Wednesday, June 1, 2016

If He's a Watchdog, I May Be a Pitbull

.... as evidenced from, at times, my overly passionate or, I should call it as I see it, my highly opinionated, borderline rabid, point of view on the topic of celebrities, disease and the media.

Gary Schwitzer has been at this for years. Health News Review sorts out the hype because Gary IS a watchdog. With many well deserved accolades and high profile awards, Health News Review has become a trusted source, the trusted source, for breaking down the bullshit.
I've known who Gary was for many years. He has been generous with his time and participated as a guest in more than one #BCSM twitter chat. That community, built around a hashtag and reaching every corner of the globe is a beacon of support, facilitates the dissemination of evidence based findings and fosters communication among many stakeholders. With patients as its heart and soul, clinicians, researchers, journalists and institutions know they can rely on what is attached to a #bcsm hashtag.

If someone, anyone, tries to dilute the value of the hashtag by tweeting out information in a way that is not completely open, fully transparent, and minus the hype, it won't be long before someone will question the voracity of the tweet. Show us the data. In large part because of the vision of Jody Schoger, one of its co-founders, #BCSM which has since spawned a community rooted in evidence based practices,  a community that is not satisfied with a "because I said so" explanation, a community whose reputation within the social media community is above reproach.

Bringing in guests like Gary to discuss a specific area of expertise to help us to become more savvy patients is a genius move. Participating in a chat with a guest to speak to issues like media hype educates the group and enables us to have an interactive discussion and gives us a far better understanding of the landscape.

Gary added podcasts to his always evolving manner of keeping his audience engaged. A few weeks ago, we were put together by a third person to discuss this issue of celebrity know it alls dispensing advice at the bended knee of media outlets to tell just a piece of their story. It's long been a pet peeve. OK, so more than a pet peeve, it's downright irritating. Along with so many others, I am diligent in sharing messages in a way that I hope is helpful to others. We have little voices. People Magazine and TMZ and others have the boom box. We swim upstream to get the message right.

Gary and I began talking about the things I felt were most harmful, or doing a disservice not only to the advocates (of which I am but one of many) but more importantly, to the research and medical community which results in the spawning of misinformation which is then parroted because, "I heard on (insert favorite show, celebrity host, entertainment magazine and in fact, some reputable media outlets that should know better) ......" That game of telephone ultimately causes most harm to the little people, you know, the ones who actually need accurate, unbiased information. The patient in the vortex. As an advocate, this really does piss me off.

What began as a getting to know each other on a more personal level than the open space of twitter, morphed into a podcast. Thankfully, one of us was in control as he recorded our conversation. The links on his website are worth reading. Not just the links to what Gary did to provide me with a platform, but to all of the other work he does. Yes, you WILL have to click over because if you aren't familiar with Gary's work, you should be.

John Oliver's producers are. And that hysterical piece on Junk Science, which I do still love is a bit tarnished having learned that Gary was consulted on more than one occasion to provide advice/information. Gary is too much of a gentlemen to have done anything other than mention it in an offhand manner when we spoke. I looked for credits on Last Week Tonight's website. Zip. Zero. Nada.

I'm big on credits. I'm huge on not taking credit for something I found because someone else posted an article or a link. Gary takes it a step further. He thanked and acknowledged the person who made that email introduction to put us together, and there is an entire page on his website about our conversation (well, his conversation and my ranting) with links leading to links, leading to yes, still other links which, in and of itself, is a commentary on the depth of the problem.

I wish to offer my heartfelt thanks to Gary Schweitzer for a great phone conversation which he turned into this podcast. I am humbled beyond words at his mention of Jody Schoger at the end of the podcast. Jody was still alive when we spoke. In the days between our conversation and the time this aired, Jody had died. I know Jody held Gary in the highest regard. Clearly, he felt the same way about Jody.

As an aside, Gary's podcasts are available for download on iTunes. Should you be so inclined, listen to some (really listen to all of them) and if you are feeling it, write an opinion. It's a process but it goes like this:

  • Use this link to get to the podcast list.
  • Click the blue button that says View in iTunes. This will open up new window where the list of the 20 podcasts produced to date is shown.
  • You can subscribe to the podcast from this page but more importantly, listen to the other discussions he's had. This isn't only about cancer or celebrity - it's about accurate and responsible journalism in the health space.
  • Want to leave some feedback, rate the podcast?
  • Click on ratings and reviews.
  • Click the stars to rate it.
  • If you'd like to comment, just beneath that you can Write A Review.
  • Yes, this sounds like a whole lot of instructions, but it's literally a three click process. 
  • And yes, I did leave a review even though I am the guest in the most recent podcast. I have listened to all of them. Every one is superb.
Again, I offer my gratitude and thanks for Gary's diligence in making sure he gets it right for all of our benefit. This matters. Empowered patients can only be truly empowered through a complete understanding of the landscape. He provides that.



 



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