My former institution, the medical school of Vienna, had invited me to give the key-note for a conference entitled ‘Esoterik in der Medizin‘ (22/5/2019). The event was to celebrate the success of a new course for medical students which was initiated after Prof Frass’ lectures on homeopathy had been discontinued. Remarkably, this move had been prompted by complaints from students arguing that Frass was promoting non-evidence-based, bogus concepts.

Whenever I go back to Vienna, I have mixed feelings; pleasant and not so pleasant memories (see below) come to the fore. This time, however, all turned out well, and I was more than delighted.

The new course signifies the realisation that so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) must be covered in any sound medical curriculum. Once graduated, students will be asked by patients about SCAM and have an ethical duty to inform them responsibly. Thus they need to know the essential facts and not the biased perspective that Frass and other enthusiasts tend to convey.

I have always considered this to be important but, as far as I can see, very few medical school manage to deal with this issue adequately. More often than not, the task of running such courses is given to proponents of SCAM who then try to brain-wash the unsuspecting students. The result can be seriously harmful to generations of patients. I am delighted to report that my former medical school has successfully avoided this pitfall. Quackademia has come to an end in Vienna!

In my view, the highlight of the recent event was the students’ presentation of their course-work. They had been supervised in small groups to research selected topics related to SCAM and were given 5 minute slots to present their findings. I truly felt this was impressive. The dedication, the quality of the research and the clarity of the presentations were extraordinary. In my 40 odd years of teaching medical students, I have never seen anything remotely similar (here I should mention perhaps that, 25 years ago when I was teaching in Vienna, medical students seemed to be as unmotivated as they get).

The students’ presentation were followed by 90 minutes of moderated discussion of the audience (the event was open to the public) and 4 experts. Here too, I was positively surprised by the quality of the contributions and the general openness of the debate.

So, overall the both the meeting and, more importantly, the new course for students can be considered a great success, and the organisers must be congratulated on it. For me personally, the most significant aspect was a matter entirely unrelated to SCAM. It was the introductory speech of the dean of the medical school. He announced me as the key-note speaker by praising my research on the Nazi history of the faculty. It was this research that, to some considerable degree, made me leave Vienna in 1993. To see it now appreciated by my former colleagues is deeply moving.


11 Responses to Vienna 2019: the end of quackademia

  • Congratulations!

  • I read your article and was left lost for words. Just another story that was left untold, unknown to the population at large. Some of these faculty members found their way to the Hebrew University and took leading roles in the young Israeli academy at that time teaching life sciences, medicine and humanities. I of course speak from a very personal place thanking you for shedding light on that dark corner and commemorating these brave men and women.

  • I hope they will be well educated about pitfalls of CONventional MEdicinNe (CONMEN) too, so they can resist all the hype and fraud. They should be reading ‘Medical Nihilism’ by Jacob Stegenga.

  • Good to hear that the University values your contributions to medical and historical scholarship.

  • Im really sorry I missed that event. But congratulations and it is great to hear positive news in this mostly absurd world of scam.

  • Really good stuff! Congratulations!

      • I helped the students with the presentation about the anti-vaxxer community. In the discussion I critizised, that
        one will always find a medium publishing the greatest bullshit.
        As example I mentioned the greatest Swiss online newspaper claiming that “immunisation makes you gay”

        Details here:–Impfen-macht-schwul-27468141

        But then a student took the micro and stated: “This can not be true, because his mother is an anti-vaxxer and he is gay.


        • I hope you are not implying that anti-vaxxer babies have poor logical and cognitive function.

          • generally not, but some are disabled, in the bible belt in Holland there was an Rubella outbreak, if i remember right 14 children were borne with severe Rubella embryopathie. And children of anti-vaxxer parents sometimes suffer from vaccine preventable encephalitis (measles!) – an encephalitis never can improve your cognitive function. But fortunately children from anti-vaxxer parents are relatively protected due to those who are vaccinated (herd immunity). I saw two children dying of SSPE (a deadly measles complication years after they had measles) they also sufferd from severe cognitive disfunction.

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