BOGUS Research: Bonehead, Overhyped, Groundless, and Unverified Studies

Colin T. Son


July 21, 2009

The public's thirst for health information and the popular media's attempts to quench that thirst have created a situation where almost every little "medical breakthrough" gets its day in the sun, no matter its veracity. Enter Dr. Jan Gurley, who enjoys debunking questionable research and the uncritical attention it gets in the mainstream media.

A board-certified internist in the San Francisco Bay area, Dr. Gurley provides care for the homeless at a public health clinic. But she also uses her critical eye and quick wit to entertain readers at her personal blog, Doc Gurley, as well as at the San Francisco Chronicle's Website. One of her popular features is the BOGUS Awards, which she gives out for "Bonehead, Overhyped, Groundless, and Unverified Studies."

Consider, for example, her post about a study covered by Fox News under the headline, "Happiness May Be Inherited." At her blog, Dr. Gurley reviews the details of the research and then adds her own commentary:

...Dr. Alberto Halabe Bucay of Research Center Halabe and Darwich in Mexico states, "It is well known, of course, that parental behavior affects children, and that the genes that a child gets from its parents help shape that child's character. My paper suggests a way that the parent's psychology before conception can actually affect the child's genes."

In other words, you have to ask in the postcoital glow -- was it good for you? Otherwise, if not, you might get saddled with cranky kids. The fact that there is no basis, biologically, genetically, or even grammatically, for psychobabble to produce happy sperm -- that fact apparently deterred no one reporting Dr. Bucay's claim as truth.
Doc Gurley hosts Grand Rounds
July 21, 2009

That is not to say that Dr. Gurley is merely looking out for the bad. She may be a pitbull in the face of health reporting that fails to accurately inform the patient. But she also takes the time to praise accurate reports, such as her post about another writer's efforts to expose sex myths, or the kudos she extended to Sports Illustrated for its article on performance-enhancing drugs. Of the latter article, she writes:

Read it, and be forever changed. The article makes clear exactly how it is that Hydroxycut (now banned by the FDA) could have killed a healthy 19 year old in 2007 and the death wasn't reported until 2 years later. The author interviews a former automotive restorer who now manufactures supplements. Before buying any dietary, muscle-enhancing supplement, read it -- the SI title says it all: What You Don't Know Could Kill You. Considering how magazines struggle for ad revenue these days, SI deserves a major Two Stethoscopes Up for publishing this article.

As part of her efforts to provide useful information to patients, Dr. Gurley is a strong supporter and repeat host of Grand Rounds, the rotating "blog carnival" that highlights blogs written by other physicians as well as medical students, pharmacists, nurses, and others involved in healthcare. Dr. Gurley hosts Grand Rounds again on July 21, so be sure to stop by.