of me to see Duke University supporting this sort of stuff. The reason is simple. The Department of Surgery at Duke University is one of the most prestigious and academic departments there ever was. Indeed, just thinking about the Duke Integrative Medicine program makes me wonder what Dr. David Sabiston, Jr. (the editor of a ubiquitous surgical textbook, as well), who ruled the department from 1964-1994 and produced arguably more department chairs of surgery than any other program. He did it through a highly rigorous clinical training program in which you were “done” when Dr. Sabiston thought you were done, coupled with lots of laboratory research experience. In fact, the Duke surgical residency program used to be referred to in the surgery biz as a “decade with Dave” because it often took a decade to complete. Indeed, under his tenure, the Duke surgery program was legendary and arguably the best in the nation. Certainly it was considered one of the top three or so.

Looking at how Duke has started to promote stuff like this, I wonder what Dr. Sabiston thinks of the Integrative Medicine program at Duke. I bet he never thought his beloved institution would be offering gift certificates for woo for the holidays.


  1. #1 DLC
    December 21, 2007

    Hmm… woo-medicine, the gift that keeps on giving ?
    How about surgical gift certificates… with every ten you give away, you get a free minor procedure ?
    Nah, it’d never work.

  2. #2 J-Dog
    December 21, 2007

    WTF??! Something NEW to hate the Dukies for?
    Halle-effing -luya!

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    December 21, 2007

    “Polarity Therapy” sounds like something Geordi LaForge would do to a sick warp drive.

    “We can break free of the Romulan tractor beam if we reverse the polarity on the starboard nacelle and set up a tachyonic resonance between our warp core and their quantum singularity power-plant!”

  4. #4 Sastra
    December 21, 2007

    A blend of modern science and complementary medicine, Polarity Therapy is a comprehensive health system involving energy-based bodywork, diet, exercise and self-awareness.

    Science. They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

    Seriously, it is almost impossible to convince my friends who believe in “energy medicine” that it’s not scientifically supported, given the fact that real hospitals are now promoting it. Their doing so feeds into the idea that there are different kinds of science.

    There’s the science that narrow-minded materialists do, and then there’s the science of the people — science for the open-minded, the generous, the spiritual, the venturesome. Science for the courageous few who are not afraid to say that the ancients were on to something we have lost — and are now being vindicated. Try it for yourself and see. Make up your own mind based on what works for you. That kind of science. Nice science.

    Now — which kind of science would a nice person like you embrace?

  5. #5 spudbeach
    December 21, 2007

    About the woo: I’m speechless. What can one say about “three types of energy fields”? If only they would say exactly what those energy fields do and how they could be detected, then we could perhaps design an experiment to disprove their existence. Not that the alties would listen.

    About Duke: Having been married to a doctor, I remember stories about the Duke surgery residency. (My wife went through the match in 1990, evidently right at the heyday.) One of her classmates matched to Duke surgery, with the knowledge that there were lots of q2’s (i.e., one night on call, one night off). They didn’t fill, and the scuttlebutt was that they were looking at q1’s! And what if your marriage deteriorated under the stress? As the story I heard went, a resident asked for an extra night off to keep his marriage alive. He was told “Son, you can always get another wife, but you can’t come back to Duke.”

    And these two things (woo and rigor) are in the same institution? I boggle. Must be a sellout for money.

  6. #6 Sophist, FCD
    December 25, 2007

    Duke Integrative Medicine offers…acupuncture…reiki therapy…reflexology…polarity therapy…

    So wait, everything about your body is controlled through your feet, but everything about your body is also controlled by your energy field and your chi and your chakra and certain wavelengths of light and the memory of water and the phase of the moon, ad infinitum?

    My question is, how can you even wake up in the morning without totally altering every aspect of your health? I mean, there are so many parallel methods that can alter any aspect of your being that I’m surprised an altie can stub his toe without curing his earache, realigning his spine and giving himself herpes.

  7. #7 Oldfart
    December 28, 2007

    Actually, training surgeons by torturing them for 10 years and destroying any personal relatonships they have sounds like the worst woo possible to me. How could that technique possibly create a better surgeon? Sounds like it could create a better sadist or serial killer. Is there any scientific prinicple behind that kind of education? At all? Any?


  8. #8 Great Christmas gifts
    February 19, 2008

    The gift of woo for Christmas is great idea.

  9. #9 Great Christmas gifts
    February 19, 2008

    The gift of woo for Christmas is great idea.

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