Caroline Myss,
September 23, 2002 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Caroline Myss, Ph.D., is a wildly popular best-selling self-help author, loved by Oprah and PBS stations. She has her own show on Oxygen. But in what did she earn her cherished and paraded Ph.D.? Intuition and Energy Medicine. Where did she earn it? From a non-accredited correspondence school. Who founded the department from whence she graduated? She did. She maked it up. I'm always a bit skeptical of the intelligence and merit of anyone who so prominently adorns their pop writing with academic credentials. Here, my skepticism seems vindicated. Any other gurus out there with bogus credentials?
posted by dilettanti (37 comments total)
Though not as blatant as Miss Myss, how about the dubious credentials of the aptly-named Gary Null?

And let's not forget Dr. Zoe D. Katze.
posted by ptermit at 7:18 AM on September 23, 2002

She maked it up? Dided she really?
posted by Jubey at 7:23 AM on September 23, 2002

"Dr." Laura Schlesinger is always a favorite.
posted by clever sheep at 7:29 AM on September 23, 2002

Marcia had an interesting comment on this in her weblog a long time ago. You can find it here. She found at least 9 people claiming to have degrees that they didn't really do. Although none of them were particulary high profile.
posted by ralawrence at 7:30 AM on September 23, 2002

ptermit: Nice! Maybe Dr. Zoe D. Katze should be mentioned in Miguel's Cats Can Be Workaholics Too thread...
posted by taz at 7:32 AM on September 23, 2002

In light of this, I think you all should award yourselves the Uncle Fester Memorial Scholarship Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts and/or Sciences.

A little something for the "Awards and Recognitions" section. Congratulations!
posted by UncleFes at 7:43 AM on September 23, 2002

The use of bogus experts like Myss and Andrew Weil (among others) by PBS to boost viwership during pledge drives is one reason why I stopped giving.
posted by TedW at 7:50 AM on September 23, 2002

"I don't have a lot of credentials, but what I do have, is a Phd in Pain." -- Brad Goodman, best self-help quack...ever!
posted by nomisxid at 7:51 AM on September 23, 2002

There are a lot of alternative education schools that allow students to design a unique one-off major and the coursework. But how can somone get a correspondence degree from a school she founded, did she mail herself the coursework?
posted by stbalbach at 8:07 AM on September 23, 2002

Wow, searches for Brentwick University turn up some hilarious results. I found at least one school teacher that listed a BA from there (and is no longer at the school), and this google cache makes me really trust the co-founder of the company.

I also found someone with a degree from Brentwick in hotel management. Now, if you're going to get the fake degree, why not get it in a more impressive subject?
posted by mathowie at 8:13 AM on September 23, 2002

"John Gray, PhD"
posted by raysmj at 8:17 AM on September 23, 2002

Ted W-
Andrew Weil has some solid credentials. You might disagree with his conclusions, but there is no way you can compare his educational background to that of Miss Myss.

posted by cleetus at 8:34 AM on September 23, 2002


It doesn't say that Myss founded the program, it says that she and one other person began the program, which sounds more like pursued their degrees. (In fact, the site pretty clearly indicates that "Bob Nunley" is the founder of the program; and he's still the Dean of the department.) Since she's not listed as faculty either at the school or on her resume, I think it's a bit of a leap to say she "maked it up". Whatever you think of maked-up fields like "intuition and energy", correspondence schools, and the like.
posted by dhartung at 9:00 AM on September 23, 2002

The use of bogus experts like Myss and Andrew Weil...

What's bogus about Andrew Weil? Harvard Medical School is now a fly-by-night nutcase factory?

If you disagree with the methods Dr. Weil espouses that's one thing, but this thread is about phony credentials. Please explain what is phony about Dr. Weil's credentials.

Harvard Medical School Alumni White Pages entry for Dr. Weil
posted by botono9 at 9:04 AM on September 23, 2002

I'm surprised no one's mentioned Derek Smart yet...
posted by Be'lal at 9:05 AM on September 23, 2002

I think we are all afraid "Dr" Smart will yell at us if we do.
posted by Localemperor at 9:08 AM on September 23, 2002

Dr. Nick Riviera - "This won't hurt a bit, until I jam this down your throat!"
posted by gottabefunky at 9:27 AM on September 23, 2002

*cough* *cough*

dhartung, you're right about the possibility of an alternative reading of the word "began." However, I have been unable to find anything that would indicate Nunley's founding of the department. In his biography, it says he was made an adjunct faculty member in 1999: "In 1999 Dr. Nunley was made an adjunct faculty member of our Department of Energy Medicine at Greenwich University." I have yet to find anything that would indicate what you suggest... where were you looking?

As for the double reading of "began," I can only say that it seems odd to me that they would cite the year they began the program, rather than the year they graduated, if the line was not meant to attribute the foundation of the program to them. The line occurs in a history of "Energy Medicine" and is the first mention of the Greenwich department. But I retract my former strong statement in favor of something more accurate: It seems to me as if she founded the department from which she graduated. Proof to the contrary would be most welcome, though, if I'm wrong, so I don't go making such a fool of myself elsewhere.
posted by dilettanti at 9:29 AM on September 23, 2002

Maybe some of the experts actually have A Working Man's PhD.
posted by donovan at 9:54 AM on September 23, 2002

I guess I touched a couple of nerves with my off-the-cuff mention of Andrew Weil. I did not mean to impugn his education at Harvard (although I am not particularly impressed by it); rather, he has gone beyond his background to pratice less medicine and more self-promotion, as with many self-help gurus. I will say that he is a tad more respectable than some; perhaps I should have used raysmj's example instead.
posted by TedW at 10:24 AM on September 23, 2002

Interesting timing, as I was reading a column in NYPress about diploma mills, and other "non-traditional" ways to get credentials.

I tend to be very suspicious of people who want to be called "Dr." when they have an academic degree, as opposed to a medical degree. All the college profs I've known preferred to be referred to as "Professor Such-and-so" and not Dr. Still, this has little to do with bogus credentials.
posted by meep at 10:48 AM on September 23, 2002

Whereas I think diploma mills are silly, I have to admit that when I had to drop out of grad school this semester because the pregnancy thing got to be too much to manage around profs get annoyed when you nap in class and there's *no* way I was going to be able to manage labor and finals at the same time...a couple of my friends bought me a doctorate from Universal Life Church...which I thought was just a hoot.

Now, would I wander around calling myself Doctor Dejah? No...but I wouldn't do that even with my real doctorate. Still, I thought it was funny that they could buy me a degree as a present. :)
posted by dejah420 at 11:20 AM on September 23, 2002

But in the long run, she's a millionaire, and you are not.
posted by Satapher at 11:31 AM on September 23, 2002

A fascinating post even before I have the time to get fully into it, and while I'm not sure what to think of those who'd take her courses and lectures, I always admired the notion of "self creation" in such a fully rounded and thought-out way (Freud comes to mind). Curiously too, I always thought it more of an achievement to be a great pianist if one cannot play the piano, then to be great as a trained piano player. I'll even admit that on the phone I occasionally identify myself as Doctor Such-and-such (I'm not) just to get a faster and friendlier response. But I wonder how she pronounces her name, --my asses? Should give a little insight into her frame of mind, no?
posted by semmi at 11:50 AM on September 23, 2002

She maked it up.

I thought this was a joke, the mistake in conjugation that is, similar to "The wind done gone".
posted by McBain at 12:55 PM on September 23, 2002

I believe the pronunciation is like "geese" with an M at the beginning... Meese, if you will.
posted by theRegent at 12:59 PM on September 23, 2002

I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Myss a few years back at a social function, and at the very least, she seems to genuinely believe what she preaches.

As for the validity of her credentials, I consider them along the same lines as any preacher out of divinity school who would call herself doctor. Also, I don't know this first hand, but I doubt mainstream schools offer advanced degrees in new age-y areas like health intuition.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2002

Dr. Kent Hovind, the "Creation Scientist" who speaks at bible-believing Christian churches across the US and calls himself Dr. Dino, bought his Ph.D from Patriot University. Whadda phony.
posted by LimePi at 3:50 PM on September 23, 2002

and at the very least, she seems to genuinely believe what she preaches.

Heh...and so do delusional maniacs, Nazis, and UFO-ologists. :-)

Regarding those who would be called "Doctor" upon earning a PhD (academic) degree: my first stats prof joked that upon completing his graduate degree, he wanted to be called "Master." If it's good enough for "doctors," then why not "Masters?" Chuckle...
posted by davidmsc at 5:58 PM on September 23, 2002

It is entirely appropriate to give anyone with an advanced graduate degree (PhD, D.Div., DDS, DMD, etc.) from an accredited institution of higher learning the respect of using the title "Dr." My father (PhD and DDS) and I (MD) used to have spirited discussions over who was the real "Doctor" in the family as he believed PhD's were the first doctorate degrees awarded in the evolution of higher learning. It is in part for this reason that I prefer the term "physician" when referring to a medical doctor. To further complicate matters, it is my understanding that surgeons in England are properly addressed as "Mr.", a fact that I am only too happy to point out to my surgical colleagues when they get too cocky. Finally, the use of the title "Dr." can be confusing, even when appropriate. Think of the many nurses with PhD's out there. In general, most reputable academics are aware of this confusion and tend not to nit-pick; those who do trumpet themselves as "Dr." so-and-so and are thin-skinned about it tend to invite closer scrutiny of their credentials.
posted by TedW at 7:26 PM on September 23, 2002

I'm all for changing the abbreviation for Doctor of Philosophy from Ph.D. to Dr.Phil. That should clear up the confusion.
posted by rschram at 7:42 PM on September 23, 2002

rschram-best comment all day
posted by TedW at 8:25 PM on September 23, 2002

I occasionally identify myself as Doctor Such-and-such (I'm not) just to get a faster and friendlier response

Thats borderline. Have you seen a Doctor about this?
posted by stbalbach at 8:42 PM on September 23, 2002

My thoughts...

1. The use of the term "Diploma Mill"...
Not every institution of "higher learning" offers all of the courses one might want to attend. This is particularly true when speaking of topics that could be considered "new age".

I don't think there is any harm in learning some new philosophy you may not have been privy to before. Quite honestly I can't see many of the higher education institutions in this country even consider offering something that might rock the boat at all. I mean we all come to expect our "alternative" ideas from colleges but how often do we really support those kooky ones? You know, the idea's about taking care of your mind, body and soul. What a weird idea, give me a degree that pulls six figures thank you.

2. Carolyn Myss is a highly respected woman who has worked hard her entire life to share her thoughts on healthier living through good treatment to yourself. What have you devoted your life to? That's what I thought.

It's all well and nice to talk about those who would swindle us with their crazy ideas and marketing schemes but when it comes down to it, most of us, including myself... don't make an such a positive impact on so many people. And please.... do tell me the last time anyone with any lasting message this century tried to spread their ideas without charging actual dollars for the books or coursework they are writing. I mean god forbid you actually charge someone money for the things you create. What a concept! Just make sure your ideas are inline with the conservative right or watch out. That self-love/appreciation thing might happen to me too.

3. I'll keep this simple because I don't feel like dragging it out more. I know Caroline Myss, I'll be honest and clear on that. So now you might be saying to yourself.... "self, of course he would say all these things because he's buddies with her or something!" Well, I'm not buddies with her and I wouldn't call her a close friend but I have had somewhat of a relationship with her and her company, CMED (Caroline Myss Education (another big way she was hiding her ties to this "diploma mill" was by directly telling people she was involved in education by naming her corp. entity after that which she loves and spreads. Ooh how tricky!)). Anyway, I worked with them, and other folks over time like Caroline and I can tell you this. I don't know what I believe, I don't know if I believe in Jesus, the United States, Potatoes on Sunday or if I'm going to wake up tomorrow. But one thing I do know is that I believe in decent people, and Caroline is a kind and decent woman who only wants to share her ideas on love, health and happiness. I'd say that's a hell of lot more important than most things I see in the media today. So whether or not I support Caroline, attend classes at her school or send her rice crispy treats.... the one thing I can tell you about her, and yes from personal experience.... is that she is a kind woman who cares about people and that's a hell of a lot more than I can say for most people on this planet. So make your judgements please, but remember there are always two sides.

- J
posted by jasenlee at 8:51 PM on September 23, 2002

jasenlee, your post reminds me of one particularly memorable pol sci tutorial, where in the minutes before it started and we were waiting for our tutor to arrive, a couple of girls start chatting about a local politician. They were laying the boot into something this woman had proposed, saying how awful she was, how ghastly, what a horrible person... when one of the other students, who had been quiet up till then, put her pen down forcefully and said, 'I'm sorry, but that person happens to be my mother!'


So make your judgements please, but remember there are always two sides.

Here is one side. Here is another.

The question isn't whether or not Ms Myss is a kind person, a hard worker, has done a lot of good and so on. The question is whether her Ph.D. is what is generally understood by the term 'Ph.D.' If it isn't, then those who have worked long and hard for their widely-recognized PhDs have a right to be annoyed.

[davidmsc:] he wanted to be called "Master." If it's good enough for "doctors," then why not "Masters?"

Like in that Metallica song, 'M.Pupp.'?
posted by rory at 4:32 AM on September 24, 2002

At less elite universities, it is more common for professors with Ph.D.'s to be known socially as "Dr." Indeed, in my hometown, locus of campus of the California State University system, professors were universally referred as "Doctor" in the community. (My father and half my friend's fathers were professors, so I got quite familiar with that form of courtesty).

When I got up to Berkeley, I discovered that full professors with Yale Ph.D.'s tended to refer to themselves as "Mr." and were referred to by others as "Professor." The title of "Doctor" was reserved more or less solely to post-doctoral fellows in science and engineering who, lacking a teaching appointment, had no claim to "Professor," but, needing to be distinguished in status from the many graduate students and non-Ph.D. technical staff, were referred to as Doctor.
posted by MattD at 8:48 AM on September 24, 2002

I have a Master's degree in science!
posted by rschram at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2002

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