Mark Geier was never a site preceptor for a graduate student at the George Washington University School of Public Health, as reported on this website last week. An SPHHS spokesperson said the faculty member who made that claim via an email to AutismNewsBeat was in error.
According to the spokesperson, “This particular student’s project was not a practicum. It was part of what is called a culminating experience, which is different from a practicum. Contrary to what was posted on your blog, there was no preceptor and never is a preceptor for a culminating experience. Students completing a culminating experience are supervised by one of our faculty members, as was this student.”
Mark Geier. the Silver Spring, Maryland, genetic counselor known for chemically castrating disabled children, “has never been a site preceptor at any point for any SPHHS student—nor a member of our faculty,” the spokesperson continued.
So what was Geier’s role in the education of a GW graduate student? According to the spokesperson, the notorious anti-vaccine activist was helping the student access data.
“Mark Geier’s role in this student’s culminating experience was limited to facilitating the use of a non-GW data base called the Vaccine Safety Datalink or VSD database, which is administered by the National Center for Health Statistics. In that capacity, Mark Geier was in the room while the student accessed the data from this data base and did not teach or mentor the student in any way.”
The Vaccine Safety Datalink, established in 1990, contains confidential medical records of millions of Americans collected by nine health maintenance organizations. Access is carefully guarded by the National Center for Health Statistics. In order to “be in the room”, a researcher must submit a detailed research proposal with his/her name, along with anybody else collaborating on the research. A computer programmer can also accompany the researcher. The CDC charges $750 a day for access. No student discounts are given.
Admittance to the (Research Data Center) is limited to the researchers included in the Research Proposal. Researchers are required to show photo identification before admittance. A maximum of 3 collaborating. Researchers can sit at a computer station in the RDC.
If Mark Geier was not teaching or mentoring the student, can we assume that he wasn’t collaborating on the student’s research? Or is Geier adding “computer programmer” to his list of fabricated credentials?
The last time Mark Geier was “in the room” was January, 2004, when he received approval for an independent study of adverse reactions to DTaP vaccine. The visit did not go well. Geier was unfamiliar with SAS, the software program most widely used by epidemiologists, which delayed his research several months. After the visit, according to Kathleen Seidel’s reporting from 2006, the acting associate director for Science of the National Immunization Program alerted the Kaiser Permanente Foundation Research Institute to serious procedural violations reported by security personnel.
[M]y office has received reports from the technical monitors[...] describ[ing] potential breaches in confidentiality and execution of analyses that were not approved in advance[...] during the first visit the researchers conducted unapproved analysis on their datasets and on the second visit attempted to carry out unapproved analyses but did not complete this attempt. This analysis, had it been completed, could have increased the risk of a confidentiality breach. Before leaving, the researchers renamed files for removal which were not allowed to be removed. Had it gone undetected, this would have constituted a breach of the rules about confidentiality.
Kaiser Permanente suspended Geier’s project the following month, and along with it access to the VSD. However, approval was reinstated in August of the same year, despite Geier’s admission that he
• initiated analyses not authorized in their research protocol;
• attempted unauthorized merging of datasets; and
• acquired unauthorized data files, which were named in a manner that, if undetected, could have enabled the removal from the Research Data Center of private information about millions of U.S. citizens.
Geier has claimed that he and his son, David, were “the only independent group” to gain access to VSD data, due to the support of members of congress. In this 2005 video, the Geiers claim their efforts to access the database date to August, 2002.