We want the veterinarians who care for our animals to continue their education and keep up to date by learning about new developments in science. A new proposal for veterinary continuing education would encourage them to learn to use questionable treatments based on pseudoscience and fantasy.

We want the veterinarians who care for our animals to continue their education and keep up to date by learning about new developments in science. A new proposal for veterinary continuing education would encourage them to learn to use questionable treatments based on pseudoscience and fantasy.

My friend Carmen Czachor is a science-based veterinarian practicing in Port Angeles, Washington. She has alerted me to a disturbing development that she fears will “put veterinary medicine back in the dark ages.” The Washington State Department of Health is contemplating a rule change in the regulations requiring continuing education for veterinarians. Current requirements are for 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years; the only restriction is that no more than 10 hours can be earned in practice management courses. The Veterinary Board of Governors had observed an increase in the volume of continuing education courses related to CAVM (complementary and alternative veterinary medicine) and they wanted to provide some guidance. They explain:

The board originally proposed a ten hour limit on the number of veterinary CAVM CE hours that can be earned in any three year reporting period. After stakeholder feedback from multiple veterinary practitioners who practice solely in CAVM, the board decided to revisit the proposal. The board now proposes to establish a twenty hour limit on CAVM continuing education and add a ten hour minimum requirement for conventional medicine. The board finds that doing so would not result in a reduction in the quality of care provided and supports the consumer’s choices about what kind of care they seek.

Note: “stakeholder feedback from multiple veterinary practitioners who practice solely in CAVM.” I find this alarming. Veterinarians are licensed to practice veterinary medicine, not CAVM. Alternative medicine is called “alternative” because it is not supported by the kind of evidence that would earn it a place in conventional medicine. What does it mean that veterinarians are “practicing solely in CAVM”? Does that mean they have abandoned the conventional veterinary medicine that they were licensed to practice?

And how on earth did they determine that the proposal “would not result in a reduction in the quality of care provided”? They just made that up because they wanted to believe it and because they believe alternative medicine constitutes quality care.

The board’s chairman is biased

The Veterinary Board of Governors is chaired by Suzan Seelye,DVM. That explains a lot. I looked at her website and was appalled. She practices “Quantum Veterinary Healing,” offering “non-toxic wholistic/holistic methods while addressing both body and mind.” She says it allows healing at the DNA level. She is a certified Tui-na practitioner, a graduate of the Chi Institute (a school of traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine), a certified veterinary acupuncturist, and claims to have studied quantum physics, neurophysiology, molecular biology, therapeutic touch, Qigong, homeopathy, “nutraceutics,” Chinese and Western Herbal medicine, and Feldenkrais.

Her article on quantum physics says we create reality by what we focus on; that’s a complete distortion of what quantum physics actually says. Her website recommends books by unreliable New Age authors like Candace Pert and Lynne McTaggart. It recommends the ridiculous movie What the Bleep, which critics have characterized as “moronic beyond belief” and “not even wrong;” scientists have pointed out that the movie “…distorts science to fit its own agenda, it is full of half-truths and misleading analogies, and some of its so-called scientific claims are downright lies.”

Seelye also recommends a book I had not heard of, Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More. She says:

It is about a psychologist who helped heal an entire ward of mentally ill criminals without ever seeing any of them professionally. He used an unusual healing method from Hawaii called ho’oponopono. It takes self responsibility to whole new heights. The technique, in part, is seeing everything that comes into your life as a part of yourself and cleansing by saying “forgive me”, “I love you”, “thank you”.

Elsewhere on her website are references to “detox,” “animal communicators,” and locally prepared organic herbal blends for horses (which she not only gives to her horses but takes herself). The website provides numerous testimonials but nothing in the way of scientific studies.

Her article on DNA refers to “DNA frequencies” and claims that a Russian scientist has “uncovered the linguistic and psychic capabilities of junk DNA, ushering in a re-evaluation of the human gene in terms of words, wave genetics and grammar of spirituality.” She says “Man can literally reprogram his genetic blueprint through words” and “man originated billions of years ago in waves of consciousness.” Also, “group consciousness can bring about changes that dissolve violence and restore earth to its natural balance.”

I kid you not. I couldn’t make this stuff up. I can’t even repeat it with a straight face. It seems she has exchanged the realm of science and reality for full-blown New Age fantasies. In my opinion, a person who accepts these beliefs and who practices alternative or “quantum veterinary healing” should not be on a Board of Governors that makes rules for conventional veterinarians.

What kind of CAVM education are they talking about?

In my opinion, some kinds of education about CAVM would be useful. Veterinarians could be given factual, unbiased information that they could use to help educate patients who ask about CAVM. They could be told that when chiropractors claim to be fixing “subluxations” in a horse’s spine with manual “adjustments,” the bones are not actually out of place (and if they were, manual pressure wouldn’t be enough to reposition them: it would take a crowbar!). They could be told that homeopathy is bogus and that the evidence for acupuncture is compatible with a theatrical placebo. They could be told that “energy medicine” is based on a myth and has not been shown to work in rigorous controlled trials.

But unfortunately, the rules related to continuing education do not address criteria for the approval of CAVM courses. They would allow uncritical “how to” courses where “true believer” instructors teach students how they, too, can do CAVM. Anything goes.

This problem is not limited to Washington State. In 2012 two Swedish authors wrote a guest post on Science-Based Medicine describing how chiropractic is being taught to veterinarians around the world in courses that “mix science, pseudoscience and fantasy and make no visible effort to show which is which.”

Other problems

Dr. Czachor tells me three of the five veterinarians on the board use quackery in their practices: cold laser and stem cell at one, tui na at another, along with Seelye’s quantum quackery. She plans to file an ethics complaint saying they should recuse themselves from the vote. She also points out that it was the chair who suggested increasing the hours and that under Robert’s Rules of Order the chair should have NO opinion.

Dr. Czachor knows whereof she speaks: she is a former Board of Governors member and chair herself; her term ended in December 2012. She is also a Regional Officer of the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medical Association (EBVMA), representing the Western United States and Mexico. The EBVMA is a prestigious organization whose Past President and current Board Member is Brennen McKenzie, whose name you may recognize from the numerous articles he has written for Science-Based Medicine; he also writes the SkeptVet blog.

What can we do?

This is a horrible proposal. It would allow veterinarians to get 2/3 of their continuing education credits from courses based on fantasy rather than on science. It doesn’t address approval criteria for CAVM courses. It doesn’t even define what it means by conventional medicine.

Dr. Czachor has emailed and messaged everyone she can think of, but she says she feels like she’s tilting at windmills. We can help. A public hearing will be held on September 19th. Comments on the proposed rules can be submitted on the department’s Rules Comment webpage, or directly to the program manager, Loralei Walker, at Loralei.Walker@doh.wa.gov by September 12, 2016.

Time is of the essence.

Posted by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.