This story originally appeared on KERA News.
Mark Sarchioto, who’s 60 years old, has crippling neuropathy. He’s been searching for a treatment for decades. One leg is numb, and as he shifts from his walker to the couch, he holds out his left hand.
“It feels like somebody is puncturing it with needles,” he says. “Right now it’s cold and I can’t keep it warm.”
In 2013, Mark and his wife, Joan, heard an ad for a breakthrough therapy for neuropathy. They jumped at the chance for a free evaluation and drove to HealthCore Center in Richardson. Joan Sarchioto says it felt sketchy.
“We get in and the [medical assistant] or whoever takes the vitals and they go ‘We need to go take your X-rays and there’s an evaluation fee of $35.’ And I said ‘But I thought this was free,'” Joan Sarchioto says. “When they start ordering tests, I know what’s B.S. — and I know what’s not.”
She wrote a review on Yelp warning others to beware.
‘Does this doctor know what he’s doing?’
HealthCore Center advertises natural weight loss, thyroid and diabetes programs – and on its website it touts its employees who call themselves doctors of pastoral medicine. That murky label is what has watchdog groups worried.
The founder of HealthCore Center is Karl Jawhari. He is a chiropractor, but says he practices functional medicine under his license from the Pastoral Medical Association.
His office walls are lined with framed certificates, and there’s a Bible on his desk.
“We’ve seen people with an array of issues: thyroid issues, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol,” Jawhari says. “We work with a lot of people to reduce their weight and so forth and we’ve had great success with that.”
Jawhari hasn’t always had success with state regulators.
Last year, he was fined $2,500 by the Texas Chiropractic Board for providing services outside the realm of chiropractic care. The Texas Medical Board – which licenses, regulates, and disciplines physicians – issued a cease and desist order demanding Jawhari stop offering to treat conditions beyond his chiropractic training. He says he’s done that.
There may be people who take advantage of the pastoral license he says, but he says he’s not one of them.
“I’ve heard of a few people that are practicing that aren’t even doctors,” he says. “So, it’s that thing that it’s up to the consumer to do due diligence and figure out is this practitioner — does this doctor know what he’s doing?”