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- In Memoriam
- The Ds of Old
Casual Conversation April 25th, 2022 with Dr. Paul Offit
On Monday, April 25 at 4:30 pm, Paul Offit, M.D., Baltimore native, will be our guest at a Casual Conversation. He is Director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, Dr. Offit has co-invented a rotavirus vaccine and a prominent speaker and writer in favor of vaccines. He has also written extensively about medical quackery. See, e.g., Do You Believe in Magic? And Bad Advice: Or Why celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information. His cv may be found at https://www.chop.edu/doctors/offit-paul-a .
In his writings, Dr. Offit has identified Linus Pauling as one of the more malign influences on health through his advocacy for mammoth doses of vitamin C, calling him “arguably the world’s greatest quack.” If you want to learn about the evidence on taking multi-vitamins and the risks of heart disease and cancer, read Dr. Offit. Or feel inclined to take medical advice from such renowned experts as Larry King, Tom Cruise, Roger Moore (duck liver), Prince Charles (homeopathy), and the renowned Suzanne Somers? First, read Dr. Offit.
Dr. Offit has advocated for science for more than 20 years. Not only has he identified quacks and quackery (don’t make a decision about supporting Mehmet Oz for Senate until you read his books), but he has tried to explain why it is so difficult to reach people with the truth about medicine and to understand what science (as opposed to scientists) really is. For his courageous efforts, for speaking out against fraud, for saving lives with the rotavirus vaccine, and for trying to save lives of those people harmed by anti-science, he has been subject to the most vile of attacks:
I [have] inadvertently put myself in the crosshairs of powerful forces intent on defeating science: an unholy alliance working against the health of Americans. By standing up against these groups, which include hostile activists and personal injury lawyers, I’ve received hundreds of pieces of hate mail, been the target of four death threats [as of 2018], and been threatened with three lawsuits. I’ve also been physically harassed. It’s been an education.
His willingness to be a guest at a Casual Conversation is not an invitation to argue with him about the wisdom of taking multivitamins, or following the advice of Suzanne Somers (on anything), or even to seek medical advice that you could just as easily obtain from your own physician. Or simply read one or more of his books. If you want to drink water to cure anything but dehydration, or have needles stuck into your body, or have manipulation of your spine, none of that is for discussion or debate on April 25.
What is for April 25, is what Dr. Offit can share with us about his experiences in defending science, in interacting with politicians, the press, and the public. What works and what doesn’t. I, for one, would like to hear what he has learned from the responses to science especially over the last two years. And about the issues that arise from studies that cannot be reproduced, which may approach 50% in some fields. And what he thinks about the future of science and medicine in the public arena and with patients.
Dr. Offit is a courageous man with a world-wide reputation who saves lives and speaks out against fraud, a physician with a world-wide reputation. And he was born and raised in Baltimore. What more could we ask of someone who has agreed to spend time with us on April 25?
The usual rules apply: RSVP with me by close of business the Friday before, to wit, April 22 at: firstname.lastname@example.org . In response to a save-the-date email the following have already signed up: Jim Staros, Nick Perencevich, Dona Heller, Mike Saphier, Peter Elias, Phil Bush and his granddaughter Nina Masters, Greg Dobbs, Steve Larson, Greg Lau, Peter Schaeffer, Bob Garman, and Ben Romney.
Finally, his willingness to speak with us results from a cold email, and I pulled out all the stops, as Jim Staros is aware of, including mentioning that he was Bar Mitzvah at the shul I am a member of, and that I had spoken just that day to someone at morning minyan who had been in the same Bar Mitzvah Hebrew class as Dr. Offit 53 years ago. And that I had been a subject in four vaccine trials. Persuading someone to speak with classmates can be done, and if you want to see an example, I will gladly share what I wrote to Dr. Offit: just ask me. And just ask to speak with us someone you admire whether you know him or her or not.