Florence Comite

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Some Notes on Florence Comite, M.D.

In February 2003, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) announced that it was assembling a committee to identify major scientific and policy issues in "complementary and alternative medicine" ("CAM") research, regulation, training, credentialing and "integration with conventional medicine." As part of this process, it posted the names of 15 appointees and asked for public comment about their suitability. Here are IOM's biographical sketch of Dr. Comite and the comments I submitted. Despite her obvious embrace of pseudoscientific methods, she was retained on the proposed committee.

IOM Description (February 2003): Florence Comite, an Associate Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine, has been involved in developing new therapies for osteoporosis, endometriosis, fibroid disease, and infertility. Dr. Comite has been a leader in women's health for over 15 years. Founding Women's Health at Yale in 1988, Dr. Comite has long pioneered integrated approaches to health care delivery. The culmination of this work is an innovative model of health care, DestinationsHealth, which appears to have wide-scale benefits for women and men alike. She is also interested in exploring how delivery systems impact health outcomes and has focused on this problem as a Senior Clinical and Research Advisor to the Offices of Alternative Medicine (OAM) at NIH.

My Comments (Posted on February 23, 2003)

  • DestinationsHealth provides services through the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, in Oija, California. where the cost is $2,600 to $2,850 for a four-day stay. The spa offers standard preventive health advice plus a variety of practices that lack proven value. The staff includes a dietitian/hypnotist who offers reiki (based on the notion that nonmaterial "healing energy" can flow from the practitioner's hands) and a naturopath who prescribes homeopathic remedies.
  • Other services listed on the DestinationsHealth Web site include:
    • Acupuncture: "The ancient Chinese healing arts balance the flow of energy within your body's natural meridians to release pain and tension. Highly effective for treating many medical conditions, this therapy promotes a dynamic state of mental, physical and spiritual health."
    • Aromatherapy: "Essential oils have been renowned for their therapeutic qualities for centuries. Expert aromatherapists blend essences of aromatic plants and flowers that have particular healing effects for your unique physical emotional or hormonal condition."
    • Chinese medicine: "Specialists in Chinese medicine have a superior understanding of the healing herbs that promote equilibrium in the body's flow of energy. Your illness is understood and adjusted through investigation into where imbalances are interrupting your physical or mental health."
    • Polarity therapy: This involves manipulation, stretching exercises, "clear thinking," and diet, which are claimed to restore health by removing blocks and balancing the flow of "life energy" between the positive (head) and negative poles (feet) of the patient's body. "Life energy" cannot be measured with scientific instruments.
  • Dr. Comite may have done valuable work in the area of women's health and preventive medicine. However, I believe that her uncritical embrace of pseudoscientific notions makes her unsutable for a committee intended to issue science-based recommendations.

This article was revised on January 15, 2005.