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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Yale Experience with Alternative Medicine

Do you think that modern medical schools at major universities will never be advocates of quackery? Wrong!

The experience of Yale University's School of Medicine should be a warning that those who believe in evidence-based medicine have to be vigilant. Yale recently held an "Integrative Medicine Scientific Symposium." One of the speaker was David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP. Katz is associate professor, adjunct, of Public Health and director of the Prevention Research Center (PRC) at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is a proponent of almost every form of non-evidence based medicine that you can imagine.

A short video of his presentation is included below. It's from the blog DC's Improbable Science: Integrative baloney @ Yale. I'm including it because it illustrates the length to which these quacks will go in order to make their point. Note that the quack is introduced by the Dean of Education at Yale—listen to how easily he may have been bamboozled into thinking that this is about legitimate science.

The most important points in the video are the ones where Dr. Katz explains away evidence-based medicine. You see, the problem isn't so much with the lack of "evidence" as with the concept of "evidence" itself. The practitioners of alternative medicine advocate changing the very concept of "evidence" to a "more fluid concept of evidence." What this means is that if a large-scale, double-blind experiment shows no effect it's not the end of the story. There are other kinds of evidence that may show the effectiveness of alternative medicine. (One of them seems to be anecdote.)

I hope that the University of Toronto is not going in this direction.


  1. I don't know how education colleges are viewed in Canada, but in the US they don't have the best reputation.

  2. there's never been an explicit discussion CAM in our classes but given the way some other topics were analyzed and discussed (e.g. ethics), i'm nervous. Also, there's a CAM student group. i think they had a chiropractor come give a talk recently.

  3. There are other kinds of evidence that may show the effectiveness of alternative medicine. (One of them seems to be anecdote.)

    One of them? I bet you can't name any others.

  4. ollie, Yale doesn't have an education college, and doesn't even offer any education majors. I think the Medical School Dean of Education is part of the medical school bureaucracy with a broad role in the medical school curriculum, admissions, etc.

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