Articles

University of the Sciences in Philadelphia Justification for Scientific Honor of Homeopathic Leader, John A. Borneman, III

To update readers, I posted last week that my alma mater was to offer a Doctor(ate) of Science degree at our Founders’ Day celebration to Mr. John A. Borneman, III, pharmacist graduate (1952),  founder of the Board Member, Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States, Southeastern, PA, and Chairman, Standard Homeopathic Company, Bryn Mawr, PA

The university, known prior to 1998 as the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (PCP&S), has been led by Dr. Philip Gerbino, a gentleman whom I hold in highest regard for his leadership and dedication to pharmacy practice. As I increasingly appreciate the time demands on a university administrator, I was grateful to receive a very prompt response from Dr. Gerbino following the public posting here of my letter of objection last week:

Dear Dr. Kroll,

I would like to thank you for e-mailing myself and our provost, Dr. Russell DiGate, on Jan. 26 with your concerns regarding our Founders’ Day honoree. We most certainly respect your opinion and thoughtful correspondence.

We had no intention of eroding the honorific nature of science with our selection of John A. Borneman, III, P’52, RPh. Instead our objective was to honor a man who is a founder, innovator, and successful entrepreneur.  His selection for the Honorary Doctorate of Science degree is not about the rigors of science, nor the appropriate applications of science to homeopathic and alternative medicines, but about a founder who possesses remarkable leadership qualities and who is willing to share some of those with our students.  

Mr. Borneman’s selection as our Founders’ Day degree recipient provided a source of considerable discussion internally. I can say that in the end, it was decided that since one of our missions is to provide our students with academic and personal development through intellectual, cultural, and ethical understanding and awareness, Mr. Borneman’s honor would ultimately benefit them on their own paths to becoming future leaders and innovators. As point of emphasis, and in this context, we honor founding, not the field of homeopathic medicine. We honor a founder with entrepreneurial spirit.

Again, we appreciate your interest and comments and value your opinion. This letter is not intended to change your mind. It is provided to offer a better understanding of our decision. A good criticism is healthy and often inspiring. While it is not always necessary that we all agree, the basis of academia is to provide an environment of inquiry, debate, and critical thought where all opinions are respected.

Sincerely.

Philip P. Gerbino, PharmD

President

Again, readers, please keep in mind that I hold Dr. Gerbino in my highest regard.  He has been a university leader since I conducted my very first research project at PCP&S in 1984. Knowing what I know of him personally, even considering the unrecognized challenges of being a lead university administrator, I am led to register an even stronger objection to this honor of Mr. Borneman.

At first, I thought it might be more appropriate to acknowledge Mr. Borneman with an honorary MBA from the university.  However, even this recognition would honor leadership and entrepreneurship in the absence of ethics by promoting the sale of products with no medicinal value under the guise of health remedies.

Not to be melodramatic, but if I were to collect lawn clippings from my yard and sell them as a cure for cancer with 30% of patients claiming they were helped, would I be worthy of an Honorary Doctorate of Science from my alma mater?

And I also submit that Mr. Borneman’s grandfather, John P. Borneman (1907) was a PCP graduate and promoter of both botanical medicines *and* homeopathics at a time when dose-response pharmacology was first being realized in the United States.

My most serious point is that one cannot, as Dr. Gerbino proposes, separate the business leadership and success of Mr. Borneman from the fact that the business is one of deceptive products marketed in the name of medicine.

Whatever Mr. Borneman offers to my alma mater in terms of business acumen and leadership training, I find his honor highly deficient in ethics and an affront to the principles of authenticity and scientific rigor put forth by the founders of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

Unfortunately, my compatriots are graduates of a small college with a small alumni organization. I was graduate number 17,346 since 1821 and the school has only had between 900 and 2,500 students per year in the last 20 years. I doubt seriously that a significant public objection can be mounted against the honoring of Mr. Borneman.  I’m sure he is a fine gentleman personally, and I hope to meet him at some point to discuss these issues, but I am disgusted by the imprimatur about to be given to him by the same institution whose academic endorsement hangs above my desk.

 

Posted in: Homeopathy

Leave a Comment (15) ↓

15 thoughts on “University of the Sciences in Philadelphia Justification for Scientific Honor of Homeopathic Leader, John A. Borneman, III

  1. Joe says:

    David, could you write to the student newspaper so the students will learn how wrong this is? I wonder if many faculty have paid attention to this issue, specifically- do they realize the guy is a homeopath. Even if it is too late to divert the honor, it could be useful for education.

  2. ” ‘We had no intention of eroding the honorific nature of science…our objective was to honor a man who is a founder, innovator, and successful entrepreneur’.”

    Then why not call it the “P.T. Barnum Award”?

    Seriously, how can an honorary Doctor of Science degree refer to something other than “the honorific nature of science”?

    I had a similarly disappointing experience a few years ago with Dan Federman (link below), for whom I’d also had the utmost respect prior to that time. I guess I’ll write about it here some time. It still hurts.

    http://www.hms.harvard.edu/office/federman.html

  3. …since one of our missions is to provide our students with academic and personal development through intellectual, cultural, and ethical understanding and awareness, Mr. Borneman’s honor would ultimately benefit them on their own paths to becoming future leaders and innovators.

    How? As a bad example?

  4. “…our objective was to honor a man who is a founder, innovator, and successful entrepreneur”

    Translation: “We think he’s probably loaded and hope he gives our school a huge endowment!”

  5. qetzal says:

    As point of emphasis, and in this context, we honor founding, not the field of homeopathic medicine. We honor a founder with entrepreneurial spirit.

    I’ll take Dr. Kroll at his word that Dr. Gerbino is a respectable man, but this is the worst kind of rationalization. “We’re not honoring all the snake-oil Borneman’s peddled, we’re just honoring how successfully he’s peddled it!” Gerbino should be heartily ashamed at making such an argument.

    I think Perky Skeptic hit the mark on what’s really going on here.

  6. David,

    There is another point to be made to Dr. Gerbino, one that is so obvious that it would be easy to overlook: if Gerbino assumes that Borneman sincerely believes in homeopathy (the alternative is that Borneman is a charlatan), then Gerbino must acknowledge that PCP&S failed in its education of Borneman. Dr. G must therefore wonder how many other students, over the decades, have failed to grasp fundamental principles of chemistry and pharmacology that are incompatible with homeopathy, and how many current students may be at risk for the same fate. Borneman could be of value: his answer to “please describe how you came to believe in homeopathy, having completed the course of instruction at PCP&S” would be useful. Perhaps he is a rare exception, but perhaps he is indicative of a flawed curriculum.

    I realize that such a dialogue between you and Dr. G wouldn’t remain a dialogue for long. Still, he is in need of some serious reality-testing.

  7. Joe,

    I’ve e-mailed the editor of the school paper, The Advocate, as well as the top three officers in university student government. We’ll see what kind of buzz, if any, is happening on campus.

    qetzal, that is truly a perfect distillation of the response:
    “We’re not honoring all the snake-oil Borneman’s peddled, we’re just honoring how successfully he’s peddled it!”

  8. Joe,

    I finally received a response from the president of the university student government but no response from the student newspaper. Not that I am terribly concerned about honorifics in salutations, but I did address the student in my letter as Mr. Smedley:

    David,

    Thank you for writing to us in regards to this matter. The official decision of the University has been made on the awarding of the honorary degree by a committee vote. Student Government has a single representative on this committee, but the decision that was made is a collection of opinions and it cannot be retracted. As the Student Government President, I also have an internal dilemma, which consists of the variety in student opinion. There are students who agree with the decision, students who are opposed, and students who are uninterested, but I represent the opinions of them all. I understand where you are coming from and so do some of my executive board members. However, the student representative had their chance to vote and for better or worse the University will proceed with the program on Thursday as planned. Thank you again for your input and I would only ask that this event not discourage you from remaining involved in the activities of the University. Students appreciate the insight and real world experience that alumni bring and we look forward to joining the ranks one day.

    Thank You,

    Gary M. Smedley
    President
    Student Government Association
    University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

    I may need help with the interpretation here but it seems that the single student vote was to give Mr. Borneman the award.

    I am truly disappointed that I have not yet heard from the student newspaper.

  9. David Gorski says:

    Hit ‘em again, and hit ‘em again hard.

  10. Joe says:

    David, thank you for the update. As for interpreting the student vote, it seems clear that Smedley approves of the vote. I would have emphasized a disagreement with the choice in my reply to you; were I Smedley.

    I share your dismay over the student paper. Everywhere I have been, they have seen their purpose as stirring-up issues. I hope this does not mean they have gone to the dark side.

    Since I have no standing (as lawyers say) I doubt that I can do anything, and I hate to suggest more work for you. Perhaps a major newspaper would carry your (op ed) analysis. Or, you could submit it to “Skeptic” and then try to embarrass the administration to respond.

  11. tpeltz says:

    Hey Dave, While I was attending Stevens in 1986 they awarded an honorary doctorate to Frank Sinatra simply because he was born in Hoboken. That was met with the same disdain you are showing. Our onlyrecourse? We nominated Pia Zadora in 1987 for the same reasons.
    Good Luck
    Tom
    “…too many cameras and not enough food. This is what we’ve seen.”

  12. RMH 763 says:

    You probably haven’t heard from the school newspaper since they haven’t published a single issue yet during the 08-09 academic year…but that’s another story

  13. cm says:

    Using President Gerbino’s logic, maybe someone should give Kevin Trudeau (of _Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About_ fame) an honorary doctorate. I mean, he has done a tremendous job at enriching himself selling crap, too. In fact, he’s been far more profitable, I’d guess, than Borneman.

    It *is* only about how much money you can make, right?

Comments are closed.