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“Dr.” Raphael Nyarkotey Obu: Another example showing quackery’s the same all over the world

Orac has Google Alerts set up for various subjects, such as alternative medicine. This time around, it was a Google Alert that introduced him to “Dr.” Raphael Nyarkotey Obu, who shows how quackery is the same all over the world, including in Ghana.

You know how I like to refer to Dr. Oz as “America’s quack“? Being the international interest guy that I am, I think I might just have found a candidate who apparently thinks he’s Ghana’s equivalent, Ghana’s quack, if you will. Thanks to various weekend activities, I didn’t have time to do one of my epics of logorrhea or an in-depth dive into a topic. Fortunately, this story managed to catch my attention, and I think it’s worth a short mention before diving into the thick of things tomorrow. After all, I like to see how quacks around the world operate and how other nations, regardless of where they are, handle unscientific and pseudooscientific medicine.

So meet Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu, who is characterized as a “brilliant holistic medical practitioner.” The article about him that popped up in my Google Alerts is truly amazing, and not in a good way:

ALTERNATIVE and allopathic medicines are the two main broad divisions in medicine and medical care the world over.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), over eighty percent (80%) of the world population, especially in the Developing World and underserved areas resort to Alternative Medicine (AM) to address their health needs.

WHO additionally attributes the longer life expectancy rates among Continental Asian Countries, to the development, promotion and patronage of alternative medicine.

The above statistics and great attributes of AM informed WHO’s decision, to institute August 31st as African Traditional Medicine Day, to celebrate the importance and the strategic role of Traditional and Alternative Medicine (TAM), in healthcare delivery and promotion.

This is an example of a time when the phrase “citation required” is especially appropriate. Somehow, I really doubt that the WHO credited longer life expectancy to the use of alternative medicine. It is, unfortunately, true that there is a day promoted by the WHO as African Traditional Medicine Day. It is also true that some 80% of Africa’s population relies on traditional medicine for their basic medical needs.

In Ghana, I learn, alternative medicine is lumped together with Traditional Medicine and confined to the Ministry of Health via the Alternative Medicine Directorate and the Traditional Medicine Practice Council, respectively. If you believe the article, that makes alternative medicine worse off in Ghana than in the rest of the African continent. Enter Ghana’s quack, Dr. Nyarkotey Obu:

A lonely voice has emerged as an Alternative Medicine’s strongest lonely voice and an Ambassador Extraordinaire Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu.

He went a step further recently to float and established the Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine, in collaboration with the Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine, Larnaca City, Cyprus, one of Europe’s prominent Alternative Medicine Universities. It has been highly rated in 2012, by Shannor Walker inforbarrel reports amongst the top five holistic medicine universities in the US though the school is based in Cyprus.

The college teaches quite the variety of quackery:

The College is an alternative University College, affiliated to the Da Vici College of Holistic Medicine, Larnaca City, which would train practitioners and experts in undergraduate and graduate competencies in Alternative Medicine. Da vinci College offers program in Bachelor of Science in Holistic Medicine, Masters and Doctor of Science in Holistic Medicine. Other programs such as Diploma and Certificate in Homeopathy Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Clinical Nutrition, Herbal Medicine and among others. The college’s program have been reviewed and accepted by the Traditional Medicine Practice Council of the Ministry of health and prospective students are to write the professional qualifying examination conducted by the council.

much of what is taught at the College is, of course, the sort of quackery that one could find in any American, European, or Australian quack school. It’s depressing to see that the government has basically approved its curriculum and that graduates can write for a qualifying examination. In any case, “Dr.” Obu is pretty energetic when it comes to promoting quackery in Ghana:

Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu has become synonymous with Holistic/Alternative and prostate cancer in the country.

He is a leading voice in public education and awareness on the effects of prostate cancer and a strong advocate for Father’s Day to re-designated and declared National Prostate Cancer Day.

He is a research Professor of Prostate Cancer and Holistic Medicine at Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine, Larnaca City, Cyprus.

He is the National President of the Alternative Medical Association of Ghana, (AMAG) and doubled as the Vice Chancellor of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine, Ghana, affiliated to Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine in Cyprus.

Those are a lot of impressive-sounding titles, and “Dr.” Obu has impressive-sounding patter to go along with them:

Dr. Nyarkotey is determined and aims to find a cure and preventive medicine for prostate cancer using evidence based alternative medicine which he coined the new medical term “Allopathic Alternative Medicine”. In achieving his mission, the research Professor of prostate cancer and alternative medicine has also established the first Africa Prostate cancer Research Centre at Tema Community 17 to research into evidence based natural medicine. He is also a member of the Prostate cancer transatlantic Consortium (CapTC), a firm researching into prostate cancer in black men under University of Florida, USA, led by Professor Odedina and also a member of the Society of Cancer epigenetic, Austria.

“Allopathic alternative medicine”? Does Obu even know what the terms mean? Recall that “allopathic” is a term for conventional medicine thought up by Samuel Hahnemann to distinguish it from homeopathy. It’s meant as a derogatory term. Regardless of the word’s origin and if you even accept it as a legitimate word to describe medicine (I do not, but unfortunately the word has wormed its way into regular use, even by some medical societies), “allopathic” is the opposite of alternative medicine. It’s as though Obu just threw words together. I suppose I could credit him with more knowledge than he likely has. Maybe he’s cleverly coming up with a term for “integrative medicine,” in which quackery is “integrated” with real medicine. Probably not.

Unfortunately, regardless of Obu’s intent or knowledge with respect to “allopathic alternative medicine,” it’s disturbing how even a seemingly obscure story can show how “integrative medicine” has led to so much “quackademic” medicine, in which reputable medical schools become enamored of pseudoscience and study it as though it had a scientific basis. Of course, in this case the researchers could be interested in natural products that might have therapeutic use. Given that Folakemi Odedina is a professor of pharmacy, that is probably what’s going on.

Finally, not surprisingly, “Dr. Obu” is not what he claims to be:

Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu graduated with Doctor of Philosophy in Alternative Medicine with research interest in prostate cancer from the IBAM Academy in Kolkata, India. He started his medical pathway as a Medical Sonography graduate from the Radford University College, Ghana and also trained as Science Laboratory Scientist from the Trans Africa University College. Dr. Nyarkotey has worked in several Hospitals specializing in prostate or urological ultrasound and one of the finest Medical Sonographer’s who aim to use Doppler ultrasound for prostate cancer diagnosis.

His love for men’s health further engineered him to studied the first ever master’s program in prostate cancer at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, postdoctoral training in prostate cancer and holistic medicine at Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine under Dr. George Georgiou, Larnaca City, Cyprus. He has authored hundreds of scientific articles in leading National Dailies and journals and frequently mentioned by Oheneba Ntim Barimah as one of the country’s expert in alternative medicine and prostate cancer.

So basically “Dr.” Obu is an ultrasound and lab technician, not a real doctor. He got a bogus “doctorate” from a correspondence school in India. I do love, though, how he claims “hundreds of scientific articles” in leading national dailies and journals. What’s the ratio, I wonder? 100 articles in dailies to one article in a “complementary and alternative medicine” journal? Sadly, no matter where you are in the world, the US, Europe, or even Ghana, quacks are the same everywhere.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

19 replies on ““Dr.” Raphael Nyarkotey Obu: Another example showing quackery’s the same all over the world”

Evidence based altrnative medicine?
To parafrase Tim Minchin: “You know how they call alternative medicine that has proven to work? Medicine.”
As soon as I see the word holistic, I know it’s not for me.

Quacks are not the same everywhere. “Allopathic” medicine makes sense when you have an infrastructure to support it. Quacks in developped countries more often than not operate undercover, within the regular medical infrastructure and more often than not practice quackery while paying lip service to “allopathy”. Until they perform their coming out…

In Africa, I would trust nor traditional nor “allopathic” medicine in practical terms.

Many Africans I’ve talked to, rather educated, consider it a priority to renew their culture and traditions to free themselves of what they consider european perversions in some sense or another. For good and bad reasons.

The priority is more to foster syncretism between the cultural renewal that is going on there and between lessons we have learnt ourselves of the enlightenment. We should focus on that even more than on saving lives by fighting quackery in Africa, which is way too alive and kicking for now.

Confronting quackery directly won’t work. On this front, unfortunately, the only group of people that I would bet my money on for long term perspectives would be the Khan Development Network and the Khan Academy. For various ressons… Notably the fact that they’ve already taught Pakistan a few lessons in how to undertake medical research.

Quackery for prostate cancer is a really good way to fool yourself since most of the patients will die with, rather than of, that disease. I am not impressed.

Interesting that the school of quac… HOLISTIC MEDICINE is located in Cyprus: it’s the home of suspect banking as well.

For comparison, you can review the website of this hospital in Zambia, where my aunt worked as a nurse (she had a B.S. from Ohio State) for many years. She used to ride her motorcycle around to villages in the region to treat patients.

http://www.mukinge.com/j/

They received a grant several years ago from the U.S. government to fight HIV/AIDS and are one of the leading trainers of nurses in the country.

There’s not a lot of information on various departments, but I found no mention of homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture or any other alternative medicine.

There may be a need to train the traditional practitioners out in the village on triage and referral so that people with serious illness can get referred to hospitals like Mukinge. But as far as I know, they are not trying to integrate traditional African medicine into their practice.

A friend of mine is an OR nurse, and went to Zambia several times to help a surgeon she knew set up a hospital with a fully functioning OR there. She told me the locals wanted access to modern medicine very badly, so the church she was in sponsored the mission trips to build, stock, and train the staff.

I’m going to Boliva in July to help train their ER nurses on neonatal resuscitation, and shock/trauma. The doctors and nurses don’t have access to a lot of bells and whistles in Boliva; there’s only one CT machine in the entire country apparently, and it doesn’t work half the time due to a lack of parts. But I’ve been told (this is my first time going) that the staff there are passionate about evidence based medicine.

Quackery might flourish in third world countries with a lack of regulation, access to modern medicine, and a plethora of locals who reject medicine as a way of rejecting colonialism. But there are bright spots.

I wish I had those kinds of chops. Did just apply to be a summer canvasser for MSF, though. Gotta keep trying.

Thanks, squirrelelite. 🙂

I have always wanted to do this, and the opportunity literally fell into my lap (I was commenting on an ENA discussion board and the trip coordinator invited me to participate) so I couldn’t pass it up.

I’m hoping to take this experience and use it to develop a study abroad program for my nursing students. I’d like to get them involved in a vaccination clinic or something similar as a way to teach them about public health.

Reading about all the quackery in other countries (as well as my own) can be very frustrating. I keep reminding myself there are a lot of people who WANT EBM, and are willing to go to great lengths to get it.

Next time you do a piece on holistic remedies, we need Mulder’s famous “I want to believe” poster with a homeopathic remedy superimposed over the UFO.

You found the solution to Fermi’s Paradox! The aliens substituted their advanced health care with alternative medicine. It may also explain the absence of dinosaurs.

I do love, though, how he claims “hundreds of scientific articles” in leading national dailies and journals. What’s the ratio, I wonder? 100 articles in dailies to one article in a “complementary and alternative medicine” journal?

Close.

Obu’s journal publisher of preference was Global Journals. This is a Nigerian scam that seems to have decamped in early 2014, ironically taking Obu’s cash without publishing his last paper.

Obu’s Google Scholar comes up with 3 of the above journal articles, a synopsis of his Ph.D. thesis with the findings already listed and a proposed 14 chapters! and 7 newspaper articles.

The April 28 2018 issue of the Economist reports that only 12-26% of patients in rural Indian and Chinese clinics were correctly diagnosed. The glorious results of homeopathy and TCM in action!

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