Quack Word #3: ‘Doctor’

UPDATE 12/2/07

Congratulations to Ben Goldacre and the crew at Bad Science for getting Dr Gillian McKeith banned from using the title ‘Dr’. In today’s Guardian she is fully exposed as a Menace to Science. The Advertising Standards Authority have agreed that her use of that cheaply acquired title is thoroughly misleading.

One down…


Yes, I know. This is surprising quack word, but let me explain.

I’m not really writing about the word ‘Doctor’ but about titles and qualifications in general. More specifically, it is about using titles and qualifications, however acquired, to provide a sense of authority to healing claims when sound evidence is lacking.

‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor.’

Quacks lack evidence for the effectiveness of their treatments or theories and so rely on a number of other techniques to convince you of their worth, including testimonials, anecdotes and baffling pseudoscience. However, one of the surest giveaways of quackery is the flaunting of titles and qualifications. The quack will proudly put ‘Dr’ before their name and ‘PhD’ afterwards. Normally, one or other of ‘Dr’ and ‘PhD’ will do. This is an ‘appeal to authority’. It is solely there to impress. The quack is setting themselves up as a respected authority on a subject and so there is no need to look any further at any real arguments or evidence in favour of what they are saying.

Now of course, evidence-based medicine, and science in general, is full of Doctors, PhDs, Professors and diplomas. The difference is that, in general, these titles are not always flaunted. Look at any scientific paper in a prestigious journal like Nature and you will see just names and no titles. The authority of the paper comes from the strength of the argument and the rigours of the experiment, not the qualifications of the authors.

Qualifications do count, of course. They are part of the apprenticeship of science. But once the years have past, they become increasingly irrelevant. Look at how doctors tend to revert back to Mr/Ms etc as they become more experienced and advanced in their careers. Their reputation for excellent work is what matters, not their past exam success.

If you are still not sure, why not try a little experiment for yourself? Next time you are in a book shop, go and visit the popular science section. It is probably quite small, near the back and you may need a shop assistant to help you. Now look at the books and see how many titles you can spot on the covers. Names like Richard Dawkins, Steven J Gould, Hawkins, Dennett, Penrose and Pinker ought to leap out. All luminaries in their fields, but not a qualification in sight. If you look inside at the brief biography, you may spot the odd professorship mentioned alongside their stated appreciation of their family. Their titles, qualifications and awards are insignificant in the face of their arguments. If you do find a title, it is likely to be of a little known author.

Now go back towards the front of the shop until you end up in the ‘Mind, Body, Health and Spirit’ section. This won’t be hard to find. It will be three to four times the size of the science section. In a bad bookshop, the science books might be mixed up with it. However, the actual useful contribution to human knowledge on those shelves will fit in a small shoe box. A waste of trees. Now look for qualifications. It won’t take you long. They will be printed in huge, silver, embossed letters on the spine and cover. Looking at the Amazon best sellers at the moment we see names like Dr Gillian McKeith Phd, Doreen Virtue PhD, Jeffrey E. Young PhD and Dr Wayne Dyer. If the author hasn’t got a title themselves, then they will get a forward written by someone who has and that will appear in big letters. Those embossed letters count for everything. Noel Edmonds is missing a trick here.

But surely these people must know what they are talking about? You can’t just lie about your qualifications?

Well, you don’t need to lie, but there are a number of ways of getting round the three to fours years of library work, fine tuning of experiments, paper writing, seminar giving, thesis writing, thesis re-writing, and tortuous examinations – all on a pittance of pay – that are the staple of postgraduate degrees, if you want to start earning big quack bucks fast.

Let us count the ways…

1. Swap Subjects
You could have mistakenly done all the hard work above only to find out that being a geologist does not make as much money a selling bucket loads of useless vitamin pills. I’ve written about this before. Even though you are now a nutritional ‘expert’ there is no need to make it clear that your PhD was in geology, economics or bongo playing. Flaunt those letters after your name!

2. Join a ‘New University’
The massive expansion in higher education in the UK, and probably elsewhere in the world, has resulted in a deluge of former polytechnics, colleges and furniture shops now calling themselves universities. Even better is that, in the mad dash to attract students and, hence attract funding, the hard subjects of physics and chemistry have been dropped due to the difficulty of persuading students to take them. Far better to offer courses in homeopathy, nutrition and Madonna. Set yourself up as Professor of Reiki Studies and bingo, you’re off.

3. Do a Cheap Correspondence Course through an Unaccredited American College.
This might involve a little work and at least cost you a fair amount of postage, but at least you will be able to defend yourself in a court of law that you are entitled to the letters after your name. Sometimes called the “looneyversities”, these institutions often dole out pretty useless awards for little more than a fee. Proper academic standards are rarely upheld and are not subject to academic review by the usual authorities.

Paul McKenna PhD sued a journalist for saying his doctorate was not real. I quote from the Guardian:

Central to the case is an article published in October 2003 headlined “It’s a load of doc and bull”, in which Lewis-Smith wrote that McKenna’s first PhD, awarded by La Salle university in Louisiana, was a sham. “I discovered that anyone could be fully doctored by La Salle within months (no previous qualifications needed),” he wrote, just so long as they could answer the following question correctly: ‘Do you have $2,615, sir?'” This followed a number of articles dating from 1997 in which, among ther things, the columnist calls McKenna a “non-doctor”, a “dildo” and compares him to Dr Crippen, the notorious murderer executed in 1910 for killing his wife.

In fact, La Salle university was not as it seemed: in late 1996 the former president, Thomas Kirk, admitted to the FBI that it was not officially accredited; the following year he was jailed for five years for fraud. McKenna told the court he knew nothing of the fraud when he enrolled for a doctorate in hypnosis in June or July 2005. While he admitted the revelation had “devalued” the qualification, he insisted he did not believe it rendered it “bogus”

The judge found in favour of Dr McKenna noting that “Mr McKenna was not, in my judgment, dishonest and, for that matter, whatever one may think of the academic quality of his work, or of the degree granted by La Salle, it would not be accurate to describe it as “bogus”. So there. The title ‘Doctor’ is not protected, meaning anyone can pretty much call themselves this. The quality of any degree behind the title is irrelevant.

Perhaps, the most celebrated case in the UK is that of Dr Gillian McKeith PhD. Her credentials have been scrutinised by a number of observers, including the Sunday Mail with an article entitled Is Channel 4’s latest food guru Dr Gillian really a Quack and a danger to our health? Perhaps the funniest analysis was done by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian who looked into her professional memberships that included the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC). Dr Goldacre applied for the same membership for his recently deceased cat, Henrietta. It cost him just $60.

The qualifications of Dr Gillian have been well explored and I will give a reference shortly. It is fair to say though that she does have qualifications that everyone respects. They are in languages, business and marketing. All things she does very well and her education has obviously paid off.

Dr Gillian McKeith PhD is not afraid of legal challenges either, although sometimes they take a more ‘out-of-court’ route. If you Google “Dr Gillian McKeith PhD” you will find the following wording on the first page:

In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read more about the request at ChillingEffects.org.

Fortunately for posterity, I know the page concerned. You can find it here. This page is essential reading for all Gillian fans.

4. Start your own Institution or University and award Yourself Titles and Awards
Arguably the hardest work, but it can have big payoffs. The main one being that you can charge other people to get similar awards.

This is most often done in the US. The Beatles guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, set up his own university so that lots of ‘research’ could be done on Transendential Meditation.

The UK has its own examples, including Patrick Holford BSc, DipION, FBant. Patrick is one of those people who you will have found in the Healthy Living section of the bookshop, in between ‘Angel Healing’ and ‘The Photographic Kama Sutra’. Patrick styles himself as the “leading spokesman on nutrition, food, environmental and health issues”.

Once again, Patrick’s BSc was in psychology, not nutrition. His significant qualification in health matters is the DipION awarded by the Institution of Optimum Nutrition which was set up as a ‘charitable and independent educational trust ‘ by none other than Patrick Holford himself. Hire a few rooms in some managed office space in Richmond, London and you can have an International Headquarters. Even better, get one of those new universities (say Luton) to accredit your course and you can expect a stream of fresh new students. Nevermind that the most recent official quality review of Luton (now Bedfordshire) concluded:

As a result of its investigations, the audit team’s view of the University is that: limited confidence can be placed in the soundness of the University’s current and likely future management of the quality of its academic programmes and the academic standards of its awards.

This has not gone too unnoticed. The Sunday Telegraph posted an article entitled “Is this the worst university in Britain?”.

The Institute’s philosophy is one of nutritional therapy, treating disease through what you eat, as highlighted by the quote on the front page of its web site:

“The Doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition”
Thomas Edison, c 1870

So Thomas Edison not only invented the light-bulb but was a pioneering nutritionist. It’s a shame that the rest of science has not yet caught up with his thinking and adopted this in the way we have adopted the lightbulb. Maybe it is because the lightbulb is based on sound science and is useful?

Does any of this matter? Well, people do take Mr Holford seriously. He has been associated with comments that Vitamin C is better than AZT in the treatment of AIDS, where the evidence for that has been very poor. This is burning issue in South Africa now where the Health Minister believes you can treat HIV with potatoes. Someone is dying there every two minutes of HIV and AIDS. Also, the general public take him seriously. He last came to my attention when researching the QLink trinket that is sold as a way to stop ‘harmful’ EMF disrupting your life energy thingumajigs. He sells them on his website and provides this most fantastic endorsement:

There are many gadgets out there promising to protect you from electromagnetic radiation and give your energy a boost. I’ve investigated many and did not find any stacked up. The one exception is Q Link. The scientific proof is deeply impressive and that’s why I wear one. I recommend you do the same.

So, all the other EMF pendants are quackery and nonsense, Patrick, except the ones you sell?Presumably, Patrick will be setting up an Institute of Optimum Quantum Physics as well now.

So why do the likes of Dr Gillian and Patrick see qualifications as so important to them? The key here is to see that they are both nutritionists and both sell food supplements of one form or another. The problem in selling these things is convincing people they need them; basic nutrition for most people is not hard. It’s common sense – eat a balanced and varied diet, eat your greens and don’t overindulge too often. Not much of a market for superfoods and vital supplements there. If, however, you make all this sound very complex, stress the importance of eating at an ‘optimum’, throw in some pseudoscience to make it sound like you know this stuff deeply, flaunt your qualifications and make it all sound too hard for the individual to keep track off, then you just might create a market for your overpriced alfalfa extract.

Dr Canard Noir Bsc(Hons.), PhD

28 Comments on Quack Word #3: ‘Doctor’

  1. Interesting article, but re: Patrick Holford, I’ve never seen any titles published next to his name and secondly his first degree was in experimental psychology; not in economics. In fact he is the first to admit this and tells how this was when he first met researchers using nutritional therapy methods. The fact is back then there were no qualifications in human nutrition and at the moment there are still very little. It is a pioneering science made available by modern research techniques in chemistry and biology. It’s taking off and qualifications are becoming available in solid universities more and more all the time. The inconvenient truth is that certain modern food additives and pharmaceutical drugs are being implicated as more dangerous than good for us.
    So what’s your Phd in Dr Canard Noir, pharmaceuticals?

  2. I stand duly corrected on Patrick’s first degree. It was indeed psychology. I think I was getting my nutriquacks mixed up. The Gillians and Patricks.

    There may well be few nutritional qualifications around. Is that because it is not a protected title, and anyone serious would study to become a dietitian – which is protected?

    So, celtixfox, I bet you would love it if my qualifications were in pharmaceuticals. How would that change the argument? Remember, this piece is all about people relying on evidence and argument – not qualifications.

  3. Well written, you are so right about the quackery involved with titles and that the less reputable of ‘scholars’ tend to flaunt them desperately.

  4. I am interested in the case of Paul Mckennas PHD. You quote the Guardian article which either implies or states his PHD is recently acquired
    – yet he has credited himself with the title for more than five years to my knowledge. Can you explain ?

  5. As far as I can tell, Paul Mckenna went on to obtain a second PhD from the International Management Centres Association (IMCA) which, it is claimed, is a “fully accredited UK PhD”. Now the IMCA does not have any powers to award recognised UK degrees nor is it affiliated with any colleges that do (it is not a recognised or listed body according to the UK authorities). The IMCA is accredited by the British Accreditation Council (BAC), but that is simply an independant body that awards colleges with accreditation for achieving satisfactory student welfare and teaching standards. Application is voluntary and no established universities do it. It does not provide accreditation for degrees. The power to award degrees in the UK can only be granted by an Act of Parliament or a Royal Charter. Which begs the question of what is meant by a “fully accredited UK PhD”. The PhD itself is not accredited and cannot be a UK recognised degree. While I would not question the validity of the work that went in to obtaining it, you do have to question what “PhD” means in this context. It is essentially self-styled by the college issuing it, and the title itself has no real substance outside of the college that awarded it.

  6. Regarding “Dr.” Doreen Virtue:

    From Dr. Doreen’s web site:
    Doreen, who holds B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in counseling psychology, was the founder and former director of WomanKind Psychiatric Hospital at Cumberland Hall Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. She was also an administrator at Woodside Women’s Hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both all-women psychiatric hospitals specialized in treating women’s psychological issues. Doreen also directed three outpatient psychiatric centers, including an adolescent drug and alcohol abuse center.

    One can’t obtain an undergrad in counseling psychology–there is no such degree.

    Dr. Doreen is not licensed by the Board of Psychology in CA. Not that she claims to be licensed in CA, but if you hold a degree in Couns. Psych, why wouldn’t you get the license? Her psych. assistant status was cancelled in 1993.

    Licensee Name: VIRTUE DOREEN L
    License Number: PSB21096
    License Status: CANCELLED Definition
    Expiration Date: September 16, 1993
    Issue Date: July 13, 1993
    Address: 1439 E. CHAPMAN AVE
    City: ORANGE
    State: CA
    Zip: 92666
    County: ORANGE
    Actions: No

    “Dr.” Doreen: post your vita on your web site–indicate when you worked where you did–indicate for how long–indicate who your clinical supervisors were–tell us where you obtained your degrees, who your dissertation chair was, who supervised you during your pre and post docs . . . nothing to hide, right?

    “Dr.” Doreen, you are training individuals to do work for which they are ill equipped. While these folks are likely well intentioned, they need to do the real work of obtaining a real background in psychology or counseling . . .

    • She sells people “Angel Therapy” where she acts as a medium to talk to angels… Does the legwork really need to be done on this? I mean, it’s kind of obvious don’t you think? I was curious as to how many people honestly could even take this seriously so I checked her website for “angel consultants” for my state TN… We have a few… one does pet consultations as well… I just can’t believe people are seriously this gullible.

  7. Thank you for a most interesting and amusing article.

    I agree totally with the sentiment – I work with nurse PHDs who won’t use their title at work for fear of misrepresentation. Should I achieve my own PHD, I too won’t be using mine at work for the same reason.

    Your article however questions people’s obsession with qualifications, and yet therefore strongly fights the case for proper qualifications – if qualifications didn’t matter, then it wouldn’t matter that Gillian McKeith called herself a ‘doctor’.

    It is also essential that medical doctors use their title – if one was to introduce himself as ‘Mr’, I would expect him/her to be a surgeon. Similarly, a PHD not using their title in the university or in research would be equally misleading, and at very best be false modesty.

    One thing is certain though – the term ‘Doctor’ really should be protected……..


  8. I would like to point out a fact that is incorrect in the above article. Dr. Wayne Dyer did receive a legitimate Ed.D in Psychology from Wayne State University here in Detroit. If you check your information closer you will see that the curriculum at WSU has been accredited by the American Psychology Association. This is not to say that he has kept up his licenser. I am currently attending WSU myself for a Ph.D in Health Psychology and know this for a fact. This program is no walk in the park, I assure you.
    I agree we must beware of many people, but for God’s sake, make sure your information is correct before accusing someone of obtaining credentials from a diploma mill!

  9. griffinrose – you will note how my comment is about how people use titles to sell products – often the qualification has little to do with what they are peddling.

    • So, what are you peddling “Dr.”? Very interesting that you still had no response to the last question posted regarding your doctorate base and expertise. No matter, that is not the point. The point is, it is amazing how people use their titles to peddle products and articles. Products that cause more severe symptoms than the ones that they are initially “prescribed” for. And, Articles that keep them poor,drugged and living in ignorance .

      And shall we praise and honor the biggest University of all? “Big Business’! Who tells us which qualifications we should most certainly believe to be real!? Lets remember as to who has made such titles necessary in order to control and create a faux nature that they can market, patent and sell (fat greedy bastards, oh is that a title I can use?)- when nature gives it to us whole and free. So Be careful with your response as to what we should be focused on, because I think its clear who the snake salesmen are these days!

    • So what’s your point? If someone’s degree has nothing to do with what they are saying then what they say is therefore invalid and not useful.
      You really need to tighten up the use of logic in your writing.
      You come across as that constantly angry, disgruntled next door neighbor who is constantly yelling at neighborhood kids to “get off my lawn”

  10. I am very interested in this as i undertook a Post Graduate with the School of Emotional Literacy a couple of years ago – it was all paid for by a government body – where it gets interesting is that the accreditation for the courses was according to Dr Elizabeth Morris the Principal of the School “fully accredited through the University of Action Learning in Buckingham ” the place she advises where she attained her own Doctorate . What has transpired is that I spent a lot of time / work on this to attain something that is worthless and not recognised by any Higher Education establishment in UK . Has anyone else had a similar experience ?

  11. Things are not as straightforward as you attempt to claim here. There are quite a few people who have qualifications some of which may be accredited, on the basis which you claim to be the only one of significance or validation, and others which may not be. However prior to the Education Reform Act of 1988, there were many institutions able to grant degrees which were perfectly legal, for not as much work as you evidently would like. Indeed the Department for Education and Employment has been forced to state that any degree granted prior to the Education Reform Act of 1988, (relative to Sections 214-217) was and is of equal standing with degrees conferred by the accredited state approved UK educational institutions. So that means that there are a great many degrees at all 3 levels which were awarded and are perfectly legal, which you would not approve of.

    In addition there are the anomalies in any case where the universities of Oxford and Cambridge award secondary degrees and in some cases tertiary degrees solely for a fee with no study or pass threshold. (These are not Honourary degrees, which are another separate issue in any case, which you have not addressed.) In addition in the last few years other anomalies have arisen where recognised qualifications have been dummed- down, and in some cases (e.g. with the post-graduate Diploma “DMS”) all examinations have been abolished and the “Diploma” is now handed out for the payment of a fee with no examination.

    So, I am afraid that your arguments just do not stack up to anyone who looks at what is actually happening and has happened with supposed accreditation in the UK. Those who have obtained what were legal qualifications such as Doctorates are ENTITLED by law to use the title. In some cases they may actually have more knowledge and understanding than some whom you might considered to be properly “qualified”. In some cases those who took some of the supposed officially “sponsored” qualifications before they were dummed-down and the standards lowered are much better qualified than those who have only done the dummed-down “work”.

    Finally, many who have followed what you consider to be an appropriate academic path have ended up earning peanuts – less than many not having degrees! So what really is the point? There is no real correlation between success and the academic path followed. I know a person with a real (earned) PhD from Cambridge university. They have spent their lives in poverty, not being able to get a suitable job with a suitable reward for their academic work and effort! Then on the other hand you see college drop-outs like Bill Gates who leave the supposedly educated many laps behind. I don’t think you properly understand the prospective of reality!

  12. I think you may be arguing against something different to what I have said. My point is not that we should somehow respect only people with ‘real’ qualifications – rather, we should be wary of those who flaunt them.

  13. Councils waste £300,000 on Emotional Literacy Courses run by Elizabeth Morris School of emotional Literacy
    An emotional literacy qualification that hundreds of teachers and school staff have studied for is being rejected by British universities because its only accreditation is from a website based on a small South Pacific island.The courses were run in the UK by the School of Emotional Literacy, based in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
    >>> At least 35 teachers have grouped together to complain about the course, offered in Britain by the School of Emotional Literacy, saying that it is “not worth the paper it is printed on”.
    >>> Local authorities have spent more than £300,000 on the school’s courses, reflecting the increase in interest in emotional literacy, which teaches staff to communicate feelings better and understand those of their pupils.
    >>> The school’s principal Elizabeth Morris said she was surprised to learn of the problems from The TES and has since dropped the title of “Dr”, which she had been awarded by the same internet university, the University of Action Learning.
    >>> Ms Morris said: “I can absolutely assure you that if I’d have had any idea about this, I wouldn’t have said the things I’ve said or been calling myself a doctor.”
    >>> Carole Davies, the headteacher of Lydden Primary in Kent, is among those who had been led to believe their qualification would be accredited. “It was just not valuable at all. Thousands and thousands of words for no practical use and no educational status,” Ms Davies said.
    >>> However, some students said that they had found the course useful and had not expected to use it towards other qualifications such as masters degrees.
    >>> Teachers' wasted study on popular emotional literacy course
    >>> News | Published in The TES on 10 October, 2008 | By: Jonathan Milne
    >>> School staff have been rejected by universities after local authorities spent £300,000 on courses that turned out not to be accredited, writes Jonathan Milne
    >>> Hundreds of teachers and other school staff have studied for a qualification in emotional literacy that has been described as “not worth the paper it is printed on” because it has been rejected by British universities.
    >>> The School of Emotional Literacy, based in Britain, offered the certificates and diplomas with accreditation from the University of Action Learning (UAL), an internet university based in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
    >>> Elizabeth Morris, the school’s principal, called herself “Dr” on the strength of a doctorate awarded by the website and has been quoted in the press as an emotional literacy expert. She was surprised to be informed of the university’s location by The TES, and has now dropped the title and expressed concern that her students could have relied on such accreditation.
    >>> Schools and local authorities have spent up to £300,000 sending staff on Ms Morris’s part-time post-graduate courses.
    >>> Their popularity reflects the boom in the education sector’s interest in emotional literacy, which teaches staff to better communicate and identify their feelings and those of their pupils.
    >>> The school has offered training courses to school staff in Bristol, Birmingham, Dudley, Cumbria, Thurrock, throughout Kent, and in Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
    >>> But when those students tried to use the qualifications for credits towards further study, the universities they approached rejected the certificates as worthless without another university’s accreditation.
    >>> Simon Ellis, a senior lecturer in the department of professional development at Canterbury Christ Church University, had to turn down an application from a student who thought her certificate would count towards a masters degree.
    >>> “I would need to have some kind of indication of the accrediting body for that certificate before we could judge it to represent eligibility for joining one of our courses or use it for credits towards another course,” he told The TES.
    >>> One student said she had been rebuffed by London Metropolitan University and the Open University. Another said she was turned away by Bristol University.
    >>> Annie Hamlaoui, a former school guidance counsellor who studied and worked with the school, has co-ordinated a group of more than 35 unhappy students.
    >>> She, too, has tried to use the certificate for further study.
    >>> “I feel very disappointed and let down because it is now obvious that, from an academic point of view, this certificate is not worth the paper it is written on,” she said. “It will not help me in any way to gain access to higher education courses to help further my career.”
    >>> Whether the students would have fared better with UAL accreditation is unknown: none was willing to pay £300 for an accreditation stamp from a website based in a government office in Melanesia. One said she had been too “embarrassed” to go back to the local authority that funded her certificate course to ask for another £300.
    >>> She had not used the certificate for further studies because “nobody would take it seriously”.
    >>> “To me, it was a shambles, a big money-making scheme,” she said.
    >>> But other students were happy with the certificates and diplomas, saying the training was of a good quality, regardless of the lack of accreditation.
    >>> The Thanet Excellence Cluster, a partnership of schools in east Kent, has sent about 20 teachers and other school staff on the courses, at a cost of about Pounds 20,000.
    >>> Jenny Moorhouse, the cluster’s project director, said her candidates had never expected that their certificates would count towards subsequent university studies.
    >>> “The main motivation of people doing it was that they actually wanted to develop an understanding of emotional intelligence,” she said. “From our point of view, I don’t think the issue of whether it automatically carried the number of points with it became a particular issue.”
    >>> Ms Morris has now ended the agreement with UAL, but did not do so until some time after the Distance Education and Training Council revoked its authority to award degrees in February 2005.
    >>> Ms Morris told The TES she had not realised that UAL had lost its accreditation, nor that it was run out of Vanuatu, when she was offering the courses to students and completing her own doctorate.
    >>> She has since told people that she and her course have won accreditation from Middlesex University. But inquiries to Middlesex revealed that Ms Morris and the school have no such accreditation. The accreditation was for an entirely separate training company in Gloucestershire that may hire Ms Morris to teach a course.
    >>> Ms Morris admitted to “sloppiness” in how she had described the Middlesex accreditation, and agreed that courses offered through her school had no accreditation.
    >>> “I’m quite upset about this,” she said. “I need to go and find out more about it because I have felt absolutely comfortable about saying ‘I’ve got this doctorate and I deserve this doctorate.’ But now I need to check out more.
    >>> “I’ve got no wish to misrepresent myself, and I never have done. I can absolutely assure you that if I’d had any idea about this, I wouldn’t have said the things I’ve said or been calling myself a doctor.”
    >>> Carole Davies, head of Lydden Primary, near Dover in Kent, travelled to Ramsgate to do both the School of Emotional Literacy’s certificate and diploma courses, though she chose to not complete the latter. She understood that the qualifications would be automatically accredited.
    >>> Creative Partnerships, the Government’s creative learning programme, paid for the course and for supply cover at her school.
    >>> “It was just not valuable at all. Thousands and thousands of words for no practical use and no educational status,” Mrs Davies said.
    >>> “I would hesitate before putting this certificate on my CV or referencing the School of Emotional Literacy. I feel a bit stupid about it.”
    >>> Kathy, an early years consultant in south-west England who completed her certificate course last year, said she had the understanding that the certificate was university accredited because her classes were held in a building owned by Bristol University.
    >>> “I thought having that certificate on my CV would give me credibility as someone who can advise on early years emotional literacy,” she said. “I don’t now believe it has any credence whatsoever.”
    >>> But some students were less concerned about the lack of accreditation. Jennie Carter, head of The Churchill School in Folkestone, Kent, said she knew nothing about who the accreditation was from but knew it would cost an extra £300.
    >>> She paid for her diploma out of the school’s in-service training budget, and had been very happy with the training. “I wanted to know more about emotional literacy because it underpins teaching,” she said. “It paid off, and results in my school went up. Those results mean more to me than any kind of certificate or accreditation.”
    >>> Schools and councils waste £300,000 on useless 'emotional literacy' course from faraway island in the sun
    >>> By Sarah Harris
    >>> Last updated at 12:39 PM on 11th October 2008
    >>> * Comments (15)
    >>> * Add to My Stories
    >>> Schools and councils have wasted £300,000 allowing staff to study for a worthless qualification in 'emotional literacy' from The School of Emotional Literacy.
    >>> The course was accredited only by an internet university based on the tiny South Pacific island state of Vanuatu.
    >>> And because the university appears to amount to no more than a website and a single office, the course has been stripped of educational status.
    >>> Hundreds of teachers and council staff had studied for the certificates and diplomas on courses endorsed by Vanuatu's University of Action Learning.
    >>> The courses were run in the UK by the School of Emotional Literacy, based in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
    >>> The postgraduate students hoped to use the qualifications for credits toward further study. But British universities have rejected the diplomas as worthless because of the link with Vanuatu.
    >>> Emotional literacy is supposed to help staff to communicate their feelings better and understand the feelings of their pupils.
    >>> Carole Davies, headmistress of Lydden Primary School near Dover, was among those who took the course.
    >>> 'It was just not valuable at all,' she told the Times Educational Supplement. ' Thousands and thousands of words for no practical use and no educational status.'
    >>> Annie Hamlaoui, a former school counsellor, also tried to use the certificate for further study.
    >>> She said: 'I feel very disappointed and let down because it is now obvious that, from an academic point of view, this certificate is not worth the paper it is written on.'
    >>> Elizabeth Morris, principal of the School of Emotional Literacy, said she had not known where the University of Action Learning was based and has dropped her title of 'Dr', which was based on a doctorate awarded by it.
    >>> She said: 'I can absolutely assure you that if I'd have had any idea about this, I wouldn't have said the things I've said or been calling myself a doctor.'
    >>> Although the University of Action Learning is recognised by the Vanuatu government, its accreditation with Britain's Distance Education and Training Council was revoked in 2005.

  14. Titles and qualifications don’t always match up. Here in the USA, I am shocked when a dentist with a DDS calls himself doctor, then introduces himself to me (a professsor with a PhD), “Hi, John, I am Dr. Smith!” This, to me, is poor etiquette and obviously a lesson not learned in dentistry school. Chiropractors usually get a DC degree and invariably have cards that state, “Dr. Joe Jones, DC,” which may be redundant, but I am not even sure if chiropractors should be able to call themselves doctors. The same goes with podiatriasts (who get a DPM degree), and physiotherapists (called pysical therapists in the States, who get DPT degrees). Should we address these people as Doctor Franklin, or Dr. Jackson, or Dr Hamilton, etc. ? I think not.

    I also find it offensive when MDs address nurses by their first names, when the nurses always have to address the MDs as Dr. X. Why doesn’t the physician call him or her, Nurse Y ? Among physicians and surgeons and the ranks of such (recent MDs, interns, fellows, attending), I see an odd way of addressing one another. That is, the most senior MD gets to be called Doctor, and all others are addressed by first names. Yet, when the lower ranks of the MDs speak to me, they always present themselves as Dr. X and call me by my first name.

    Why aren’t MDs taught how to address patients and family members properly? If we were speaking French, Spanish, or Italian, there obviously would be levels of formality within the grammar itself that wouldn’t allow someone to address you with a familiar form.

    • I am in total agreement with your observation on people who call themselves Dr. My list includes psychologists, people with an EdD (a title created at Teachers College, optometrists, and chiropractors (I AM sure that chiropractors shouldn’t be labeling themselves as doctors). I would like to know when the use of the title Dr. became acceptable. It seems to me as valid as the use of the word “professional” in conjunction with everything from doctors and attorneys to “mattress professionals”.

    • Having been a university professor (Ph.D.) I was accustomed to being referred to as “Doctor.” That came to an abrupt stop when I went to law school and became “Mister”, a title that continues as I practice law (Juris Doctor),

      Now I live in South America where lawyers are “Doctor” A, Abogado.
      A visiting US dentist remarked that lawyers call themselves doctor.

      In good humor,

      Dr. Al Vexa, BS, MA, PhD, JD, BFD

    • My father is a well respected podiatrist here in the states. I know that the limits of the dpm license vamry from state to state but in Florida they have license to practice up to the knee including complex surgery. My father and his peers, and especially recent graduates of podiatric schools are surgeons, not nail cutting reflexology quacks playing a guessing game with people’s feet. When he meets a new patient for the first time, he offers his hand and introduces himself by his familiar first name instead of the formal and last name (i.e. Bob instead of Robert.)

      I should think the people you allow to treat real and serious conditions such as diabetic ulcers, loss of circulation, drop foot/charcot, deep abscesses and infections, puncture wounds/gun shot wounds (quite a few last year and starting up again this year) and all sorts of surgery involving the open reduction internal fixation of broken ankles and heels that involve the use of very specialized equipment like plates and screws, implants and such would have at least earned the use of the title, “Doctor”. Would you allow a non-doctor to take you to surgery and cut on your bones and then reset them?

      As a board certified podiatric surgeon with over 40 years of experience and running a private practice along with a nicely filled out CV, that he is in fact a Doctor.

      Yes, this issue gets me steamed, yes for me it’s clearly personal (but a genuine concern for podiatrists who want a change from DPM to MD so they can get the respect they deserve) and yes I’m naturally biased, but I know full well who’s a real Doctor and who isn’t. I don’t call the DPT treating my back issues Dr, I call him Alex. And i have no respect for the back cracking quacks (the one I saw actually pointed out what he called a subluxation on my x-rays but couldn’t really explain past that, the damn fool).

      I would rather push for dermatologists to lose their MDs, since so much of their practice has turned to beauty, full body cancer screenings (not covered by most if any insurances here in the US), and other cancer related non-covered fear mongering quackery. Hell, even my dentist wanted to sign me up for this special mouthwash and light diagnostic screening for oral cancer even though I have no risk factors for oral cancer. I’ve begun thinking far less of him for that quackery as well.

  15. While I agree with the original notion that we need to be wary of people who flaunt their credentials…I also have to marvel at the Elitist postings from Alfa et al (PhD holders) above. Without intention of merely raising their ire, I would like to know what exactly is it that they feel qualifies someone to use the title (or not at their prerogative) according to them, other than just having a PhD or MD. There was one particular comment that stood out in a previous post about physiotherapists. Just FYI physiotherapy is a Masters Designation. In order to then go on and acquire a DPT one must first finish a B.A and a Masters before getting the DPT. How does this not qualify them to use the designation Dr if they so choose. In order to achieve this level one must take equal if not more schooling than many MD’s.

  16. Wonderfully written article. Another example that fits within the parameters of your writing is Dr. Lynne Boutross. She holds herself out as a spiritual teacher born with gift of clairvoyance and also refers to herself as a transformational consultant. She obtained a “Ph. D” in metaphysics from the American Institute of Holistic Theology in March of 1998 after obtaining a Masters Degree in the same subject from the same school in September of 1997. She also claims to hold a doctorate in homeopathy among other things. A closer examination of the American Institute of Holistic Theology reveals that it is a secondary school recognized by the State of Alabama whose degrees are offered primarily online. If you do some further research on “Dr. Lynne”, you will find that she is internationally acclaimed and nationally recognized although we are not privy to the entity or entities that have recognized her in this manner. Her website smacks of psychotherapeutic principals although her disclaimer (cleverly written by an attorney in very fine print) attempts to contract away any and all responsibility for any advice or other services that she may provide. She holds no licenses from any state entity or authority and blatently tells you that in her “disclaimer”. She charges an hourly fee of $200 for her “expertise”, and insists that she has the capability of providing her clients with the “clarity” that they seek related to any issue. This is a classic example of purchasing a diploma that requires minimal work and using the title of “doctor” as a marketing tool designed to attract the unwary, the insecure, and inattentive. While I do not judge the validity of clairvoyance, psychic awareness, and intuitive gifts, I do seriously question the need of an individual like Boutross to refer to herself as a “doctor” based upon a Ph.D acquired in 6 months after obtaining a Masters Degree. She was investigated by the State of Washington for engaging in a counseling practice which, under the laws of that State, required a license. As a result of that investigation she moved from the State of Washington less that five months after her arrival. She is now located in Southern California, an area teeming with similar quackery happily plying her trade there. She does not take credit cards and her work is not covered by medical insurance. She uses her disclaimer as a method for shielding responsibility for her conduct. Her readings, spiritual mediumship, and other interesting gimmicks put her in the same class as Sylvia Browne, Caroline Myss, Doreen Virtue and Sonia Choquette. Just another in a very long list of “practitioners” trolling for your hard earned dollars. Why would anyone want to spend $200 per hour for advice and guidance upon which the provider claims absolutely no responsibility for its accuracy or its transparency?

  17. Well, I have to hand it to the Quackometer. Many negative comments have been posted about Lynne Boutross and her doctorate degree that she obtained from the American Institute of Holistic Theology over the course of one year. She has been able to remove all of the comments from the internet with the exception of the ones from the Quackometer. Well done to keep the public informed about folks who insist on using the name Doctor in their marketing tactics. Nice to see that her website has been sanitized and the word Doctor no longer appears. Apparently, the message has been conveyed. She was charging $200/hr. when she was marketing herself as “Doctor” Lynne. I would not be surprised if those fees remain the same, but at least, as a spiritual teacher, people have a chance to ask some questions in an effort to determine what they get for the monies they spend seeing this woman. Consider that most licensed psychologists and therapists don’t charge these high fees. Consider the difficult path that licensed psychologists and therapists have to travel in order to obtain their licenses. Virtually anyone can hold themselves out to be a spiritual teacher. Are they quacks? Well, we can’t answer that one, but we can say that licensed psychologists and therapists are not.

  18. I am very happy for you having a real doctorate and slapping on the blinders of medical science, bravo it sounds like the slamming doors of your closed mind have deafened you to any growth. You should be proud !

    • Way to miss the point, Ted. What’s wrong with people actually being qualified in their chosen profession? “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV!” Or do you like wasting money on con artists?

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