Bill Gleason

Bill Gleason is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. He's also a fellow at the U's Supercomputer Institute. Read more about Gleason.

Homeopathy at the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center?

Posted by: Bill Gleason Updated: July 6, 2010 - 6:56 AM
 
Credit: Mosaic_ducks_Massimo.jpg">Wikimedia
 
 
 
Homeopathy at the U?
 
Homeopathetic...
 
 
At the University of Minnesota, cost-effectiveness is a sometime thing. For example the medical school has recently decided that spending money on real people for training purposes was not cost effective.
 
 
“To prepare doctors-to-be for their first time in an exam room with a woman whose feet are in stirrups, medical schools often bring in paid patients who tell the students if something hurts and, in some instances, instruct students on how to perform the exam.”
 
The U has decided that this process is not worth the money. From the same article:
 
"We looked at the cost-benefit ratio and didn't think it was worth it," said Sharon Allen, a professor of family medicine and community health who is course director of "Physician and Patient," the class where students get their first chance to interview and examine patients.
 
  
To no one's surprise, the reaction has been almost 100% negative. There are now 70 comments on this short article and they are well worth reading to see how this new action by the U is perceived.
But the coup de grâce in this comment thread is:
No money for real education?
I'm a current student who was directly effected by this cost saving move and I can say it is a terribly short sighted move by the med school. ... my colleagues will be much less confident and more apt to make painful mistakes when we have to (and we all will) do the pelvic exam for the "first time" on a real patient. This cost saving act is particularly ridiculous given the Med school thought it was a good idea to rent a bunch of buses and bring us to a local quack factory (alternative medicine school) but not fund real educational opportunities.
Quack factory? What could this be about?
It turns out that the Director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the U of M is a homeopathy enthusiast who has written about it in the Minnesota Daily:
 
As a scientist and nurse, I read with great interest an article that appeared in the medical journal Chest (Frass et al., 2005). This is a peer-reviewed scientific journal read by many physicians and surgeons. It is published by the American College of Chest Surgeons (no slouch of a group). The article describes a study (a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial) comparing critically-ill patients on mechanical ventilators in Intensive Care Units who received a substance called potassium dichromate with those who did not.

It was found that the patients who received potassium dichromate had less thick, stringy tracheal secretions and were able to get off the ventilator more quickly and out of the ICU. Clinical outcomes like that are important.

Potassium dichromate is a homeopathic remedy.
 
Unfortunately she didn't look into this paper and the subsequent follow up published in the same journal:
 
From a letter to the editor of Chest, the journal Director Kreitzer cited:
 
Letter to the editor: Treating Critically Ill Patients With Sugar Pills

David Colquhoun, FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society)
 
CHEST February 2007 vol. 131 no. 2 635-636

 
"It surprises me that CHEST would publish an article (March 2005)1 on the effect of a therapeutic agent when in fact the patients received none of the agent mentioned in the title of the article.
 
It is not mentioned in the title, but reading the article reveals that the 'potassium dichromate' was a homeopathic C30 dilution. That is a dilution by a factor of 10^60 [ten raised to the sixtieth power], and for those of us who believe in the Avogadro number, that means there would be one molecule in a sphere with a diameter of approximately 1.46 × 10^11 m. That is close to the distance from the earth to the sun.To describe this as “diluted and well shaken,” as the authors do, is the understatement of the century. The fact of the matter is that the medicine contained no medicine."
 
"The authors will doubtless claim some magic effect of shaking that causes the water to remember for years that it once had some dichromate in it. The memory of water has been studied quite a lot. The estimate of the duration of this memory has been revised2 downwards from a few picoseconds to approximately 50 femtoseconds. That is not a very good shelf life."
 
"It is one thing to tolerate homeopathy as a harmless 19th century eccentricity for its placebo effect in minor self-limiting conditions like colds. It is quite another to have it recommended for seriously ill patients."
 
That is downright dangerous.
 
David Colquhoun, FRS
University College of London
London,UK
 
Third greatest public research university in the world? In your dreams. Not while this kind of junk science is spoken of with approval by someone in the Academic Health Center. And not only that, the Academic Health Center pushes homeopathy on its web site!
 
 
 
[Notice the Driven to Discover logo on these pathetic pages.]
 
Homeopathy is simply absurd as anyone who has taken general chemistry and understands the concept of dilution and molecules should realize. Resources should not be wasted on the encouragement of homeopathy at  our evidence-based medical school, especially given our desperate financial situation with respect to the practice of real medicine.
 
I wonder who will be the first person to get a Nobel Prize in homeopathy?
 
Homeopathetic!

Magic anyone?
 

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