MEDIA ADVISORY: Putting alternative medicine under the microscope


Published: 3Nov2011


Leading health experts to discuss non-conventional approaches at the Seventh Trottier Symposium

Following 2010’s extremely successful Trottier Symposium on pseudoscience, this year’s event spotlights "Alternative Medicine." Four world-renowned experts have been invited to examine some of its tenets "under the microscope."

Alternative medicine can be described as practices that are available to the public but which are not taught in conventional medical schools. The focus there lies on evidence-based methods and controlled experiments. Lack of evidence, however, does not mean that a particular treatment cannot work; there may be alternative methods and practices worth pursuing.

Alternative treatments can range from acupuncture to reflexology, and its practitioners range from energy healers to magnet therapists and beyond. Although risks tend to be low, there is always the danger of patients being seduced by unsubstantiated claims, possibly to the extent of forgoing evidence-based treatments.

Irrespective of one’s views on alternative medicine, there is no doubt that the subject merits attention and scrutiny.

The seventh Trottier Symposium will feature two public events. On Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Centre Mont-Royal (1000 Sherbrooke St. W.), Drs. Harriet Hall, Paul Offit and Robert Park will address the audience, while on Nov. 8 at 6 p.m., the floor will belong to Dr. Edzard Ernst at McGill’s Fieldhouse Auditorium.

The Invited Speakers:

Dr. Paul Offit - As the leading advocate of childhood immunizations in the United States, Dr. Offit is one of the most public figures speaking out against the alleged relationship between vaccines and autism. His 2008 book entitled Autism's False Prophets triggered attacks from the anti-vaccine movement and garnered support from vaccine advocates. Dr. Offit is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Harriet Hall - Dr. Hall is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. Dr. Hall is only the second woman to do her internship in the U.S. Air Force and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida. As an Air Force physician, Dr. Hall did it all; she delivered babies, served as flight surgeon and even took the controls of a B-52. She retired as a full Colonel. Dr. Hall is an outspoken critic of alternative medicine and constantly emphasizes the importance of following scientific evidence. In 2008, Dr. Hall published an autobiography entitled, Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly:The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon, a title that was inspired by the prejudiced comments of an airport official.

Dr. Edzard Ernst is a former homeopathic practitioner and supporter of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). But Ernst has become a vocal critic of alternative medical techniques that are not supported by scientific evidence. Dr. Ernst co-wrote the best seller Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial with Simon Singh. He retired from the position of Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter this past summer, after producing more than 1,000 research papers.

Dr. Robert (Bob) Park - Dr. Park is Emeritus Professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has written op-eds and articles about space exploration, pseudoscience, alternative medicine, and the creation/evolution debate for the New York Times, Newsday, USA Today, and the Washington Post. Dr. Park has made frequent appearances on The Colbert Report, Dateline NBC, and NBC News discussing alternative medicine. He has also written two widely acclaimed books, Voodoo Science: The Road from foolishness to Fraud and Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science. A former Director of Public Information at the Washington office of the American Physical Society, Dr. Park has been a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry since 2004.


Monday, Nov. 7; 10:30 a.m. - 11:25 a.m. Lecture in General Chemistry Class, Stephen Leacock Building, Room 132 (Fieldhouse Auditorium) McGill University

7 – 9 p.m. Symposium with Drs. Harriet Hall, Paul Offit and Bob Park, Centre Mont-Royal, 1000 Sherbrooke Street West

Tuesday, Nov. 8; 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Lecture in General Chemistry Class, Stephen Leacock Building, Room 132 (Fieldhouse Auditorium) McGill University

1 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lecture in General Chemistry Class, Stephen Leacock Building, Room 132 (Fieldhouse Auditorium) McGill University

6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Symposium with Dr. Edzard Ernst 'Alternative Medicine: Trick or Treatment?', Stephen Leacock Building, Room 132 (Fieldhouse Auditorium)McGill University


McGill University is proud to host the seventh annual Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium, made possible through the generous support of Dr. Lorne Trottier and honouring his wish "to hold a public forum to inform, inspire debate and raise public awareness on contemporary issues confronting society today."





Contact Information

Cynthia Lee
Media Relations Office, McGill University
cynthia.lee [at]
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