The most elaborate “paper conglomerate” of phony health-related credentials I have encountered was launched in Indiana in 1983 as the American Nutritional Medical Association (ANMA). The group was founded by Stephen R. Thomas, who also served as its president. Its stated purpose was to promote increased public understanding and legal recognition of “nutritional medicine and alternative holistic health care.” Its manifesto stated:
Nutritional medicine . . . refers to that branch of alternative health care which deals with the treatment or prevention of disease through the use of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, homeopathy, and natural health care education and counseling. This is not a branch of allopathic medicine, and practitioners of nutrimedical arts and sciences should never let their patients think so!
ANMA members were offered “registration and/or certification” in various “alternative health care specialties.” Its members could become Fellows of such august bodies as the American Board of Family Nutrimedicists, the American College of Naturopathy, the American College of Otology, the American Board of Homeopathy, and the American Board of Nutrimedical Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Certification was also available as a chiropathic therapist, massage therapy technician, nutritional medical counselor, nutrimedicist, and naturodermacist. (None of these “credentials” is recognized by the scientific community.)
The original cost of “professional membership” in ANMA was $100 for the first year and $50 per year thereafter, but discounts were sometimes offered. Associate membership cost $60 for the first year and $40 thereafter. Although the application asked for education and professional affiliations, these were not verified. A $5 commission was offered for each new member recruited. For an additional $25, ANMA members could join the United Natural Health Association, from which they would receive a Certificate of Fellowship.
ANMA also operated John F. Kennedy College of Nutrimedical Arts & Sciences (American Nutrimedical University), which offered correspondence courses leading to a “degree,” “diploma,” or certificates in “nutritional medicine,” “chiropathic medicine,” “naturodermatology,” homeopathy, hypnotherapy, “neuroreflex therapy,” and “nutrimedical” counseling. Its one-year Doctor of Nutritional Medicine (N.M.D.) course cost $1,895, but ANMA publications indicate that “nonacademic N.M.D. degrees” were awarded to members holding a doctoral degree or qualified through other experience. The one-and-a-half-year Doctor of Chiropathy (D.C.M.) course cost $2,400. The Nutritional Medical Counselor (N.M.C.) course cost $800. ANMA members received a 10% discount. Passage with lower than a C average would yield a certificate of completion rather than a diploma. We assume that the “N.M.D.” was its most popular “degree” because the public might think it was a type of medical (M.D.) credential. (Note: Clayton College of Natural Health, a nonaccredited correspondence school in Birmingham, Alabama, offers a naturopathic medical degree (NMD) unrelated to the AMNA credential.)
Noteworthy individuals who have made public use of AMNA’s N.M.D. credential include:
- Gregory Caplinger, a medical impostor who operated clinics in North Carolina and the Dominican Republic and — among other things — was convicted in July 2000 of federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering. Caplinger received AMNA’s 1986 “Doctor of the Year” Award and claims to have been a senior AMNA vice president in charge of legal affairs and credential services 
- Roy Kupsinel, MD, a “holistic” practitioner in Oviedo, Florida, founded the American Quack Association and published Health Consciousness, a bimonthly magazine. In a 1987 issue of the magazine, Kupsinel described how he had been expelled from his county and state medical societies following charges related to his “nutritional/hypoglycemia practice.”  He also got into trouble for false advertising as a result of his public use of the “N.M.D. degree.” In 1996, he was placed on 5-year probation with a provision that he refrain from advertising that he had awarded the “N.M.D. Award” or any other certification or specialization not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the Florida Board of Medicine .
- William C. Nelson, who is described on various Web sites as having doctorates in medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, science, business, and international law. He is also described as the inventor of the Quantum Xxroid (QXCI) Biofeedback System, a device claimed to “synergetically scan and harmonize the body’s stress and imbalances through immediate feedback on such things as possible deficiencies, toxic allergens, hormones, emotions, meridians, pain, etc.” [4,5]
- Laurence Perry, a former associate of Caplinger, who, in 2002, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license in North Carolina. He was prosecuted for the death of an eight-year-old diabetic child whose mother followed Parry’s advice to stop administering insulin. Like Caplinger, his credentials also included a diploma from the nonexistent British West Indies School of Medicine [6,7].
In 1987, ANMA moved to Colorado and evolved into the American Nutrimedical Association and International Alliance of Nutrimedical Associations. Around the time of the move, holders of an N.M.D. diploma were invited to exchange it for one from Lafayette University. But not long afterward the degree’s name was changed to “Doctor of Nutrimedicine” and designated “the official degree of the Nutrimedical Arts and Sciences offered by the Colorado College of Nutrimedicine.” Other “professional” activities and their corresponding “organizations” were renamed, probably bringing the total of possible ANMA-related credentials to over a hundred. By 1991, however, ANMA’s directory listed only 83 “professional members” in the United States, fewer than half the number listed in 1986. .
Since 1992, I have seen no evidence that AMNA, Lafayette University, and their various other associated “organizations” are still active. However, Thomas is now operating as “Archbishop” of the Romano Byzantine Orthodox Catholic Church, of Duluth, Minnesota, which offers credentials in “chiropathy,” “theocentric psycotherapy, ” “theocentric microscopy analysis, and “theocentric ozone hyperthermia.” through its Commission on Religious Counseling and Healing. The Commission’s Web site states that “chiropathists and chiropaths are concerned with the bringing back into balance the whole body-temple of everyone they serve  and that, “the theocentric psychotherapist is concerned with emotions as related to the physical and spiritual well being of the client . Further:
To give an idea as to what is covered under a particular license heading, we hereby offer the following brief outlines: Chiropathist, Meridian Healing, Aromatherapy, Touch Therapy, Anointing, Nutrition Education, Fitness Counseling, Herbal Education, Bio-Meridian Analysis and Education, Hyperthermic Therapy, Darkfield Microscopy Education, and other approved “hands-on” therapies defined and approved under this vocation; Chiropath, all previously named therapies plus Nutrition/Herbal Counseling and Supplementation, Relaxation Massage, Prayer Therapy, and Spiritual Counseling; Licensed Religious Counselor, Prayer Therapy, Meditation, Behavioral Modification. Faith and/or Spiritual Counseling, Occult Deprogramming or Exit Counseling, Nutrition Education, and other counseling or education areas defined under this vocation and as approved .
The “licenses” to which Thomas refers are licensed issued through his organizations. He apparently hopes that wrapping bogus credentials in religion will enable buyers to practice a health profession without being prosecuted for unlicensed practice. Whether that is true remains to be seen.
- Caplinger G. Curriculum Vitae of Gregory E. Caplinger, M.D., D.Sc. Undated booklet distributed in 1996, page 9.
- Kupsinel R. The transition physician. Health Consciousness 8(2):16-19, 1987.
- Report on Physician Discipline and Malpractice, Tallahassee, FL: Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, April 1997, p 22.
- Quantum Xxroid. Advanced Dermacare Web site. Accessed Sept 20, 2000.
- Quantum Xxroid. Life N’Balance Web site. Accessed Sept 20, 2000.
- Zimmerman D. CV discloses a deadly phony. Probe 8(2):4-5, 2000.
- Maxwell T. Naturopath found guilty in diabetic girl’s death, practicing medicine without license. Citizen-Times, April 15, 2002
- Raso J. Mystical Diets. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993.
- History and mission of chiroprathy. Commission on Religious Counseling and Healing Web site, accessed April 15, 2002.
- Theocentric holistic psychotherapy (Psycho-spiritual counseling) Commission on Religious Counseling and Healing Web site, accessed April 15, 2002.
- Membership. Commission on Religious Counseling and Healing Web site, accessed April 15, 2002.
This article was revised on April 16, 2002.