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Sometimes I wonder why one bothers with print. You don’t have active links, you don’t get discussion in comments, and editors alter what you want to say.

This post is about events that followed the removal by the University of Buckingham of its accreditation of the Diploma in Integrated Medicine, as described here..  This diploma was run by the "Faculty of Integrated Medicine" (FIM) which consists largely of Dr Rosy Daniel and Dr Mark Atkinson.  The FIM is, in turn, the product of a charity, the Integrated Health Trust (IHT). Oddly enough, the IHT’s web site still says "The two-year, part-time Membership Programme in Integrated Medicine has been accredited as a post-graduate diploma by the University of Buckingham" (as of 13 May 2010). The FIM web site makes similar claims.  "Used to be" accredited would be more appropriate.

The advisory board of IHT consists almost entirely of supporters of various forms of alternative medicine, some of whom have been mentioned already on this blog.  The respectable supporters who appeared when FIM’s diploma was first announced have vanished, and now they rely entirely on a couple of celebrity endorsements, and a few anecdotes about miracle cures. This is behaviour that is characteristic of all quacks.

After the post here, the story was printed on 13th April in Times Higher Education, under the headline It’s terminal for integrated medicine diploma.    On 25th April a reply from Dr Daniel on the THE web site, ‘Terminal’? We’ve only just begun. This attracted a lot of comments. I rather liked the first one,

“The question is: who will stand up and support the formalisation of IM education for doctors and nurses in the UK?”. Not anyone with more than one working neuron, that’s who.

My own comment was rather more restrained than some of the semi-literate abuse from alternative medicine enthusiasts.

On 29th April, Daniel got another go in on the Times Higher Education web site, with the title ‘Bad’ Scientist. This time she got rather personal. Realising that not everyone reads the web version, I thought a print response was called for. I sent them a full response. At their request it was
cut down to the length of a letter, and even then they cut out the reference to Andrew Weil. The abbreviated letter was published on 13th May as Don’t shoot the messenger.

For the record, here is the complete response that I sent.

In response to your report [It’s terminal for integrated medicine diploma] and my blog Dr Daniel, in her two recent contributions to THE [‘Terminal’? We’ve only just begun, and ‘Bad’ Scientist], Dr Daniel describes me as misguided, intimidatory, undemocratic, antisocial and prejudiced. Ouch.

I can understand that she may well be a bit upset, having recently been rejected by both the University of Buckingham and even by that bastion of all things barmy, the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health (now deceased).  I’d like to remind her that it was not I who closed the Buckingham course. That decision was made by Terence Kealey (Buckingham’s VC) and Prof Andrew Miles.  And it was the Office of Trading Standards, not I, who made her change the claims on her company’s web page about the alleged “healing” powers of a herbal concoction, Carctol, for cancer.  All that I did was help to find out about some of the things that were being taught on her course.  I find it quite surprising how often vice-chancellors have no idea what’s going on, but Kealey, unlike most, was interested to find out.

Dr Daniel is right about one thing. I’m not a clinician. On the other hand, I do perhaps know a little bit about evidence.

She claims that diet can save you from breast cancer but in the comments section it has already been pointed out that the 2007 study invoked by Dr Daniel does not come to the conclusion that she said it does.  Furthermore she ignores entirely the 2010 EPIC study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (102:529-537). This study, of almost 500,000 people in ten European countries, found barely any relationship between intake of fruit and vegetables and cancer risk. This may be disappointing, but it can only harm patients to ignore the evidence when, as in this case, it exists. There are plenty of reasons to eat well, but apparently avoiding cancer is not one of them. It seems to be a bit more complicated than that.

Dr Daniel says "IM in the UK is still clouded by complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) detractors owing to an important misunderstanding: IM is not CAM.".  I beg to differ. The content of the course is about alternative as you can get. It included teachers who have advocated the Q-link pendant to "protect" you from evil radio waves. It is not long since Ben Goldacre opened one of these pendants and found it contained "No microchip. A coil connected to nothing. And a zero-ohm resistor, which costs half a penny, and is connected to nothing".

You can’t get more alternative than that.

We are told that a new programme is to be launched in May by "advisory board member, Andrew Weil.  If you want to learn more about Weil, I suggest the article by ex-editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Arnold Relman [A Trip to Stonesville: Some Notes on Andrew Weil (1998)].  That is the Dr Weil who has claimed he has insights into medical truth while under the influence of drugs.  It is also the Dr Weil who, last year, was threatened with criminal prosecution in a warning letter   sent jointly from the Food and Drugs Administration and the Federal Trade Commission because of “Unapproved/Uncleared/Unauthorized Products Related to the H1N1 Flu Virus”

In fact every good doctor takes into account the " interaction of emotional, social and physical needs". There is no need to call this "integrative". it is just good medicine. I suggest looking at Michael Baum’s superb Samuel Gee lecture, "Concepts of holism in orthodox and alternative medicine".

We are told that "The IHT is now looking for a strong collaborating university partner that will not be intimidated by the likes of Colquhoun". I’m sorry that Dr Daniel sees my approach as "intimidation" and “scare tactics”.  The fact of the matter is that the content of the course is truly scary.  Once what is taught on courses on alternative medicine is made public, the courses usually seem to close.  The contents are just too embarrassing for even the most mercenary vice-chancellor to tolerate.

Dr Daniel tells us she is “now looking for a strong collaborating university partner”.   If any universities are tempted, I’d suggest that they should first write to the vice-chancellor of Buckingham, Terence Kealey, to seek his advice.

Follow-up

Still no takers for FIM: June 2010. I made some enquiries about rumours that the Faculty of Integrated Medicine (FIM), having been fired by Buckingham, and rejected by the Prince’s Foundation (deceased), would seek validation from another institution. The University of Bristol says it has not been contacted by FIM. The University of Middlesex, which still runs several courses in magic medicine, was a more likely taker. However, after a long correspondence they responded as follows on June 15, 2010.

“Following an approach by Dr Rosy Daniel to the University, an informal meeting took place between Dr Daniel and our Associate Dean, Academic Development. As a result of that meeting and conversations with other colleagues in the University it was decided that proposals for the University to become a validating partner for the Faculty of Integrated Medicine would not be taken forward. The decision was relayed to Dr Daniel orally.”

3 March 2011. Unsurprisingly, Dr Daniel is up and running again, under the name of the British College of Integrated Medicine. The only change seems to be that Mark Atkinson has jumped ship altogether, and, of course, she is now unable to claim endorsement by Buckingham, or any other university. Sadly, though, Karol Sikora seems to have learned nothing from the saga at the University of Buckingham. He is still there as chair of the Medical Advisory Board, along with the usual suspects mentioned above.

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