Friday, January 8, 2016

#1564: Jeanne Drisko

The University of Kansas Medical Center, like so many university medical centers these days, has its own program for quackery and pseudoscience: the KU Integrative Medicine Program. It was developed by its current director, Jeanne A. Drisko, MD, Riordan Endowed Professor of Orthomolecular Medicine [which is not, emphatically not, a science-based discipline] and one of the most notorious anti-science campaigners in the US at present. In this position, Drisko has played a central part in developing “research projects” on CAM therapies, and she is heavily involved in the education of medical and nursing students at KU. She has also worked closely with legislators to develop and pass CAM-friendly and CAM-legitimizing laws.

As usual, the KU Integrative Medicine Program seeks to “integrate” the best of two worlds – efficacious conventional therapies and bullshit – including “healing foods”, neurofeedback, detox and Drisko’s own orthomolecular medicine. Among the quackery Drisko supports is high dose intravenous vitamin C, which does not have any non-negligible positive effect on anything, yet which the Program still touts as a cancer treatment. Drisko, of course, also claims to have studies to back up her claims. It would be hard to believe that she is even trying to be honest, but her own “studies” are so laughably bad and blithely ignorant of even minimal standards for quality control, that one might actually wonder whether she might, in fact, be.

Drisko’s impressive lack of understanding of how science is done is nicely emphasized by her creationist sympathies, and she is, for instance, a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. That should tell you quite a bit also about the quality of the signatures that list has gathered.

She is also a member or board member of a range of Cam cults. She is, for instance, Program Director of the American College of Advancement in Medicine (a chelation therapy promotion group), staff member at the Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning International, a “medical, research and educational organization.” and research director of its affiliated Olive W. Garvey Center for Healing Arts, which has a “Bio-Communications Research Institute” where “scientists” are “dedicated to biomedical research and education, including … subtle energies” (healing energies that are supposed to be scientifically undetectable, which, since scientists usually detect the presence of energy by its effects means that they don’t have any effects whatsoever). That center also offers hair analysis, cytotoxic food sensitivity testing (banned by the FDA) and training in a variety of pseudoscientific disciplines (including Kirlian photography); their store (it’s a pretty good indicator that your “research institute” is not a research institute when it has a store) also sells a range of quack remedies.

Drisko is furthermore a member of the American Association for Health Freedom, which represents the economic and political interests of promoters of quackery. And importantly, she served on the Institute of Medicine’s Panel on “Complementary and Alternative Medicine”, a group consisting primarily of people (including naturopath Leanna Standish of Bastyr University, Susan Folkman, Florence ComiteJoyce Anastasi, Brian Berman, David Eisenberg and Sherman Cohn), with financial interests in quackery and no relevant scientific background, but which was expected to “develop conceptual frameworks to guide decision-making on these issues and questions.” Then there is the Alliance for Natural Health USA, of which Drisko is the chair. ANH-USA is one of the most important “health freedom” organizations in the US (which means that it fights for the rights of quacks and frauds to do whatever they want without pesky legal ramifications or responsibilities). And she’s a board member of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a nebulously defined discipline of amazing quackery.

Keep in mind that this lady is deeply involved in the education of the next generation of medical doctors in Kansas – though her influence extends far beyond Kansas. It’s absolutely horrifying.

Diagnosis: Anti-scientific attitudes are rarely confined to a single scientific discipline, and Drisko is a staggering example of crank magnetism. Though she’d never admit it, Drisko is a very powerful opponent of everything science – sufficiently influential, in fact, to cause significant long-term harm. Deeply tragic and very scary.

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