In an impressive two-hour interview with Joe Rogan, AMA member Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, displayed just how essential it is for physicians to be heard on podcasts. He also laid out the importance of addressing vaccines to the podcast generation during a time when the anti-vaccine movement is ravaging the country.
More than one million people have listened to the podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” to hear Dr. Hotez dispel misinformation commonly spread about vaccines and autism. This allowed him to reach the 18 to 30-year-old groups in a way that other media interviews wouldn't.
“I think it says a lot about the importance of podcasts and for this next generation. It definitely reached a number of people and a unique demographic. I think that was really a home run from that standpoint,” said Dr. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of Pediatrics and Molecular & Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine.
He is also author of, “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism” and co-head of the Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
We sat down with Dr. Hotez to learn more about why physicians should get involved. Here is what he had to say.
Does having a personal story give you a different type of credibility?
Dr. Hotez: “It definitely gives me street cred. Right? I've got most of the bases covered in vaccine science as the pediatrician, but I'm also an autism dad. And, I don't take money from industry, so I'm not tied in any way to the big vaccine manufacturers. As much as the anti-vaccine lobby tried to assert that I'm a shill for industry, it's actually not the case and that makes it really tough for them to go after me.”
“It just makes my arguments a lot stronger in the fact that I'm only working on vaccines for the world's poorest people. There's no financial incentive, unlike the anti-vaccine lobby themselves who have figured out a way to monetize the internet.”
Have you seen anything negative come from participating in this podcast?
Dr. Hotez: “In retribution for my going on Joe Rogan, one of the things that happened was the anti-vaccine lobby ganged up and they flooded the Amazon site on my book with one-star reviews. My poor book got flooded with over 200 one-star reviews in the course of a week—that’s life in the big city.”
Is it worth it for physicians to take their professional expertise out of the exam room?
Dr. Hotez: “The anti-vaccine movement has become its own media empire unto itself that dominates the internet. It’s taken over Facebook. It’s taken over the Amazon site. That's partly our fault as a scientific community and the medical community that we've been so invisible.”
“If you have the ability and interest in doing it, there's a huge need because right now the American public is not getting their health information from scientists and physicians. They're getting it from a lot of misinformation websites and it's partly because the medical profession—the scientific professions—are invisible.”
“Research!America, which is a policy group, has done an interesting study to find 81 percent of Americans cannot name a living scientist and those that could, it's people like Bill Nye the Science Guy and Neil deGrasse Tyson. It's not working scientists that are writing grants and papers, revising papers and going to lab meetings. The American public has no idea what we do and that's our fault.
“It's our fault because we give the message to the medical students, residents and graduate students that public engagement is not important. We give the message that it's a bad thing to interact with journalists directly or talk to the public directly—that's seen as a form of self-promotion or grandstanding. We need to do the opposite.”
Are there any concerns regarding podcasts or is this a positive avenue?
Dr. Hotez: “It's a positive avenue. You do have to be careful if you get invited to a podcast and make certain that you're not being set up. Something mainstream like Joe Rogan is great, but who knows? You could be getting set up by an anti-science podcast I suppose.”
“A lot of people are starting podcasts now and they can take time, so you can spin your wheels doing a lot of podcasts that have no bandwidth. Engage with your office of media and communications to see that it's a podcast that's a safe space within reason.”
“The place where patients and people are getting their health care information is increasingly coming from podcasts. They've gotten a lot of clout with impact, especially among, as you called it, this podcast generation. And I think it's something really important for the AMA to get its arms around.”