Pandemic doctors pushed before public eyes to help quell COVID-19 myths and falsehoods
The power of medical advice was previously harnessed by dressing ordinary men in white coats and stethoscopes to promote the lie that cigarettes are safe. And it worked for years because these pitchmen were designed to resemble our predominant symbol of public trust: the doctor.
This efficiency still exists, but in Ian Hanomansing’s new book, Pandemic Projector, it is used by the authentic medical profession, and not to hurt people but to help them, guide them and reassure them and to fight the lies, paranoia, fake news and fairy tales spread about the pandemic of COVID-19.
All the benefits of Spotlight on the pandemic support a future student in infectious diseases and public health at the University of British Columbia
Spotlight on the pandemic is the well-told story of nine infectious disease physicians who, in a matter of months, have gone from anonymity to stardom in their willful fight against COVID misinformation. For thousands of hours, each of them has used social media (especially Twitter) and news media to fight the uninformed and fight the fanciful with facts. They still do – and do it for free.
Hanomansing, longtime CBC reporter and co-host of The National, writes authoritatively and candidly about how these doctors across the country are helping us overcome this disturbing threat to our lives and mental health. As Hanomansing acknowledges, they (and others like them) are our defense against the offensive and mindless voices of prejudice, pseudoscience, absurd advice, quackery, witchcraft and religious fanaticism. And they continue to educate and reassure us despite personal attacks on their character and well-being.
Dr Zain Chagla from Hamilton told Hanomansing: âI can say it baffles me when all of us – over ten years of training, over ten years of clinical practice, constantly looking at the ever-changing evidence every day – that someone is firing us saying “You are completely wrong because I saw this YouTube video.” “It’s almost funny …”
Saskatoon’s Dr. Alexander Wong recounts how, in reaction to one of his tweets, someone called him a Nazi. His response is priceless: “I’m a Nazi? Did you see me? Come on. I’m a bald Asian dwarf, man.”
Dr Chagla says: âThere are certainly trolls on Twitter who will call us very disgusting names or call us murderers. ”
Dr Isaac Bogoch from Toronto talks about how he receives some cool emails, but some that are far from nice. “Some days I’m (called) a shill for (Canadian Prime Minister) Trudeau, other days I’m a shill for (Premier of Ontario) Doug Ford, but every day I’m a dirty Jew.” He also received death threats, like others. “The police took him very seriously,” he wrote. “They were great.”
Dr Sumon Chakrabarti from Toronto said, âYes, I get a lot of weird emails. Of course, the garden variety ‘Go back to where you came from’ or ‘You smell like curry.’ ”
Edmonton’s Dr Lynora Saxinger, who as of mid-November had more than 26,000 Twitter followers, says hurtful comments about her are “nothing compared to what people in public health get.”
But overall, all physicians agree that overall their experience with the public is and has been clearly positive, that the negative exchange is less than 10%. Dr. Lisa Barrett of Halifax goes one step further by calling the responses she received very favorable.
âTwitter has been very positive,â said Dr. Fatima Kakkar of Montreal.
An entire chapter is a biography of these doctors. Sometimes we worked with the very popular Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Another wanted to be a doctor from the age of five, another enjoys basketball, another was in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak and saw “local doctors die in droves” due to a lack of personal protective equipment. Yet another spent months in Zimbabwe in 2001 watching AIDS patients die from lack of resources. And another, in Zambia in 2005, had to end the life of a dying child to save another because there was only enough oxygen for one.
For these nine doctors, their mass communications journey began when they simultaneously received notification from ProMED Mail, a service of the International Society for Infectious Diseases that alerts specialists to infectious disease outbreaks around the world. The message was posted at one minute to midnight on December 30, 2019: âUndiagnosed pneumonia – Chinaâ.
Dr Susy Hota of Toronto remembers when she received the alert from ProMED: âWe knowâ¦ a pandemic can happen. An unknown group of serious respiratory illnesses from China is sort of the prototype event you are looking for. The unease never left me after that. ”
But China was far away, and life continued as usual in Canada – even when COVID hit Italy the following February, with thousands stranded, hospitals overwhelmed with sick and dying, and more than 190 doctors and nurses. died from the virus.
According to Dr Srinivas Murthy of Vancouver: “Italy has claimed hundreds and hundreds of lives in just a few days. I think this was pretty much our ‘Come to Jesus moment’. This is going to be a big deal.”
Barry Craig loves curry.