My girlfriend is a second year medical student at a UK university (naming no names, as she seems to think she'll be punished if this gets out...) She does a module called "Medicine in Society", she has 11 full days observing real-life medical practitioners at work, more than half of her patient contact for the year. This year, she will be doing her placement at the Greenwich Natural Health Centre. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.
Among other things, they offer "Holistic Aromatherapy", "Homeopathy", "Cranial Osteopathy", "Cranio-sacral therapy" (on reading the blurb on the website, I honestly can't see any difference between these particular two brands of woo) , and the Reiki Healing. Even when some of the treatments sound as though they might be sensible (Pyschotherapy, Relationship Counselling...) it turns out that some of the practitioners are the same people who do the Reiki healing. Although, to be fair, some of them do seem to be qualified psyhotherapists (not, note, qualified pychiatrists).
There doesn't appear to be a single person on the staff at GNH who is a qualified medical doctor (I haven't looked through the entire list, I'm willing to be corrected on this) and one woman proudly offers her qualifications as "BA Hons", "DipTch", which unless I'm mistaken is just a Bachelor's degree (in an unspecified (arts) subject) and a teaching diploma.
Anyway, that's enough trashing the place - obviously, it's a hotbed for woo, and they don't really buy into the whole "evidence-based medicine" thing. Fair enough, there's a time and a place for that sort of thing, as Ben Goldacre points out in his new book, there are probably more important things to worry about, but this is where the story gets silly.
On hearing that she was going to be sent to woo-central, and not really liking the idea, my girlfriend decided to ring up the School and ask if she could possibly be transferred to a placement where they did actual medicine. She was told in no uncertain terms that she could not, and that if she didn't attend all eleven days of woo-school, she couldn't possibly pass her second year. An extract from this conversation apparently went:
My Girlfriend: "But there's absolutely no evidence that any of it works, it's not based in science."
Office Lady: "That's a fair point, but..."
"but..."? But what? What "but..." could possibly justify forcing someone to waste 11 days and (approximately) £1000 of tuition fees on learning about treatments that can't possibly work? Possibly the scariest part about this is that the other twenty or so medical students who were sent on the same placement don't seem to have objected at all.
Anyway, today is day one of her placement. She's promised to take copious notes, and I'm going to write about them here.