Education

I've been writing about a phenomenon that I like to refer to as "quackademic medicine," defined as the infiltration into academic medical centers and medical school of unscientific and pseudoscientific treatment modalities that are unproven or disproven. I didn't coin the term. To the best of my knowledge, Dr. Robert W. Donnell did nine years ago. However, I adopted it with a vengeance, so much so that a lot of people think I coined the term. In any case, I first began sounding the alarm about the infiltration of quackery like acupuncture, "energy medicine," naturopathy, homeopathy,…
A policy brief about Congressional Republicans’ bill to replace the Affordable Care Act has two Medicaid provisions that could prove seriously detrimental to public health and states’ finances: Gutting the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, and changing the current Medicaid financing structure. A Center on Budget and Policy Priority analysis of these two changes calculates that they would shift hundreds of billions in costs from the federal government to the states over the next 10 years. I’ll explain what these two policies are, but first I want to highlight a few things about the Medicaid program. (…
“I didn't even know there were stars to look at to not see. If you don't know that they're there, you don't know that you're missing them.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson, on light pollution As with pretty much every week that goes by, we've had a slew of fantastic stories here at Starts With A Bang! There have also been events galore, including two public talks on gravitational waves and the controversy over the expanding Universe, and many upcoming events, including: March 9th: talks and events at Jacksonville University in FL, March 24-26: appearances and panels at MidSouthCon in Memphis, TN, April…
Neil Gorsuch is a significant and meaningful choice for SCOTUS. The image above is not fake, it really is his Harvard Law yearbook photo. If he was a Democratic pick, that one image would end him. Since he is a Republican pick, democrats have a Big Tent instead of a spine, and Republicans have no ethical floor to avoid crashing into, he will be confirmed. Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017.President Donald Trump on nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his…
The Pump Handle is on a holiday break. The following, which was originally published on August 29, is one of our favorite posts from 2016. by Liz Borkowski, MPH Two decades ago, President Bill Clinton signed the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” (PRWORA) and heralded the end of “welfare as we know it.” The law lived up to that promise, but the outcomes for families who depend on it have been problematic. "If the goal of welfare reform was to get rid of welfare, we succeeded," the University of Wisconsin’s Timothy Smeeding told Vox’s Dylan Matthews. "If the goal…
I don’t have many “rules” per se about blogging, but one informal rule that I do live by is that I never blog about a study if all I can access is the abstract. In general, I insist on having the complete study before I will blog it, because to me the abstract isn’t enough. Basically, if I’m going to blog a study, I generally want to do it right and be able to read the whole paper, because that’s the only way to properly analyze a paper. I find this rule particularly important when analyzing the latest bit of antivaccine pseudoscience, especially because most antivaccine activists don’t go…
It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered Glenn Sabin. You might remember him, though. He runs a consulting firm, FON Therapeutics, which is dedicated to the promotion of “integrative” health, or, as I like to put it, the “integration of pseudoscience and quackery with science-based medicine. What I remember most about Sabin is how he once proclaimed that “integrative medicine” was a brand, not a specialty. Unfortunately, he was correct in his assessment. Basically, he declared, “CAM [complementary and alternative medicine] is dead. The evolution of evidence-based, personalized integrative…
One of the great things about America has been the First Amendment, particularly the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These are rights allow us to gather together to protest when we see something that we don’t think is right and want to change. Unfortunately, there is one downside to these freedoms, and that is that cranks, quacks, and outright twits have just as much right to free speech as anyone. Fortunately, my right to free speech allows me to ridicule these twits for annoying people, endangering public health, and in general making publicly making idiots of themselves…
The environmental justice, public health, and other communities are mourning the death of Steve Wing. Dr. Wing was an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. I did not have the privilege of personally knowing Dr. Wing, but I often used his papers in the classroom. His articles on collaborative research projects with communities which were adversely affected by industrial swine operations were exceptional for their intersection of science and social justice (e.g., here, here, here.) Among those remembering Steve Wing is…
A little over a month ago, I wrote about how proponents of "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM), now more frequently called "integrative medicine," go to great lengths to claim nonpharmacological treatments for, well, just about anything as somehow being CAM or "integrative." The example I used was a systematic review article published by several of the bigwigs at that government font of pseudoscience, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) about CAM approaches for the management of chronic pain. You can read my whole post for yourself if you want the…
Corporal punishment in America’s public schools seems like a relic of the past — a practice we had surely banned long ago. The reality, however, is that it’s perfectly legal to physically discipline students as young as preschoolers in 19 states. And according to a new report, corporal punishment is most often used against black students and students with disabilities. Released earlier this week as a “Social Policy Report” from the Society for Research in Child Development, the report found that in Alabama and Mississippi, black children are at least 51 percent more likely to be physically…
“Put two ships in the open sea, without wind or tide, and, at last, they will come together. Throw two planets into space, and they will fall one on the other. Place two enemies in the midst of a crowd, and they will inevitably meet; it is a fatality, a question of time; that is all.” -Jules Verne As the final three months of the year begin, it’s again time to look back on the past week here at Starts With A Bang! Lots of exciting stories were met with a number of interesting and provocative comments, which is what I always like to see. Here's what we covered, in case you missed anything:…
One of the most pernicious changes in medicine that’s occurred over the last 25 years or so is the infiltration of what I like to refer to as “quackademic medicine.” It’s a term that was, as far as I know, coined by Dr. Robert W. Donnell in 2009 to describe the infiltration of pseudoscience and quackery into medical schools and academic medical centers under the mantle of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), now more commonly referred to as “integrative medicine. However, over the years, I’ve embraced the term to describe the “integration” of quackery and pseudoscience into…
I didn’t think I’d be revisiting this topic again so soon, but damned if Alice Dreger didn’t write something that comes pretty close to demanding that I do so. I tried to resist, but unfortunately could not. Basically, I’m getting really, really tired of Dreger. Why do I say that? It’s because I’m having a harder and harder time not thinking that she has antivaccine proclivities. I don’t want to. I really don’t. But, damn, if she doesn’t keep sounding like a blogger on Age of Autism or The Thinking Moms’ Revolution. The echoes are unmistakeable and appeared again just yesterday. I first…
A lot of higher education institutions are old, and back in the day, things were different. Not only were most schools simultaneously on top of and on the bottom of great snow covered hills, but they were often surrounded by nearly medieval settlement, or at least, pre-industrial ones, that lacked things like central heat, electricity, and so on, even after these things became common and normal. I remember the legacy of this reality at my Alma Mater, a small university in Cambridge, Mass. Most of the campus had its own heating system, which was built at a time when centrally distributed…
Women and Physics by Laura McCulloch is a concise addition to the IOP Science Concise Physics series. McCullough is an award winning Professor of Physics at UW Stout, and served for several years as the chair of that university’s Chemistry and Physics Department. Her research focuses on physics education, and gender and science. By both chance and design, I know a lot of people in this area, and I’m pretty sure IOP Science could not have had a better choice in authors for this important book. How do you make a physicist? Well, you start with a child, and poke at it for 25 year or so until it…
Two decades ago, President Bill Clinton signed the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” (PRWORA) and heralded the end of “welfare as we know it.” The law lived up to that promise, but the outcomes for families who depend on it have been problematic. "If the goal of welfare reform was to get rid of welfare, we succeeded," the University of Wisconsin’s Timothy Smeeding told Vox’s Dylan Matthews. "If the goal was to get rid of poverty, we failed." (A bit of background: PRWORA replaced the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or AFDC,  with Temporary…
Classes start on Monday. I knew that intellectually, of course, but I had it brought home to me a few days ago when I innocently drove onto the campus, only to find a traffic jam and crossing guards directing the cars. Students were moving into the dorms, you see. Higher education is beset with problems nowadays, and I can recite the litany as well as any faculty member. But for all the legitimate complaints, the bottom line is that I still think I have the best job in the world. I get out of bed in the morning excited to go to work, and the upsides of my job vastly outweigh the downsides…
In the early days of 2016, my attention was drawn to a local antivaccine doctor of whom I’d heard before but never really paid much attention to. What caught my eye was a blog exchange between this “holistic” family practitioner and former Scienceblogs blogger, friend, and local internist Peter Lipson over this physician’s blog posts attacking a local Jewish summer camp for children for its new requirement that campers must be up to date on their vaccinations as a requirement for attending. Not surprisingly, Dr. Lipson took the side of science and refuted the antivaccine nonsense that had…
I was originally going to write this post for the 4th of July, given the subject matter. However, as regular readers know, I am not unlike Dug the Dog in the movie Up, with new topics that float past me in my social media and blog reading rounds serving as the squirrel. But never let it be said, though, that I don't circle back to topics that interest med. (Wait, strike that. Sometimes, that actually does happen. After all, I have been at this nearly 12 years now. It just didn't happen this time.) This time around, I will be using documents forwarded to me by a reader as a means of revisiting…