The Academic Woo Aggregator

Note: The Aggregator was updated on May 18, 2008.

Last week, almost on a whim, I decided to try to figure out just how much woo has infiltrated academic medicine by trying to come up with an estimate of just how many academic medical centers offer woo of some form or another in the form of centers of "integrative medicine" or "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM). I was shocked that the list numbered at least 39, with at least 12 offering reiki and five or six offering homeopathy. Dr. RW has expressed his support for this effort and at the same time given me an idea:

I knew such a list would be large, but seeing it all in one post was overwhelming. As the list grows it will need updating frequently to keep it current and near the top of our blogs, an effort to which I hope to contribute from time to time.

That's what I should have thought of. This list needs to be updated constantly. For example, I just found another example of academic medical woo that I somehow missed last week:

MindBody Patient Care Program, New York University (also the Holistic Nursing Program)

Given that NYU is well known as the nursing school that originated, teaches, and promotes therapeutic touch, I should have found this one for the original article. This program seems to be "under the radar" in that there does not appear to be a website for the entire program, just references to it on various departmental web pages.

So here, now, is the Academic Woo Aggregator, a list of all the academic medical centers with woo programs:

  1. The Cleveland Clinic
  2. The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Columbia University
  3. Cornell University Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine
  4. The Continuum Center for Health and Healing, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
  5. Duke Integrative Medicine
  6. Henry Ford Health System (affiliated with the University of Michigan)
  7. Georgetown University Medical Center (discussed here)
  8. Harvard Medical School Osher Institute, Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medicine
  9. Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University
  10. Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program
  11. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  12. MindBody Patient Care Program, New York University
  13. Integrative Medicine Program, Children's Memorial Hospital (Northwestern University)
  14. Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group Center for Integrative Medicine (Northwestern University)
  15. Beaumont Hospitals Integrative Medicine Program, Oakland University
  16. The Ohio State University Center for Integrative Medicine
  17. Oregon Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Neurologic Disorders, Oregon Health and Science University (Also, the OHSU Center for Women's Health Integrative Medicine Program)
  18. Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine
  19. Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine
  20. Complementary & Alternative Research and Education Program, University of Alberta (pediatrics, yet!)
  21. University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine
  22. Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, University of California, Irvine
  23. University of California at Los Angeles Collaborative Centers for Integrative Medicine
  24. Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  25. University of Colorado
  26. University of Connecticut Health Center (where a "debate" about homeopathy was recently held)
  27. Department of Integrative Medicine, Hartford Hospital, University of Connecticut
  28. University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine
  29. The Integrative Care Project, University of Kentucky Colleges of Medicine and Health Sciences
  30. University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness
  31. Institute for Complementary & Alternative Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ-ICAM)
  32. University of Michigan Medical School
  33. University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing
  34. University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Section of Integrative Medicine
  35. Program on Integrative Medicine, University of North Carolina
  36. PENNCAM, University of Pennsylvania
  37. Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  38. University of Texas Medical Branch Complementary & Alternative Medicine Project
  39. University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Integrative Medicine Program
  40. University of Washington School of Medicine Integrative health Program
  41. University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine (whose webpages seem to have been deleted but still come up when a search is done using the University web page's search engine; what this means is unclear)
  42. Vanderbilt Center for Integrative Health
  43. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Program for Holistic and Integrative Medicine
  44. Center for Integrative Medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center
  45. Integrative Medicine at Yale

And here is the Academic Super Woo Aggregator, which includes academic medical centers that offer pretty much uncritically reiki (or its variants like therapeutic touch and other "energy medicine" techniques) or, that woo of woo, homeopathy (H=offers homeopathy; R=offers reiki or related "energy medicine" modalities, with the link to the appropriate web page):

  1. Beaumont Hospitals (R)
  2. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation (R)
  3. Albert Einstein College of Medicine (R)
  4. Duke University (R)
  5. Thomas Jefferson University (H)
  6. New York University (R)
  7. Children's Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University (R)
  8. University of Connecticut Health Center (H, R)
  9. Department of Integrative Medicine, Hartford Hospital, University of Connecticut (R)
  10. University of Maryland (H, R)
  11. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (R)
  12. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (H, R)
  13. University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (R)
  14. University of Washington School of Medicine (H)
  15. University of Wisconsin (R)
  16. George Washington University (R)
  17. Integrative Medicine at Yale (R, H)

In any case, I'll be updating this page on a regular basis and either linking back to it or reposting the list. If you are aware of any "integrative medicine" or CAM programs in an academic medical center that aren't on the list above, please either name them in the comments or e-mail me about them. I'm sure it's not just North American medical schools that have them; so I don't want to limit the list just to our one continent.

Also, I'm quite sure that the Academic Super Woo Aggregator list should be much larger, but many of the web pages in the Academic Woo Aggregator don't list in detail the CAM modalities that they offer, preferring vague descriptions or to say that they offer a "complete" integrative medicine consultation. That's why I would appreciate any feedback or updates to the Super Woo Aggregator as well, even if it simply means adding a program from the Woo Aggregator to the Super Woo Aggregator. I'm hoping to make this page, along with my original post about this topic, standing web pages that can be resources for skeptical physicians, patients, medical students, nurses, and other medical personnel. So help me out! I want your academic woo!

The original post that started it all and includes excerpts of credulous prose about these modalities found on actual university websites is here, in case anyone's forgotten. Periodically, I will post about new entries to the Woo Aggregator and link back to this updated list, including the new entries along with the date on which they were entered.


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Holy crap! That's pretty depressing.
I'm all about a nice massage, but all of these seem to go way beyond that.

Sigh. Thanks for compiling this.

I've floated the idea among several people associated with the U of MN Center for Spirituality and Healing of doing a head-to-head comparison of "therapeutic touch" and "guided imagery" -- but I got no takers. Although I think guided imagery also lends itself to wooish thinking, I'd like to see the comparison done, because it would address the "locus of causality" issue. If people who simply imagined themselves being therapeutically touched did as well as those who got the "real thing," well, you get the picture. But, as I said, I got no takers.

By bob koepp (not verified) on 18 Nov 2007 #permalink

Thanks for taking the trouble to do this. Sadly, both my undergraduate and graduate institutions are on your list. Happily, my current institution is not.

Barnes Jewish Hospital (a US News top 10 hospital) offers Healing Touch to patients and classes to staff.

To the average person, hospital endorsement means chi energy is REAL. It's supported by science. It's not controversial anymore.

So why isn't it accepted by physicists? I've asked, and all I get is either a shrug -- or an explanation that human biology systems are not part of the ordinary universe, and thus not subject to the kinds of laws which physicists study.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what their religions have been telling them about the soul all along.

And thanks from me also. I have a partial list, but someone should have been following this for years. I surveyed all med schools for courses taught (1994-7, published in Acad Med, 2002) Only 4 courses taught the stuff scientifically.

The "Consortium", sponsored by the Bravewell Foudation funds 36 of these programs.

Some are med school courses, some classes, some clinic services, some residencies (yes, specialty residencies)

Some skeptical faculties have succcessfully prevented or eliminated some of these over the past 5 years. Most faculties are income-deficient and conflict-averse, so just allow the courses to exist - quackery and all.


By Wallace Sampson MD (not verified) on 19 Nov 2007 #permalink

I heard yesterday that U of C has a herbal medicine center; you can imagine my initial embarrassment. Upon looking into it a bit more, it turns out it's an herbal medicine research center and actually looks fairly legitimate, although there is little to no information about what doesn't work.

I am proud to say that the University of Louisville (my Alma Mater) does NOT have a woo dept. Our in state rivals at the University of Kentucky DO have one (HA HA HA HA HA!)
The Integrative Care project is at

By S. K. Sutton (not verified) on 21 Jan 2008 #permalink

Hi all,

Like you, I'm strongly in support of evidence-based medicine. That said, I'm often surprised that skeptics dismiss the various forms of therapeutic touch out of hand. There seems to me to be a huge range of valid paths of inquiry in this domain- e.g. how does the psychology of therapeutic touch impact the immune response, and how well do the concepts of chi, meridians, etc, map onto our understanding of the nervous system? If there is any evidence that, say, acupuncture can alleviate pain or speed healing then we ought to be investigating so as to improve existing evidence-based techniques.

Thanks, this is just what I needed to start my morning pissed off. As a Connecticut native, on behalf of my home state, I apologize. I had always been under the impression that UCONN was one of the better medical schools out there, but lately is seems to me that the entire state is in danger of becoming so liberal and open-minded that it's brains fall out. There has got to be something that can be done about this.

Re. "is there anything legitmate to look at within e.g. therapeutic touch", Rob wrote:

"[You could study] how ...the psychology of therapeutic touch impacts the immune response"

Well, maybe, but N.B. ANY placebo-based "intervention" would do just as well for this - indeed, you could probably infer such things from the "control" arm of a "does therapy X work any better than placebo" study, if there was a also a "no treatment" arm. Plus treatment / placebo effects are ALREADY well-studied. It's just that the Alties prefer not to notice this, since they mostly insist - all evidence to the contrary - that they are not simple eliciting placebo effects.

"How well do the concepts of chi, meridians, etc, map onto our understanding of the nervous system?"

This one is easy. The answer is "Not one bit. In the slightest." Sticking needles in may well have an effect, but the best available evidence says that where you stick them (all the "Wisdom of the Ancients" philosophy) makes zero difference.

I am all for scientifically investigating WHY sticking needles in folk appears to have real effects in some studies, but the Mystic Belief-Based Claptrap that Alties clothe it in should go straight in the dumpster, and has no place in science. If you want to call it "Medical Anthropology", be my guest. But let's not call it medicine, see Orac's thread on the Naming of CAM.

In the interest of adding to your growing list, I thought I would point you to the member list of the "Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine"
A number of these members might be on your list, but I know at least one, Yale Medical School, is not.

I'm in a program for nursing. When I'm done I'll go from having no nursing degree (I've got a bachelor's in journalism) to having an MSN. Generally, I think this is a great program which stresses evidence-based practice. And yet, not only are some of the professors into "alternative" therapy, but we've had speakers on "healing touch" and other nonsense. I realize medicine and nursing each has a different focus, but medicine isn't alone in this. Sadly.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute (NCI) has reiki in the waiting room. I kid you not. Couldn't find anything on their website...want me to swipe you a flyer?

By HospiceDoc (not verified) on 18 Apr 2008 #permalink

Add the enter VA health care system-therapeutic touch minus the touch to focus your energy fields and other assorted woo.
And Kaiser-Permanente System out west offers accupuncture and other stuff.