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Dr Cannell announces retirement from full-time psychiatry job

Posted on: March 10, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD


Longtime readers of my newsletter know that I have long wanted to retire from my day job and work full time on vitamin D. As of January 1, 2011, I did it; I retired my full-time job after 15 years at Atascadero State Hospital.

Now, I work full time on vitamin D. I had planned, no dreamed, of doing just that for years but plans and reality are two different things. Someone once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.” Nevertheless, I have completed one plan, I have retired, effective already. If God wills, some of my other plans, outlined below, will now come true.

Some readers may also remember that I hoped contributions to the Vitamin D Council would eventually enable me to work full time for the Council, and combined with my retirement income, I could work full-time on vitamin D. It never happened, just never did. Contributions to the Council never grew enough to do that.

However, in the end, it was vitamin D – but not the Vitamin D Council – that allowed me to retire. One person and one company are giving me a chance of spending the rest of my days working on vitamin D. And I want to thank that one person and that one company, who made it possible for me to read, write, and research vitamin D, full time.

As long-time readers know, after I designed my vitamin D formula, I went looking for a telemarketer. I did not want to simply put my vitamin D on the shelf; I wanted radio and TV ads running, telling people why they need to take vitamin D. Mr. Jahn Levin and Purity Products have done an incredible job doing just that. Now, thanks to them, I am full time for the Council and I’m stacking the Council’s plate high with new undertakings.

For example, as I write this, I am involved in a scientific study; one I could not do if I was still working full time at Atascadero State Hospital. Unlike my theories about influenza and autism, I will first submit this study as a scientific paper and I will wait until the journals’ editors conduct their peer review process before making it public. I felt I could not ethically do that with either autism or influenza, I could not wait for the professors.

I felt I needed to write about influenza and autism as soon as the two theories were clear in my mind, which is why I first published both the influenza and autism theories in this newsletter and secondly in peer reviewed journals. (By the way, did you see how much space the new Food and Nutrition Board’s Vitamin D report spent on autism and vitamin D? Not just a word or two, not just a sentence, not just a paragraph, rather an entire page on autism and vitamin D – without citing my work of course.)

Changes are coming to the Vitamin D Council, now that I am full-time. First, I will try to address the chronic shortage of funding. Although we now have a controller (our accountant), to pay the bills and deposit donations, we also need a full-time administrative assistant, someone to answer the phone, send out information, apply for grants, organize ten years of vitamin D scientific papers, solicit donations from local businesses, etc. This person needs to have multiple skills, and needs to be able to understand my need for solitude.

I also hope for enough income to allow the Council to run public service announcements (PSA) on television all across the USA, similar to the one we ran last year in Washington D.C. about the dangers of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy. Similar PSAs about autism, asthma, childhood autoimmune disorders, and infantile rickets misdiagnosed as child physical abuse are all sorely needed but cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We need to get Congressional hearings on how the Food and Nutrition Board’s Vitamin D Committee reached their recent conclusions. Why is their recommended dose of vitamin D for a 20-pound one-year-old the same as for a 300-pound NFL lineman? Why do a pregnant woman and her fetus together need 600 IU/day right up until that last push when, all of a sudden, mom still needs the same 600 IU/day but the baby needs an additional 400 IU/day? That math does not work. How can a 200-pound pregnant woman need less vitamin D than a 70-year-old ninety-pound woman, which is what the Committee concluded? Why did the Committee bury the opinions of the 14 vitamin D experts, immune – the chairperson says – even to a Freedom of Information request? Organizing for a shot at congressional hearings takes time and money.

We also need additional funding for our new website, now that the launch date is getting closer, May 15th. I am not aware of any website like it existing for any other nutrient, supplement, or drug, anywhere online. The new site will cover more than 100 health conditions and for each health condition, we will have three parts: a summary in lay language, a more lengthy scientific review, and numerous references with real-time updating of scientific papers published by the National Library. You just type in “vitamin D and multiple sclerosis” or whatever and everything will be right there and up to date.

The sheer amount of content on the new website is close to overwhelming and we will have to update the summaries and scientific reviews every few months as scientists publish more studies. We now have a science advisor, Dr. William Grant, as a consultant; he is writing the summaries and scientific reviews for each health condition. In what may be the most important new development, Dr. Grant has been able to get some co-authors, professors who specializes in that particular sub-specialty, like vitamin D and multiple sclerosis, to review the summaries and be senior author.

In time, my opinion will be gone from the scientific sections; with enough funding, when you read about, say “vitamin D and cardiovascular disease,” I hope you will be reading the opinion of the professors and scientists who are conducting the actual studies. With time, I hope that all the health conditions on the new website will have the supervision and input of these experts, experts from around the world. Of course, all this will be free to the reader but it is far from free to create and maintain.

Eventually, I hope that the new website will also spin off a journal, the Journal of Vitamin D. We already have interest in such a project, together with experts who may serve as editors for such a journal. I want this journal to be free, open access, but all this costs time and money.

Another item on the Council’s plate is a study of my passion, autism and vitamin D. I am in the process of applying for institutional review board approval for an open study on vitamin D and autism on 25 children. I do not think it is ethical to withhold vitamin D in autism so I will not do a placebo, every child will get vitamin D. Parents will pay nothing; the Council will fund the study and I will do the work, examining the children, documenting the findings, etc. Although letter, after letter, after letter from mothers have convinced me, we need to study it scientifically. What is the degree of response? Do any specific clinical symptoms predict response? Does high dose retinol, like cod liver oil, really prevent a response?

First, I will examine autistic children and document both the presence and the severity of the autism; I will use scales (questionnaires) for both the parents and teachers. Then I will teach the parents to do a finger-stick ZRT vitamin D test, and give enough free vitamin D to get the children’s 25(OH)D levels into the high range of normal, 80-100 ng/ml. After three months of vitamin D blood levels in that range, I will administer a second series of assessments to look for the presence or absence of any treatment effect. I would like to have a senior author in California who is skeptical; we would like to be able to pay for travel and lodging for such a professor (or his/her designee) to the study site (our new office) to assure them that I am conducting the study fairly and properly.

To pay for all these things, the Council needs much more funding. Therefore, we have decided to change our IRS structure to a membership model. However, the new website and one of the newsletters will continue to be free and open. We will have two newsletters, not just one. The free newsletter will come every month and review vitamin D studies of note that scientists published during the preceding month.

The second newsletter, which by its nature has to be irregularly irregular in its delivery, will be my personal opinion; it will be by subscription only. I am sorry we have to do this but many non-profits are membership models and although membership will have its advantages, our new structure will guarantee free access to all the vitamin D information anyone could possibly read.

All this takes time and money. Some have steadily given over the years, our continuing donors, while others have given once or twice. We thank all donors, without you, we could not even be entertaining such big plans. Our commercial sponsors (Bio Tech Pharmacal, Stop Aging Now, ESB Enterprises, and ZRT) have helped immensely and have their logo prominently display on our website. Some give very quietly with instructions that their name never be used. For example, almost every month we get an envelope containing five one-dollar-bills wrapped in newspaper and bound by scotch tape from an elderly woman in Florida with the words, “keep my name anonymous” written at the bottom of the accompanying letter.

Last month I opened a letter and discovered that Mr. Loren Parks of Oregon had written the Council a check for $10,000.00. This is more remarkable because a month earlier Mr. Parks had called the Council’s phone number and got the buzzing of a fax machine (I had crossed the wires at some point and, without an administrative assistant, did not know it until Mr. Parks emailed me). In addition, Mr. Jahn Levin’s family just pledged a donation of $12,000.

So I am retired at age 63, filled with plans for vitamin D thanks to Purity Products. However, I am nervous talking about plans; I remember the summer of medical school that I spent in Iran doing research on rickets. Every time the conversation was about future plans, something good, someone quickly added “Insha’Allah.”

1 Response to Dr Cannell announces retirement from full-time psychiatry job

  1. Padraig

    Hello Dr. John, I have been reading your blog and getting emails from you since January 2010.
    I know that lack of Vit. D can have a bearing on a person getting multiple sclerosis.
    My question is , can Adult Stem Cells treat MS effectively, a good friend of mine has MS and has received 600000 IU of Vit D by injection, this friend believes that the Vit D has made a difference to their symptoms but wants a cure not a treatment for symptoms.


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