Thursday, October 26, 2017

#1915: Christy Mack

If you know of one person called “Christy Mack”, it may not be this entry’s Christy Mack, but this entry’s Christy Mack (this Christy Mack) is far more powerful and dangerous. This entry’s Christy Mack, the wife of a wealthy investment banker, is the founder of the Bravewell Collaborative, an organization whose goal has been to promote the study and use of CAM (or “integrative medicine” as it is currently known, or “quackery” as it was previously known) in medical academia. In other words, Mack has been one of the most important figures in the marketing of and attempts to legitimize pseudoscience and woo, attempts that have thus far been dismayingly successful – there has been a proliferation of quack departments in medical centers in North America (part of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine), including many of the most prestigious medical schools in the US (one example of Bravewell’s efforts here; another one here; a general discussion of Bravewell is here). 

Bravewell has done major investigations themselves to justify their push for alternative medicine – not into whether such treatments work, of course, but into how popular they are (and in the process rebrands “food/nutrition” and “massage” as “alternative medicine” to boost their numbers.) Actually, in 2012 they also investigated how “successful” the treatments have been … by asking the various quack centers to report how successful they feel that the various treatments defined as “complementary” has been for various conditions (boosted by the centers’ own “customer satisfaction” reports). Best to stay away from, you know, actual records and data, since that would be unlikely to yield the conclusions they want. Oh, and we just have to quote the conclusion from that report: “One of the most striking, though perhaps predictable, conclusions of this study is that integrative medicine is, in fact, integrative. It integrates conventional care with non-conventional or non-Western therapies; ancient healing wisdom with modern science; and the whole person – mind, body, and spirit in the context of community.” Inanity hardly comes dafter than this.

The Bravewell Collaborative shut down in 2015, according to Mack, because “our principal strategies had achieved our goals, and when integrative medicine had become part of the national conversation on healthcare, our members collectively decided that it was time to sunset the organization,” a justification that certainly seemed believable at the time (though one should perhaps not exaggerate the success of Trojan horse efforts from the CAM community). A discussion of its achievments is here. Note that improved health outcomes for patients was apparently never part of their agenda.

An interview with Mack and some of her collaborators – including Ralph Snyderman, former dean of Duke University Medical School and now devout promoter of pseudoscience – is reported on here

Diagnosis: Bravewell has been one of the most influential and powerful forces of pseudoscience and woo in the US, and Mack is one of many extremely wealthy people who has ample time and resources to realize themselves by claiming to have quasi-magical powers and insight, and use those to justify efforts to ruin their societies. Most of these are harmless, but Mack is certainly not.

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