In the first part of this series, we took a look at several of the organizations that confer non-established accreditation on graduates of the various nutritionist programs in Canada. We saw how the schools themselves will invent official-sounding organizations to hand out official-sounding designations for what are essentially local diplomas. We saw how third parties that seem to do little more than cash cheques are preying on graduates to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and how they make the schools complicit by playing to their financial interests. We saw how even the organizations that that provide higher levels of services — lobbying, research, education — still seem to manage to funnel more dollars to the schools. They’re certainly not about protecting the patient, relying on the fallacy that natural means safe to justify their lack of even a basic complaint process.
We’ll continue that exploration today, before turning our attention to what these programs actually teach — and what they should teach — in the final instalment tomorrow.
Beedle dee, dee dee dee: two ladies (yes, again)
In Part I, we saw how the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN) left behind the IONC, a lucrative accrediting association run out of a PO Box by two women in Brantford, Ontario, to promote CAHNPro, an equally lucrative accrediting association run out of CSNN’s offices by CSNN’s graduates. Seems this is a well worn narrative — the CSNN website also fails to promote the fact that their program qualifies for the Natural Nutritional Coach and Practitioner (NNCP) and Registered Nutritional Therapist (RNT) designations of the Canadian Association of Natural Nutrition Practitioners (CANNP).
Founded by Wendy Gibson and Beth Gorbet, whose smiling pictures are strangely omnipresent on the site, CANNP seems eerily similar to the IONC. A newsletter, a little light lobbying, a liability insurance program, and an application form. As value for money goes, however, the CANNP does seem to have a bit of an edge on IONC — membership is slightly cheaper, and they include access to an online natural products database and discounts on a variety of products. All they need to do is throw in the rust coating and I’m sold…
To be fair, in talking to Ms. Gibson, I found her to be quite friendly and open, and I didn’t sense any particular malintent — she clearly believes in what she’s doing. Of any of the organizations I talked to, her’s seems to be the one with the fewest potential financial conflicts. While the NNCP designation costs $250, plus a $50 kicker for the RNT upgrade, they’ve only got 200 members, so it’s hardly a cash cow that these photogenic gal pals have created. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before they get there, but I did believe her story that she and Ms. Gorbet started the organization largely in response to the failings of the IONC — to do what they were supposed to do but never seemed to.
She was more even-handed on CAHNPro, indicating that the main difference, besides the connection to CSNN, was their approach to regulation. CAHNPro is pushing for regulation but CANNP is opposed to it, because it means that many of the nutritionists practicing today won’t be able to practice anymore without upgrading their training.
This was perhaps the most disappointing part of the discussion — her willingness to accommodate lower training standards in order to keep more people “in the boat.” Well that, and her echoing of the common refrain on patient protection — that it’s a liability insurance issue and that “the basis of what we do as holistic nutritionists is generally not things that would injure or cause harm.”
Board to Tears
If you’re already confused by all the acronyms, conflicts, and political bun fights — and you have every reason to be — then hold onto your seats. So far, we’ve only explored those organizations at the top of the food chain — the ones that actually purport to do anything, and are recognized by the more established schools in the field (CSNN, IHN, Edison). But there’s a whole other tier of bottom feeders we’re about to dip into — organizations that barely keep up the pretense of being professional associations. Welcome to the wide, wild world of board certification.
In Canada, there are three separate examining boards that attempt to label nutritionists “Board Certified”:
- The Canadian Examining Board of Health Care Practitioners (CEBHCP);
- The Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners Canada (EBNMP); and
- The Board of Natural Medicine Doctors and Practitioners-North America (BNMDP-NA)
The CEBHCP of Danforth Avenue in Toronto gives out 40 (!) designations in all manner of CAM fields, including Certified Biofeedback Technician, Aesthetic Surgery and Hair Transplant Therapist, and Aromatherapy Health Practitioner. Nutritionists can apply for the RNC* — Registered Nutritional Counselor — by filling out a really poorly formatted application and attaching (i) a diploma from Alive Academy in Richmond, BC or the College of Holistic Studies in Milton or Brooklin, Ontario, (ii) two passport sized photos, and (iii) a nominal cheque for $450.
They’re going to need that money too, to defend themselves from prosecution under Ontario’s Regulated Health Professions Act for misusing protected designations. Their board members are being prosecuted as well, including osteopath, acupuncturist, homeopath and CEBHCP founder Matthias Nauts, who runs his private practice out of the same office on Danforth.
Now in some industries, such a prosecution would make Dr. Nauts** a pariah. In this industry, it qualifies him not only to keep running the CEBHCP, but also to work with his own competition — the EBNMP.
The EBNMP of Midland Avenue in Toronto gives out 6 designations, though their most successful ones are their RAP (Registered Acupuncture Practitioner) and DNM (Doctorate of Natural Medicine). Collectively, those two have about 330 members. Their Registered Nutritional Medicine Practitioner (RNMP) designation is slightly less popular, clocking in at a grand total of seven. Ouch.
Funny thing is, that Dr. Nauts’ name is all over the EBNMP’s public documents, where he’s listed as an advisor. He’s also a DNM in good standing — which is strange for someone who gives out 40 designations of his own.
But the bizarre interconnections don’t end there. Nauts sits on the board of the General Osteopathic Council of Canada (GOCC***) with June Ann Kelly, President and co-founder of the EBNMP, who also runs Toronto’s New Earth College. New Earth College is of course accredited by the EBNMP, as is Living Energy, the school run by EBNMP board member Radka Ruzicka
You following? There’s more.
Kelly was an early collaborator of the devastatingly handsome Allan Austin, chiropractor and inventor of the Trigenics system of functional neurology (basically, the unholy marriage of applied kinesiology and chiropractic). Austin — who shamelessly touts his celebrity client list (Farah Fawcett!! Rock Voisine!! Gandalf!!) — is a board member of the EBNMP as well, and the Trigenics office is the headquarters of the World Board of Natural Medicine (WBNM), a new-ish umbrella organization with a logo nearly identical to the EBNMP and same taste in serifed fonts as the EBNMP, the GOCC, and New Earth College. The EBNMP has been transferring its trademarks, including the RNMP designation for nutritionists, to the WBNM, in an obvious attempt at world domination by the Rand Corporation in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires.
OK, I cribbed that last bit from Milhouse Van Houten, but it’s pretty clear that the whole thing’s an incestuous mess of mutual-affirmation. So let’s hope the third examining board — the BNMDP-NA — can get us out of the rabbit hole. Let’s really get to know them, starting with their history:
HISTORY OF BNMDP-NA
The Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners known as “EBNMP” was established in 1998 in Ontario, Canada by its founder and Past President, Dr. Sheila McKenzie to satisfy the demand for a registry for Natural Medicine Doctors and Practitioners. In 2003, the organization was re-named the Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners-North America “EBNMP-NA,” remaining a corporation constituted under the laws of Ontario. In July 2006, the organization registered federally as a non-profit corporation in both the United States and Canada. Its sub-affiliated boards are responsible for the administration of clinical competency examinations.
Oh dear. So if I’m following this, the third board appears to be a splinter of the second — the result of a split between the co-founders that left each with a similarly named corporate entity — one took the EBNMP and the other took the EBNMP-NA and rebranded it BNMDP-NA. This internecine bun fight was embarassingly public, with the EBNMP even issuing an open letter to its members warning them that the EBNMP-NA was representing themselves the “true” EBNMP in order to poach members:
We must stress that this act is unethical and misleading to the general public and should you be contacted by anyone representing this board (EBNMP-NA) offering an upgraded membership, you should guide yourself accordingly.
Yikes. But the battle wasn’t just over members — it was over their main (non-nutritionist) designation as well. The “D.N.M.” and “D.N.M. (Doctorate in Natural Medicine)” trademarks are both owned by the EBNMP, but the BNMDP-NA continues to use them with apparent impunity. This despite trying to register it themselves, and to register such variants as “NMD/DNM”, “DNM/WONMP”, and “(t)-DNM (Traditional Docturate In Nature’s Medicine” but abandoning each application after receiving the examiner’s first report. In the trademark filing process, that’s often where insurmountable trademark conflicts (like someone else owning the mark) are identified.
Well Enough of That
I trust you’re as happy as I am to leave this snake pit. After all, what does any of this matter to us, the consumer? Why should we care whether the accrediting organizations are dysfunctional and at each other’s throats, or whether they’re selling the practitioners a bill of goods? If the original training a nutritionist received at their school is solid, it really shouldn’t matter which silly designation they naively paid for after graduation, right?
If only it were so. Aside from the fact that the designations are meant to be just as impressive, and persuasive, to the consumer as to the practitioner, the fact is that not all nutritionists are created equal. Only one designation ensures that the practitioner received the science-based training required to provide competent, science-based care — and we’ll look at them in Part 3 tomorrow. [Read Part 3]
Photo courtesy of Masahiro Ihara via Flickr under Creative Commons.
* As a confusing aside — the RNC from the CEBHCP is different from the RNC given out in the States by the American Association of Nutrition Consultants, an organization that Quackwatch has covered in the past. More confusing still, the AANC’s RNC is also called a CNC.
** I concede he’s a doctor because of his PhD
*** The training and accreditation of non-physician osteopaths in Canada is frighteningly similar to that of nutritionists — perhaps a topic for a future article.