Laura Hewitson has left the University of Pittsburgh

26 Jul

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 One paper resulting from that study was withdrawn before it was published (discussed by Countering Age of Autism and Respectful Insolence).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 Hewitson’s webpage link at Pitt is no longer active.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.

120 Responses to “Laura Hewitson has left the University of Pittsburgh”

  1. Eric Maude September 8, 2010 at 19:06 #

    Sullivan, you simply can’t let go can you? It seems to me that you are a bit of a bully who, if anyone dares to criticise, tells that person to sling their hook. You have been criticised on this board by more than me for your references to Laura as Ms. Leave it at that. A sign of maturity here would be to accept that you have upset/irritated/alarmed a number of posters, apologise, and move on. Rather, you are digging in on the point, and making a bit of fool of yourself (if you don’t mind me saying).
    I apologise for any offence I have caused you – my intention of the original post was to address what originally I perceived as a lack of respect. I did not intend to sidetrack what may or may not be an important discussion (and I apologise to any posters for whom my posts have caused inconvenience).
    However, nothing you have said subsequent to this post has caused my to change my mind.
    As to rambling diatribes, I am sure we are all guilty at some time or another of doing this (me included) – your inability to accept this criticism is consistent in all your responses to my posts (sic).

  2. Dedj September 8, 2010 at 19:36 #

    I’m sorry, but I strongly doubt I am the only person who was not aware that ‘Dr’ Hewiston was not an MD (or other PMQ holder) prior to this thread, despite knowing roughly who she was beforehand.

    “Rather, you are digging in on the point,”

    Sorry, the point was done and dusted until you revived the thread. You revived the thread and all of your posts so far have contrived to go back to your initial point, even when the posts you were responding to were attempting to direct you down other channels

    You, and only you, are responsible for the thread returning to the Ms/Dr debate. Everyone else was responding directly to you. Admit to it, deal with it, get over it.

  3. Chris September 8, 2010 at 21:08 #

    I also assumed she was an MD. It had to do with the department she was in, among other things. I am still disappointed that the deficits in the paper is not the main topic.

  4. Barbara September 8, 2010 at 23:53 #

    Why did you assume that? Most academic researchers are NOT MD. Why should they be? They are academics, not practicing doctors. I can’t understand why anyone should assume that a scientific or social scientific/psychology academic should be an MD. Sorry if I sound naive. But I just don’t ‘get’ this. Is an MD somehow better than a PhD?

    So Simon Baron~Cohen, Lorna Wing, Tony Attwood, Chris Gillberg, Frankie Happé etc don’t count?

    I don’t get this. Am I being stupid?

  5. Barbara September 9, 2010 at 00:00 #

    Just give me the name of someone with an MD, and no other qualification, who has furthered the cause of autism in a peer-reviewed paper in a decent publication.

    Your quiz question for tonight.


  6. Barbara September 9, 2010 at 00:03 #

    Oh, and please leave out Michael Fitzpatrick.

    • Sullivan September 9, 2010 at 00:51 #


      Ms. Hewitson was described in the Telegraph as “Dr Laura Hewitson, a specialist in obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh”. I would not be surprised if there were some people who assumed that she held an M.D. (or equivalent).

      She currently works at a clinic, Thoughtful House. Not an academic institution. Again, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for someone to assume she was a medical professional.

      I don’t recall if I assumed her credentials included a medical degree. I do know I have made that mistake with others (e.g. Lorene Amet).

      Just give me the name of someone with an MD, and no other qualification, who has furthered the cause of autism in a peer-reviewed paper in a decent publication.

      I don’t see this as a valuable exercise. It isn’t whether someone has solely an M.D., but whether someone has an M.D. and possibly another degree.

      I would also ask, if we are going to use this criterion, has Ms. Hewitson furthered the cause of autism in a peer reviewed paper in a decent publication?

      I don’t think an M.D. is better or worse than a Ph.D.. It is different though.

  7. Dedj September 9, 2010 at 01:36 #

    “I don’t get this. Am I being stupid?”

    Yes. You’re assuming that everyone would know that Hewitson is primarily “a scientific or social scientific/psychology academic” without having to look it up, and that they would know enough to not assume that a ‘Dr’ who is “specialist in obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences” wasn’t originally an obstetrician or gynaecologist.

    As an aside, I’m in the UK and may have only just completed my undergraduate education, but I have never came across the obligation to refer to any PhD as ‘Dr’ on anything other than legal documents, addressing letters or documents, professional profiles, or when addressing them verbally. You certainly would not call them by their name without appending ‘PhD’ and would not use any marital title.

  8. Chris September 9, 2010 at 01:41 #

    Barbara, it sounds like you have an agenda. What exactly is this “cause of autism” you speak of?

    Would it be preventing autism by making sure rubella does not return? Because there are several MDs who have written about vaccines and autism, from Offit to Marcuse.

  9. Barbara September 9, 2010 at 11:57 #

    Chris, you’ve misunderstood my use of the word ’cause’, and that’s probably my fault for using it in a sentence in which it could be read ambiguously. In the way in which I’ve used it ’cause’ means ‘case’ or ‘matter’, and I apologise profusely for the double meaning. For the record, I think autism is a matter of heredity, and nor do I see it as something which should have a ’cause’ in the way you read it, nor a ‘cure’ as I don’t see it as a disorder, but a natural cognitive variant. I am strongly opposed to the vaccine rubbish. This has always been my position. My next book is titled ‘Autistic Intelligence – and why we can’t live without it’. I hope that explains it.

  10. Barbara September 9, 2010 at 22:30 #

    I hope this has been cleared up.

  11. justawellpublishedscientist October 19, 2010 at 08:15 #

    Just how much do you mindless twerps get paid to sing and dance to the tune of big pharma? It cannot possibly be more than 10 bucks an hour – given the quality of the blogger contributions and standard for debate and/or argument in the comments section.

    I stopped here on my way to do some light surfing on neurodevelopment, and I am revolted by the corporate fools that think that by seeding sites like these, meant to look like they are being hosted by the “science mom” and the punkish science enthusiast, they will get the “mindless masses” aka “parents of little children” to think, hey lookie there, even scientists and the general public think that we must drink the kool aid big pharma peddles on street corners and pediatric clinics…what the hell was I thinking, trying to think for myself.

    Big pharma, I have no problem with. But you pathetic little (little) middle men and women just make me cringe.

    • Kev October 19, 2010 at 11:13 #

      You’re so right – I, for one, intend to amend my ways immediately. From now on I will believe anything and everything antivax asshats spoon-feed me. You’re my new hero.

  12. Catherina October 19, 2010 at 11:34 #

    “well published” in the vanity press, no doubt.

  13. Chris October 19, 2010 at 19:24 #

    Oh, yawn! It is the old, tired and very boring Pharma Shill Gambit. How about something original, like some actual facts and evidence?

    • Sullivan October 19, 2010 at 19:31 #


      yep, classic troll behavior. Probably a hit-and-run.

      I hate to respond to trolls, but for the record, I have never been paid for blogging here or elsewhere. Clearly the “pharma shill” statement is a mere insult since it doesn’t logically follow from anything I have written.

  14. Robi January 3, 2012 at 20:31 #

    for the record, I have never been paid for blogging here or elsewhere.
    Perhaps, but do you have any peer-reviewed refs to prove it?

    • Sullivan January 3, 2012 at 22:50 #


      what are you asking for?….and, once again, keep to a single pseudonym please. I’ve lost count of the number you have tried.

      A peer reviewed reference wouldn’t include that information.

  15. MOMMABEARTO3 April 9, 2012 at 16:11 #

    It is so funny to me the lengths people will go to in order to disprove anyone that finds a link to the dangers of vaccines. LOL That is why I believe more and more those that do these studies and then get attacked for what they find.

    • Sullivan April 9, 2012 at 16:36 #

      If the article above is an “attack” you can provide evidence that it is incorrect, right?

      Simply labeling something “an attack” is easy. Participating in the discussion is both more difficult and more valuable. I invite you to join the discussion.

  16. Robin P Clarke April 9, 2012 at 20:11 #

    Mommabeart – People get attacked for telling the truth and people get attacked for telling falsehoods (deliberate or by honest mistake). Neither lot of attacks prove anything of the scientific truth, the scientific facts, which can only be discerned by carefully looking at the science (facts, reasonings, theories) itself. People on this lbrb website think they are doing that careful looking, while some other people over at Age Of Autism think it is they that are doing it instead. I think they’re all wrong, all too enmeshed in their prior presumptions about where credibility lies. It is virtually impossible for people to ever see their own lack of objectivity. It appears to me that independent-minded objective analysis of autism causation is almost nowhere to be found. Which only magnifies an already tragedy into an even greater tragedy.

  17. Lawrence April 9, 2012 at 21:43 #

    @Robin – what would you suggest? Careful examination of the evidence leads away from autism causation by vaccine administration….recent studies have raised legitimate questions about genetics, age of the parents & now weight of the birth mother – all areas of study that effet prenatal development…nothing to do with vaccines.

  18. Chris April 9, 2012 at 21:53 #

    Lawrence, do not expect much from Mr. Clarke. Check out some of his previous behavior. Ignore him.

  19. Science Mom April 10, 2012 at 02:45 #

    An HIV-AIDS denialist presenting himself as the paragon of truth and impartiality…that’s bloody rich.

  20. Robin P Clarke April 10, 2012 at 04:22 #

    @Lawrence, I agree the evidence substantially points away from vaccines as a main cause (unless you can credit a notion that several whole national databases can be fiddled, which I doubt). Parental age data is notably inconsistent, pointing to being socially causED rather than autism-causAL. As for genetics, my 1993 paper explained the circumstances in which autism would change from mainly genetic to mainly environmental – and that has indeed now happened. Autism has simultaneously also changed from lifelong incurable to now sometimes “spontaneously?” recoverable. And has hugely changed from mainly early onset to mainly late regressive. And I account for all that in terms of the change to non-gamma-2 amalgams from 1976 onwards in capitalist countries. Which also explains why merury is now heavily involved in most autism now. And why the MIND inst has to publish fraudulently deceiving papers to pretend otherwise.

    Sadly the intellectual base-level at this site shows little change in terms of the comments here from Chris and “Science Mom” – who completely fail to get the point just made and instead continue to obsess with personal attacks contrasting with total lack of interest in actual scientific evidence. Same with the linked comment in which another regular here expressed pride in his writing a crude ad hom and emotional outburst again in total absence of any scientific evidential discussion.

    • Sullivan April 10, 2012 at 04:38 #

      It is not a personal attack to point out that you are an HIV/AIDS denialist.

      If you are going to tell everyone your credentials, it is appropriate to point out that your stances are not based in science.

      Try to turn this into an aids denialist debate and watch how fast you get banned for good. That applies to all pseudonyms I catch as well. I meant what I said before about my feelings about aids denialists.

  21. Chris April 10, 2012 at 04:40 #

    All I did was point to your earlier behavior. That was not a personal attack, but a sharing of evidence.

  22. Julian Frost April 10, 2012 at 06:47 #

    @Robin P. Clarke:

    The comments by C and S above here both are concerned to defend (and themselves consist of) material that is (a) about a person rather than about the science facts, and (b) designed to (try to) detract from that person’s credibility, rather than contribute anything to scientific knowledge or understanding.

    The “attack” raises valid questions about your judgement. That makes the comments legitimate.

  23. Science Mom April 10, 2012 at 12:26 #

    Sadly the intellectual base-level at this site shows little change in terms of the comments here from Chris and “Science Mom” – who completely fail to get the point just made and instead continue to obsess with personal attacks contrasting with total lack of interest in actual scientific evidence. Same with the linked comment in which another regular here expressed pride in his writing a crude ad hom and emotional outburst again in total absence of any scientific evidential discussion.

    Your pseudo-scientific beliefs are directly related to your delusion that you are an impartial presenter of autism aetiologies. It is also not ad hominem to present your own screed which goes to your credibility. If you are embarrassed about it, don’t put it on public forums.

    Additionally, this thread topic is about Laura Hewitson and her credulous “science” of autism aetiology which has been debunked. Care to comment on that?

  24. Chris April 10, 2012 at 13:49 #

    Mr. Clarke:

    Retract and desist these falsehoods or else face the legal consequences of your wanton abusiveness here.

    I cannot retract the statements you made on another thread. If you don’t like them being link to, then stop concern trolling here.

    Laura Hewitson did not declare a conflict of interest, and did some very shoddy animal research. It is not an attack to point those out.

  25. Julian Frost April 10, 2012 at 15:01 #

    What happened to Mr Clarke’s comments?

    • Sullivan April 10, 2012 at 19:32 #

      Julian Frost,

      I am not letting Robin P. Clarke drag this into another attempted HIV/AIDS debate. Previously I pointed out to him that I find HIV/AIDS denialists loathsome. I still do. I am forced to host the comments of people with irresponsible views on some issues, but I don’t need to include HIV/AIDS denialism.

      His attempt to bring the discussion in through the back door by claiming that we should debate someone else was disingenuous at best.

      Also, I don’t see where I need to host someone who is threatening me.

  26. Chris April 10, 2012 at 16:03 #

    See what Sullivan wrote 04:38:28 today.

  27. Crystal April 30, 2012 at 18:34 #

    So where are the independent/credible studies that show autism is in no way caused or exasperated by vaccines? Where are the studies period?!! Why is nobody doing them? And when people do any study of the like they are deemed a quack or not credible? Seems to me that many levels of testing should be done on all sides before we use the subsequent generations as lab rats….

    • Sullivan April 30, 2012 at 20:14 #


      can you point to where I call someone a quack? I have no idea if Ms. Hewitson is credible. I know that some of the work she has published is of a very low quality. Low enough that I don’t think it should have been published. Certainly not with the interpretation she and others have tried to ascribe to it.

  28. Chris April 30, 2012 at 19:20 #

    Here are some.

    If you are dissatisfied with the many studies listed there (and be sure to click on the 2003-1998 archive), then design a suitable study and write a grant request to get the funding. Suggested organizations to request funding are Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, Autism Trust and Autism Speaks.

    After you or the research group you hire does that study, be sure to honestly declare all conflicts of interests in the paper before you submit it for publication to a PubMed indexed journal. You will see in the first paragraph of the above paragraph that Dr. Hewitson kind of forgot to do that. Don’t repeat her mistake.

  29. McD May 6, 2012 at 09:27 #

    Sullivan, I think you may give a false gravitas to having an MD. Wouldn’t it be best to bust the appeal to authority fallacy by not endowing any brand of Dr with any special powers. Even quite clever Nobel prize winners have fallen victim to their own publicity – Crick and Pauling come to mind.

    DAN doctors, or whatever they call themselves these days also need to be busted. MDs don’t get a lot of information on research methods or how to evaluate research. “published in some sort of journal” seems to be good enough. Anybody speaking outside of their field has the same authority as the next guy in the queue for the bus. That is a more important message than whether to trust research from some person who may or may not be qualified to offer medical advice. Frankly I have heard some crazy talk coming from MDs (or GPs as we call them here).

    • Sullivan May 7, 2012 at 23:21 #


      I’ve actually been chastised for referring to doctors (be they M.D.’s or Ph.D.’s) by “Mr” or “Ms”. The statement being that I am disrespectful. I chose to use “Dr.” only for treating physicians.

  30. al7 May 7, 2012 at 11:57 #

    fyi monkeys are not humans . there are significant immunologic differences . vaccines for human use are risky , but thats our future , why take those risks . there is pleanty of stuff on the net and youtube whereby we can all get a clear look at eugenics and social engineering . anyone whe feels we can breed a better humanity or make improvements ? i say to them i was born perfect . there is no room for improvement . go stuff it !!

  31. Science Mom May 7, 2012 at 12:24 #

    i say to them i was born perfect .

    If that was so, something went dreadfully wrong in the meantime.

    McD, Hewitson isn’t an MD, she’s a PhD in obstetrics.

  32. Julian Frost May 7, 2012 at 13:23 #

    vaccines for human use are risky , but thats our future , why take those risks

    Because the risks of not getting vaccinated and catching the diseases are far greater. Vaccines are orders of magnitude safer than the sicknesses they prevent.

    there is pleanty of stuff on the net and youtube whereby we can all get a clear look at eugenics and social engineering.

    Riiiiight. And everything on the internet is truthful, honest and accurate. Oh wait.

  33. McD May 9, 2012 at 08:27 #

    @ Science Mom, I wasn’t intending to differentiate between MD or PhD for anybody. Just that I felt that Sullivan’s policy was contributing to the logical fallacy of “appeal to authority”. I really do not see too much difference between my DH’s argument from (the mother he just ran into) and Sullivan’s blanket policy of argument from (is a practising physician). Which is effectively what happens when only practising physicians (Dr Bob?) get called “Dr”.

    As Sullivan stated above, he reserves “Dr” for “treating physicians”.

    I see no end of mischief coming from this policy.

    Every person should be evaluated by the value of the evidence which they bring to the table.

    I do not see any value in a priori judgements of the value of evidence based on the qualifications of the person.

    Yes, there is some value to expert opinion based on qualifications. But the use of expert opinion is so limited, and it is only really applicable in situations where behaviour or development is predictable from a known set of circumstances. That just does not apply to autism. This is a debatable point, but I do not think that the current state of the science allows anyone to have an “expert opinion” on autism in the manner that it would be accepted in a court of law. We have experts, but they will all have different ideas. In my own field, a person with an expert opinion is recognised as such by just about everybody else in the field. In autism, an “expert”, is likely to be opposed by most of the field.

    So I simply see no grounds whatsoever in crediting “treating physicians” (DAN doctors?) with an honorific and denying it to actual researchers.

    I think the better approach is to “bust” the myth that the title “Dr” gives the holder any special powers. Some Drs are credible, and some are dodgy. Let’s bust the myth that the title means anything more than Daddy had enough money to fund 7 years of med school (or however long it is in the US), (the hard-working ones who paid for it, and the smart ones who got scholarships will be pissed off, but the daddy’s boys are coasting on your hard work).

    So it is the quality of their work/evidence that counts. Just as a lot of practising family doctors are swayed by the drug company salesmen, others are courted by the bio-med industry salesmen. This needs to be told.

    Drawing a line between PhD researchers – many of whom will be grounded in evidence-based science – and practising physicians- many of whom will be bio-med stooges is just not a good idea in my opinion.

  34. Cassie July 5, 2012 at 23:32 #

    2 Monkeys is Too Many!

  35. informed citizen January 28, 2013 at 21:59 #

    Safety studies of medicines are typically conducted in monkeys prior to use in humans, yet such basic research on the current childhood vaccination regimen has never before been done. Is this true? If so what does this mean?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) January 28, 2013 at 23:11 #

      Ironically, the researcher above didn’t look at the “current childhood vaccination regimen” either, chosing instead the 1990’s vaccine schedule.

      • Lara Lohne January 29, 2013 at 01:58 #

        Wasn’t there a study just a couple of weeks ago that did exactly what so many people try to claim has never been done, using the current vaccination schedule? We haven’t forgotten how prevalent that study was and the information that it provided us already, have we? My brain is not functional enough at this current time to remember the exact title, but I’m pretty sure you blogged about it, Sullivan. It might be a good idea to provide the link to that study, it was pretty big news in the circles that I compute in.

  36. Science Mom January 29, 2013 at 20:02 #

    @ Lara, are you thinking of the IOM report? That wasn’t a study per se but an extensive review of published and unpublished data.

    • Lara Lohne January 29, 2013 at 20:05 #

      @Science Mom, yes, I was, thank you for clarifying. Even though it wasn’t a study in and of itself, it does contain data showing that the current vaccination schedule has been tested for safety, therefore claims made by anti-vaccinationists that no study has been done is clearly incorrect.

  37. sharonmsimas September 15, 2016 at 14:33 #

    Good grief! Why slander someone who has devoted her career to helping? Here’s an example of her recent work, which is quite credible:

    Who knows? Maybe she’ll stumble onto something that might just help your child…Hid forbid!!

    There’s a vast body of research demonstrating without a doubt that environmental factors as well as individual genetic SNPs can cause alterations to biochemical pathways, damage to brains, and developmental flaws.

    Maybe you could devote yourself to finding these and profiling heroic scientists who are making new discoveries every day rather than bashing them. And maybe some of these kids (and adults) can find a path to wellness as a result…

  38. Sullivan May 8, 2012 at 01:52 #

    Any one else noticed a sudden increase in the interest in Ms. Hewitson’s old work? Of course it includes link backs like the pingback from “government” where they sort of ignored all the discussions of the science problems with the study and linked to this article on her leaving instead. They also claim that people should continue the work. Perhaps they should keep up–U.Washington is continuing.

    I think “natural news” has a recent article up as well. They are flashing back to when this work was presented at IMFAR, years ago.

    The activity makes me wonder if perhaps Ms. Hewitson is about to release another paper. Or perhaps Sackett (who was funded to continue the work “A PRIMATE MODEL OF GUT, IMMUNE, AND CNS RESPONSE TO CHILDHOOD VACCINES”)

  39. passionlessDrone January 30, 2013 at 15:59 #

    Of course it includes link backs like the pingback from “government”



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