Why don't well-credentialed scientists get these TV gigs?

A new daily alternative medicine show is about to be launched on the Healthy Living Channel.

The Healthy Living Channel announced today it is adding to its line-up the widely popular "Nutritional Living with Dr. Ward Bond," a half-hour daily television series dedicated to nutrition, herbal medicine and alternative therapies designed for viewers seeking healthier lives.

"Nutritional Living with Dr. Ward Bond" airs weekdays at noon ET on the Healthy Living Channel, which is distributed through satellite and cable TV in the United States.

When it comes to where I'd turn for information on nutritional sciences and healthy living, I tend to think of well-spoken and established medical scientists like Dr Walter Willett from the Harvard School of Public Health.

So, what does Dr Bond offer in comparison?

Dr. Bond, a prominent American authority on alternative medicines, is widely known for his writings, lectures and TV and radio appearances. He holds a doctorate degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and has formulated many widely recognized products for the natural supplement industry.

Great. Clayton College is widely regarded as a diploma mill lacking sufficient accreditation standards. From Quackwatch:

Clayton states that it is accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board. However, these are not recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education, which means that "accreditation" by them is meaningless.

Dr Bond's website is quite interesting, full of the typical testimonials and essays that lack any references to the scientific literature. He will provide individual nutritional consultations by telephone at $60/30 min or $100/hr, but he will pray for you for free.

After the sodium dichloroacetate discussions of the last few weeks, I am growing weary of hucksters trying to make a buck off of unsuspecting or desperate patients and/or their family members.

But where logic evades me is when I see media outlets giving time and greater exposure to people least qualified to disseminate fact-based health recommendations.

Being a media personality in academia is quite rare and often stands at odds with promotion and tenure, with CNN's Dr Sanjay Gupta standing as one exception to be emulated. I would welcome a time when the academic scientific community cultivates its best communicators who also possess well-documented research and patient care credentials to offset the questionable claims made by those less-qualified individuals...and with far broader media reach.

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The reason that real scientists tend not to get these gigs is because they're too busy doing real science, a handicap that alties like Dr. Bond do not have.

Lovely. The first spam comment takes you to a site that advertises...you guessed it...Clayton College of Natural Health.

One reason that scienists are not on TV is because they don't have sound bites--short snippets that grab your attention. And the reason they have sound bites is because science and the world are complicated. And people don't like complicated things.

If scientists had sound bites then they would be better off. But a sound bite would put them in poor stead with their colleagues. Imagine a scientist saying without qualification that "[blank] is good for you".

Their colleagues will all start thinking of the exceptions--well, not if you are pregnant, or diabetic, or anemic or ......

And to top it off scientists are not, generally speaking, telegenic. They are more concerned with the contents of the package rather than the packaging. Unfortunately, the audience is more concerned with the packaging.

A lot of scientsts could benefit greatly from a dose of public relations or marketing if they plan to communicate with a broad audience.

And please delete the comment from Odom. It is nearly incomprehsible and the grammar is atrocious.

By David C. Brayton (not verified) on 24 Feb 2007 #permalink

The reason scientists aren't on TV is that they're the establishment. By default, they're not cool and most are too busy working anyways. In contrast, alties make their reputation from crap like this, put on by science-illiterate producers who think it's cool.

Leave the spam in there. The medium is the message.

David Brayton makes some very good points about how we need to distill our messages to the public. I'm aware that many universities are finally coming around to giving media training to their scientists to help disseminate factual information for public consumption. I do agree, though, that the general public wants absolutes and not shades of gray. It takes too much time and effort for many people to listen to/read a moderately complex analysis of health information.

Mr. Gunn, I'm leaving the spam comment in also because the IP address tracks to Hyderabad, India, which may explain the grammar. Moreover, the comment indicates the care with which Clayton outsources their online advertising.

The world needs a few more Neil deGrasse Tysons. Personable, knowledgeable, endowed with a sense of humor and willing to go on the Colbert Report.

Agreed, RedMolly, Dr Tyson is an outstanding ambassador for public education in astronomy. I caught one of his Colbert appearances and he has the perfect personality of being approachable yet authoritative.

However, my guess is that the vast majority of this talent is natural. I'm certain some of our NYC readers know him, so I'd love more input as to how we could all become more like him (being named People Magazine's 'Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive' in 2000 notwithstanding).

In defense of alternative practitioners: I have taught both traditional and alternative and more often find the later more receptive to new ways of thinking. My wife and I pioneered the nasal use of xylitol and have taught its benefits and mechanisms of action widely. The company manufacuring this product has even advertised with Dr. Bond and we have been on his show many times.
With health care being the third most common cause of death in America there is strong argument for new ways of seeing, but traditionally trained doctors just seem to be digging in the trenches. We need the diversity!