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Battling Two Dangerous Foes on the Front Lines: The Virus and Misinformation

George M. Abraham, MD, MPH
American Board of Internal Medicine
Specialty: Internal Medicine
Subspecialty: Infectious Disease

Health care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have had to fight not one, but two dangerous foes: the novel coronavirus and rampant misinformation. Without a doubt, inaccurate information about this highly transmissible virus has placed millions at risk of severe illness or even death.

Fortunately, many health care professionals around the country have taken on the additional, necessary role of “medical expert” for national and local news. By sharing their scientific knowledge and real-life experience in newspaper, radio, television, and online interviews, these professionals provide much-needed clarity to millions of Americans. They patiently debunk falsehoods and share accurate information about what they are seeing in their hospitals and practices. Thanks to these professionals, the public has been kept up to date on the known risks, treatments, and prevention of COVID-19.

One such professional is George Abraham, MD, MPH, a board certified infectious disease specialist who has been featured on CNN, Consumer Reports, the Associated Press, and local Boston-area media outlets. Reporters have asked him to weigh in on subjects such as masks, positivity rates, and the COVID-19 diagnoses of high-profile individuals such as U.S. President Donald Trump and professional athletes.

“From the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a continuous feed of misinformation which has undermined the trust in science, public health measures, and most recently, potential vaccines,” said Dr. Abraham. “Patients tend to trust their own physicians more than political leaders or the government, so physicians must play an active role in dispelling misinformation and spreading accurate information.”

Initially, Dr. Abraham was asked by his institutions and the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) to participate in media interviews. Now, reporters have started to contact him directly to ask for expert commentary on the latest pandemic information.

“Surprisingly, I have come to enjoy doing media interviews, particularly television interviews, where I can use non-verbal and visual cues to emphasize the message,” said Dr. Abraham. “While it may be a little uncomfortable to put myself out there, and it places extra responsibility on my shoulders, I know that the accurate information I share could save lives.”

When asked to give health professionals media interview advice, Dr. Abraham emphasizes authenticity and accuracy. “It is critical that you show your humanity during an interview, but you must focus on the scientific data and consensus opinions, not your personal opinions.”

Dr. Abraham predicts that the role of media medical expert will only grow as the nation experiences the worst surges of the pandemic and the rollout of vaccines. He stated, “Unfortunately, the politicization of the pandemic, the unprecedented and accelerated vaccine timeline, and the level of government involvement have all led to significant public mistrust. Physicians, as trusted members of the community, must continue to use their scientific training and experience to disseminate factual and scientific information until we have conquered this virus.”

Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine , Dr. Abraham is Chief of the Department of Medicine at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA. He is also Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He serves as President-Elect and Regent of the American College of Physicians and the Chair of the Board of Registration in Medicine for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dr. Abraham is the Chair of the Infectious Disease Subspecialty Board for the ABIM.

(Published: December 15, 2020)

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