Thursday, May 07, 2015

Dr. Oz and the resulting media attention to quackademic medicine: flash point or flash in the pan?

Quackademic medicine refers to the teaching and promotion of quackery in medical schools. I became concerned about the trend early in my blogging days and first wrote about it here. It was in a post 3 years later that I coined the term. Though the phrase has since gone viral thanks to Orac and a couple of bloggers over at Science Based Medicine (who have kindly taken care to provide attribution) the general concern of pseudoscience in medical education never got the widespread attention I thought it deserved. Until, perhaps, now, thanks to Dr. Oz. You see, Dr. Oz is both a celebrity in the world of pseudoscience and a faculty member at a prestigious medical school.

A recent spike in blog traffic alerted me to this article in The Atlantic about Dr. Oz. The author, who seems to like the term quackademic medicine, cited me by linking the term to my original post. His perspective is refreshing: it's not so much about Dr. Oz as it is about this sorry, pathetic trend in medical education. He writes:

But despite numerous subsequent think pieces about the man behind the curtain, a crucial question stands out: Why call for Dr. Oz’s dismissal, when many medical schools and hospitals endorse the most outlandish of his claims?

Indeed. The call for Dr. Oz's dismissal came in the form of a letter written by a group of concerned physicians. The author of the Atlantic piece was not the only one questioning the letter. Orac, the blogger at Respectful Insolence, thought that while the letter was correct in its criticism of Dr. Oz it lacked any real purpose other than as a publicity stunt.

Be that as it may, it was much needed publicity in my opinion. If there is a weapon against quackademic medicine it's exposure. Toleration of quackery has become too entrenched in academic medicine for there to be a solution from within.

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