Although he's frequently photographed in scrubs and gives out advice for a number of ailments, Dr. Asa Andrew's medical credentials are hard to pin down. But the Tennessee Department of Health has filed notice of charges against the popular health-care guru, author and radio-TV personality for advertising and providing services "outside the scope of practice for a chiropractic physician" and "misleading the public about his true qualifications or lack thereof."
According to a 21-count charging document filed Sept. 15, which came to public light last week, the Tennessee Department of Health is seeking disciplinary action against Dr. Andrew for the "advertisement of a chiropractic business in which untrue or misleading statements are made," for "invading a field of practice" in which he isn't licensed, for "practicing naturopathy" in Tennessee, and for the "misuse of Titles."
He faces a $21,000 civil penalty, in addition to costs incurred by the prosecution, and the possible suspension or revocation of his chiropractor's license. This is all pending the outcome of a Nov. 4 hearing before the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. A State Department of Health spokesperson declined to discuss the specifics of the violations.
In the wake of the charges, Dr. Andrew's syndicated radio call-in show, Dr. Asa On Call, has been suspended by its host station, Nashville's 1510 WLAC-AM. As for his regular appearances on the Fox 17 morning show Tennessee Mornings, WZTV news director Roberta Petterson said in an email the station had "severed its connection with Asa Andrew."
Dr. Andrew did not respond to messages requesting comment through intermediaries and at his clinic. His attorney, John Floyd, also declined to comment.
In the interest of clarity, it should be noted that Dr. Andrew has a chiropractic degree and a doctorate in naturopathy, often referred to as natural medicine — a practice that is explicitly outlawed in Tennessee (although naturopaths are allowed to prescribe dietary supplements). He also claims to be a "board-certified physician" on his website and in his book Empowering Your Health.
Yet Candace Blazek, a former staffer at Dr. Andrew's Center for Natural Medicine in Belle Meade, told the Scene last week along with other former employees that obfuscating his credentials was a matter of office policy. (See "Dr. Asa Andrew's Medicine Show," Sept. 23.) When asked by the Scene where he got his medical degree and sat for his boards, Dr. Andrew would not specify.
A number of sources, however, allege his alma mater is the University of Health Sciences in Antigua — an institution whose education does not meet criteria for licensure in Tennessee and other states. The university declined to answer whether Dr. Andrew has ever been a student there.
Dr. Andrew first came to the public eye as a member of the Power Team, an evangelical motivational-speaking crew that advocates the redemptive powers of Jesus and drug abstention between displays of extreme strength — e.g., shredding phone books with their bare hands, bending steel bars clenched in their teeth. As Dr. Andrew tells it, to compensate for being the smallest guy on the team, he overate to gain size and eventually became diabetic. Using diet and other natural remedies, though, Andrew claims he cured himself.
His tailored brand of natural health has the Christian faith as its cornerstone. But many former employees told the Scene that his private practice doesn't match his preaching. Former managers of his health store claim supplements meant to be sold as-is were diluted and overpriced, and provided emails indicating that supplement shipping manifests from a supplier in England were fudged to get through the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Customs more easily.
Patients and former staffers allege it wasn't uncommon for insurance to get billed for services that weren't rendered. "People were getting billed for things they didn't have done," former patient coordinator Keri Montilli said. "And a lot of the times they'd say it has to go through billing this way for insurance to cover it."
Sherry Hows, a licensed practical nurse who ran Dr. Andrew's X-ray and clinical departments, told the Scene patients with diabetic blood-sugar levels sometimes weren't notified, while patients with potentially life-threatening conditions were sometimes treated on-site instead of referred to a medical doctor.
"With these diabetic patients," Hows said, "you're talking about loss of eyesight, loss of limbs if those blood sugars continue to go out of control like that."
While the Department of Health accusations are without a doubt the gravest charges filed against Andrew, they aren't the first. The Department required him to pay a $600 civil penalty in June 2009 for failing to "properly maintain or submit continuing education credits."