This week saw the anti-vaccine rant of Cleveland Clinic executive physician, Daniel Neides. Taking to the public space to air his ignorance of basic vaccine science, he met the wrath of a vibrant community of public physicians. Eric Boodman at STATnews did a nice job covering the details.
Here are a few takeaways:
Every health care professional is the voice of his institution
While desperate to distance itself from the reckless public commentary of one of its own, The Cleveland Clinic initially took an arms-length approach claiming that this was not representative of their views. They ultimately came to the realization that despite the fact that the transgression occurred on a non-Clinic property, it was the work of a Cleveland Clinic leader.
For better or worse, every health care professional is a brand ambassador for their institution. Disclaimer or not, logo or no logo, the world knew that this doctor was leadership at The Cleveland Clinic. Our public engagement is inextricably linked to our work and other aspects of our lives. Welcome to the age of transparency.
Two days is enough to soil your reputation
Despite what was clear to the infosphere, The Clinic took two days to pull the trigger on something bigger than a pushback. But the world functions at the speed of now. Institutions must operate in the space of hours when one of its leaders goes rogue.
Doctors have a responsibility to their institutions
While every professional with a smart phone has the right and capacity to share their hare-brained ideas about vaccines, we must balance that right with the responsibility to those we serve and work among. It’s the balance I consider everytime I hit publish. Individual responsibility in the public realm is part of the new world order.
Institutions have a responsibility to their doctors
Organizations will undoubtedly revisit their policies concerning physician public engagement. But remember that we can’t stop the public conversation and physicians are a critical part of that public dialog. And while hospitals should train doctors on safe and effective public engagement, good judgment is hard to operationalize. Or better put, you can’t train stupid.
It’s interesting to note that when I landed on Twitter in 2008, sound reason around immunization was hard to come by. Today, Jenny McCarthy wouldn’t last 5 minutes.
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