Laura Hewitson is the lead researcher on a series of studies on comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated macaque monkeys. This work became public first in the 2008 IMFAR conference. At that time and since, the work from these studies has been strongly criticized. Dr. David Gorski of Science Based Medicine discussed those abstracts. It is very likely that the new conflict of interest declaration policy for IMFAR resulted from Ms. Hewitson’s lack of declaration of her own COI at IMFAR (she has filed a claim with the vaccine court on behalf of her child). One paper resulting from that study was withdrawn before it was published (discussed by Countering Age of Autism and Respectful Insolence). More recently, a study from this series was published in which conclusions were drawn based on only 2 control animals. Those control animals underwent brain shrinkage during a critical period of infant growth. In other words, there was something seriously wrong with the control animals and, hence, the entire study. The study (and subsequent discussions by groups such as SafeMinds) spun the brain shrinkage around to claim that the “The vaccinated primates also showed altered maturation of their brains’s [sic] amygdalas.”
Ms. Hewitson has listed here professional affiliations as:
1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
2Thoughtful House Center for Children, Austin, TX, USA;
In 2008 she was listed as Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences on the University of Pittsburgh’s website. That is the last date for an internet archive version of that page. A google cache version of the page from June 2010 listed her as “adjunct” Associate Professor. Adjunct faculty are typically part time or people from other institutions who are working in some capacity with the University.
Ms. Hewitson’s webpage link at Pitt is no longer active. She is no longer listed on the faculty page for the Pittsburgh Development Center (PDC). The PDC confirmed that she is no longer on the faculty there.
Before people start speculating, the most likely explanation is that it simply became too difficult to balance a career at Thoughtful House in Texas with a faculty appointment in Pennsylvania.
This will mean that in the future Ms. Hewitson will be unable to use her University of Pittsburgh affiliation to bolster the credibility of her research. Studies begun while at Pitt will likely continue to show that affiliation (such as the recently published study on the amygdalas of macaques).
Whatever the reason for her departure, I welcome it. I don’t believe that a fine institution like Pitt should have its name attached to the level of research in the recent paper. It is difficult to simply put into simply how poor the quality of that study was.