Alan Conteras's Personal Rampage, Unprofessional Conduct
Alan Conteras's Personal Rampage, Unprofessional Conduct

Quote:State questions wellness expert's degree
Nisha Jackson claims harassment, says she may sue

Mail Tribune

A well-known women's health care practitioner and a state agency that validates academic credentials are fighting over her use of a doctoral degree in advertising.

The state Office of Degree Authorization has told Nisha Jackson that all promotional references to her Ph.D. in health-care management from Kennedy Western University must also state that Kennedy Western "does not have accreditation recognized by the United States Department of Education and has not been approved by the Office of Degree Authorization."

"It's inherently deceptive for a health-care professional to call herself a Ph.D. or `doctor' without using the disclaimer," said Alan Contreras, administrator of the Office of Degree Authorization.

Jackson, 42, is the president of Southern Oregon Health & Wellness, and she works at Medford Women's Clinic. She has written a book on balancing women's hormones and presented health tips on KTVL-TV Channel 10. She hosts a weekly radio show Monday mornings on KDOV.

Jackson described Contreras' letter as "harassment," and said she may sue. She said she had met all the requirements of the Oregon law and spent "thousands of dollars" to remove any reference to her Ph.D. from her marketing materials.

She said Contreras is "on some kind of rampage to see me go down."

Accreditation is the process by which institutions of higher learning are reviewed and evaluated. It serves as a way to tell students, employers and consumers that an institution provides quality education.

"The whole idea (of accreditation) is that a college education ought to stand for something," Contreras said.

Accreditors are private, nongovernmental organizations created for the specific purpose of reviewing the quality of higher education institutions and their programs. In the United States, colleges and

universities may be accredited by any one of 19 organizations that have been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.

Kennedy Western is not accredited by any of them.

Kennedy Western's Web site says it offers "busy professionals a convenient and flexible method for earning Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate level degrees." Based in Agoura Hills, Calif., Kennedy Western bases tuition and course requirements on prior work experience. Classwork is done via computer.

Kennedy Western's Web site includes testimonials from people who say their degree has helped them increase their income and prestige.

Oregon is one of eight states where it is against the law to advertise an unaccredited degree for personal gain. The maximum penalty for violating the law is one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for each occurrence.

The Mail Tribune's review of state licensing records shows that Jackson holds valid licenses to practice as a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner in Oregon. She has earned a bachelor's degree from Azusa Pacific University and a master's degree from Oregon Health & Science University, which are both accredited institutions.

Jackson's husband, Rick, who is secretary of Southern Oregon Health and Wellness Corp., said his wife has never used the Ph.D. degree to attract patients to her practice, as Contreras contends.

"She doesn't need to increase her practice," Rick Jackson said. "Her practice was closed (to new patients) before she got her Ph.D."

Contreras said the Oregon Board of Nursing asked him to investigate Jackson's academic credentials after the nursing board received information that suggested Jackson was referring to her doctoral degree without the disclaimer.

"She's obviously using (the Ph.D.) with the intent to add customers and enhance her celebrity," Contreras said. "We don't care if she uses (the degree from Kennedy Western), but she has to use the disclaimer."

Jackson's Web site and book jacket cite her doctorate without mentioning the source of the degree. The dust jacket of her book, "The Hormone Survival Guide," describes her as "Nisha Jackson, Ph.D." Her Web site, "Nisha on Health," notes the degree without mentioning its origin except for a small disclaimer at the very bottom of the Web site.

Nisha Jackson said the disclaimer meets all the requirements of Oregon law. It reads: "Nisha Jackson received her PhD in healthcare management from Kennedy Western University. Kennedy Western has currently lost there (sic) accreditation in the state of Oregon."

Contreras said Jackson's disclaimer fails to comply with Oregon law because it does not use the language required in the statute, and the disclaimer is not linked to her Ph.D. in a way that the average viewer would find.

He said that the disclaimer in Oregon's law was drafted after Kennedy Western attorneys challenged Oregon's law on the grounds that it violated freedom of speech. He said Kennedy Western attorneys agreed to the specific disclaimer language that is now in Oregon's law.

Contreras said that Jackson's disclaimer has a factual error, namely that Kennedy Western never has been accredited in Oregon. Prior to the settlement, he said, "it was absolutely illegal to use that (Kennedy Western) degree (in promotional materials)."

Kennedy Western and other unaccredited institutions (often called "diploma mills") were the subject of congressional hearings in May 2004. A witness who worked at Kennedy Western for three months told the committee "There is no value to a Kennedy Western education."

Nisha Jackson said she took a Ph.D. in health care management at Kennedy Western because it was "the only one I could do while living in Medford." She said the degree from Kennedy Western has no bearing on her practice of medicine as a nurse practitioner and registered nurse.

Contreras said Nisha Jackson was advised by letter and by phone in November to use the disclaimer. Rick Jackson said his wife sent back the required disclaimer form. Contreras said the disclaimer form had not been properly completed and he sent a second letter Jan. 6.

Nisha Jackson's attorney, Sydnee Dreyer, said it's too early to say whether she will sue. Dreyer characterized Contreras' treatment of Jackson's case as "highly unprofessional conduct."

"It would appear to be personal," she said, "and not a standard compliance action."

Messages In This Thread
Alan Conteras's Personal Rampage, Unprofessional Conduct - by Trevor Nigel - 05-14-2007, 11:13 AM

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