Confronting COVID misinformation

I would like to address the online video promoting false views on the devastating consequences of the pandemic and the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in which a College of Medicine Clinical Professor plays a leading role.

I first became aware of this video early yesterday afternoon but due to many obligations including attending last evening’s provincial Physician Town Hall I was unable to review the video until last evening. I must say the 90 minutes spent reviewing it in detail was some of the most distressing time I have spent in the last 18 months of this long and difficult pandemic.

I categorically state that I and the College of Medicine do not endorse the content of the video that questions the very existence and severity of this pandemic and the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, as well as the many conspiracy theories and assertions cast at many incredible people and valued institutions in our country and around the world.

On behalf of the College of Medicine I sincerely apologize to all those people who have suffered the ravages of this awful disease and those who continue to suffer. I apologize to the families of over 500 people in Saskatchewan who have died from COVID-19.

I am also thinking of all the front-line heath care workers including our medical students and residents, our medical faculty and our partners at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and regret the promulgation of these views by a person associated with the College of Medicine.

To our learners and to the public I want to reassure you that none of this content or the views expressed are part of our curriculum. In fact, the pandemic has taught us the importance of teaching ways in which physicians can effectively counter false information in delivering healthcare in a sensitive and patient centred manner.

I do acknowledge that individuals have the right to express their personal opinions on any topic within certain limitations set by our society and the law. In the context of a university, I want to emphasize the importance of academic freedom for university faculty and the absolute need for the protection of faculty to freely communicate in the areas of their scholarly work. This is particularly important where that scholarly work is supported by recognized credentials and expertise.

In that regard I also am thinking of the credibility of the many qualified and credentialled experts on COVID-19 we have in the College of Medicine and across our entire campus in the fields of Virology, Microbiology, Vaccinology, Epidemiology, Public Health, and Infectious Diseases. Know that the College of Medicine supports and depends on your expertise.

Another area of expertise for which Saskatchewan is increasingly recognized is physician leadership and nearly all of the great physician leaders at the SHA that have led us through this pandemic also have medical faculty appointments in the College of Medicine. I know how disheartening the promotion of false information about COVID-19 must be.

All of these scientists and physician leaders have worked long and hard alongside our learners, physicians and allied healthcare workers over the last 18 months to fight this pandemic by promoting the best evidence and best practices to care for our people and protect this great province. I thank all of you.

At this stage of the pandemic our highest priority must be the vaccination of the vast majority of our population. Yesterday was also the day I received my second dose of the vaccine at the drive-thru at Prairieland Park. I marveled at the dedication, caring, and efficiency of those front-line workers. Thank you. At the College of Medicine, it is incumbent on all of us to promote vaccination to our patients, colleagues, friends, neighbours and the public at large.

In that regard I would like to draw your attention to a few examples of people within our college who have been instrumental in this work with the important proviso to acknowledge there are many, many others doing equally valuable work.

I would like to point out the amazing work on public education by Drs. Cory Neudorf, Nazeem Muhajarine, Alex Wong, Joseph Blondeau and Hassan Masri in endless interviews, public presentations and social media posts. I also acknowledge the amazing work done by the team at Morning Star Lodge, led by Dr. Carrie Bourassa, that has been working since the very beginning of the pandemic to serve Indigenous communities to address misinformation. They and many others at the College of Medicine have consistently provided accurate, reliable, evidence-based information on the pandemic and the vaccines for the public.

In terms of evidence, I would like to recognize Drs. Gary Groot and Bruce Reeder, as well as the USask and SHA librarians, graduate students and many others who have constantly researched in real time the rapidly evolving evidence accumulated by experts around the world to guide our clinicians and decision makers. They are currently embarking on the research to guide the care of people with “long COVID” – a challenge that will be with us for years to come.

I would like to recognize the amazing work done by our Medical Health Officers at the SHA and Dr. Saqib Shahab, our Chief Medical Health Officer, in guiding policy and providing the incredible but challenging day to day work of Public Health in a pandemic. This is what they trained for and hoped never to have to do! These MHOs are members of our Department of Community Health and Epidemiology and teach in our medical doctor program and Public Health and Preventative Medicine residency program.

Our Division of Continuing Medical Education led by Dr Jim Barton has provided an incredibly important role in partnership with the SHA in supporting the Physician Town Halls which have been very popular and instructive, various events and seminars on COVID-19 and the upskilling of 105 physicians to ensure we have all of the physicians the SHA needs to staff emergency rooms, COVID wards and intensive care units.

Finally, while noting I am leaving out many other heroes, I want to emphasize the incredible asset we have in Saskatchewan at the University of Saskatchewan in VIDO, and the ground-breaking work there in vaccinology, including our own COVID-19 vaccine currently in testing.

These people and many others at the College of Medicine and the University of Saskatchewan are the experts in the fields of virology, microbiology, vaccinology, epidemiology, public health, infectious diseases and healthcare leadership. These are the people we will turn to for guidance and expertise as we continue to care for our people through this most challenging time.

Let’s all continue our efforts to promote vaccination in Saskatchewan so that we can all wear that sticker that says, “I STUCK IT TO COVID.”

25 thoughts on “Confronting COVID misinformation

  1. Thank you for the balanced, timely and very appropriate response to the concerning online video!

  2. Thank you for this clear and timely response, for your acknowledgement of the many people working so hard to protect the citizens of Saskatchewan, and the reassurance you provide to the people we serve.

  3. Thank you very much for a clear message. UofS school of medicine is and will always be a place for science. It will never be a place for fear and misinformation.

  4. Thank you for your clear response to this unfortunate event. The U of S banner reads, “BE WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS”. Surely those bearing the credentials of faculty would realize the comments in the video are not what the world needs in this time of crisis.

  5. Very unfortunate response. Scientists need to be free to question accepted dogmas. Your response is typical of fascists.

  6. Thank you for your clear declaration that these personal views of one faculty member are not endorsed or supported by the College of Medicine

  7. Saskatchewan physicians and the college of medicine have demonstrated outstanding leadership throughout this crisis. In part thanks to the work of those you’ve named here the majority of people in Saskatchewan understand the seriousness of this pandemic and the incredible scientific advances that have limited the deaths and economic destruction of the pandemic.

  8. This is a clear-sighted analysis. Regardless of academic freedom, we have a responsibility for the education of both undergraduate and postgraduate learners. I would hope that the academic freedom cited here does not extend to promulgating non-evidence based practices to learners. Since by one report he “joked” with residents about this…

  9. Great comments, and thank you to all for your hard work and for fighting against disinformation.

  10. Such a worthy recognition of the amazing researchers, scholars, and instructors in the College of Medicine and the University of Saskatchewan who are the experts in the fields of virology, microbiology, vaccinology, epidemiology, public health, infectious diseases and healthcare leadership. Thank you so much Dean Smith for the spotlight on the guidance and expertise our colleagues make available as we continue to care for one another and our communities in this time. I’m in full support, Dean Smith, of these incredible efforts, and your own example, of promoting vaccination in Saskatchewan. Way to go Team.

  11. Dear Preston, thank you for your very eloquent message to all of us involved in the delivery of health care and health promotion. Your wisdom and leadership is greatly appreciated.
    Paul Hayes

  12. Thank-you for quickly addressing this communication by a clinical faculty member in the College. One expects evidence to inform practice and policy; the faculty in the college have the responsibility of improving the health of our society. In addition to the acute and devastating impact of this condition on our population we are learning so much more about the rehabilitation needs for many people who have long term impairments and disabilities from the condition. I appreciate the work of our faculty in the College including the School of Rehabilitation Science and the Physical Therapists and other health professionals who continue to manage the consequences of this condition.

  13. I join my colleagues in thanking you for your rapid and incisive (worthy of a surgeon!) response. I hope that the local media will accept your comments or a version thereof for publication.

  14. Thank you Dean Smith for addressing this important issue head on. We all celebrate with you the leadership and efforts from so many in our health system and communities to overcome the devastating impact of the pandemic on all aspects of our lives.

  15. Thank you Dean Smith for addressing this issue and acknowledging the outstanding contributions of faculty members and others . We must acknowledge the first principle of ‘ do no harm’ applies not only to our patients but society at large. Providing support for the fringe of deniers gives oxygen to their cause and harm to society and vulnerable individuals

  16. Well said, Dr. Smith. This sort of positive leadership, especially in challenging times, strengthens and encourages all those who have sacrificed so much for the health and well-being of Saskatchewan citizens. Heartfelt thanks go out to our clinicians, researchers, staff, teachers and students.

  17. If we put all the patting ourselves on the back aside for the moment, perhaps we could address the science of these Covid shots. The Pfizer trials did not measure hospitalizations, ICU admissions or deaths. They did not test transmissibility. These are four essential measurements and they were not in the design. They did not address shots for pregnant or breast feeding women. Now inadequately trained public health hirees are supposedly getting informed consent from this demographic. How is that possible? Have a look at the VAERS reports and multiply x 100. In Canada, our vaccine adverse event reporting system is broken and opaque. For at least 2 weeks, it was impossible to submit anything online. As these inadequate trials go on, our children are now being targeted with a risky gene modifying therapy that they do not need, bypassing parental consent and even knowledge, and enticing them with ice cream cones. The Covid infection recovery rate below age 20 is 99.997%. In the trial of children 12-15 years of age, ARR was only 0.7% for mild-mod symptoms, while, after their 2nd shot, systemic adverse effects were seen in 82.4% of the children. Almost half the kids were lost to followup at 2 months. Very soon our 6-month old infants will be signed up for regular injections on the childhood schedule. Let us, as real physicians, dismiss the “safe and effective” vaccine slogan and actually look at the data. In case you haven’t noticed, the public doesn’t trust us anymore, because we have become self-absorbed, frightened to challenge absurd public health policies, and programmed to trust the “experts” like automatons. We don’t think independently or do our homework. It is really shameful.

  18. Thank you Dean Smith for addressing this important issue head on. We all celebrate with you the leadership and efforts from so many in our health system and communities to overcome the devastating impact of the pandemic on all aspects of our lives.

  19. Thank you for your quick action on this unscientific comment of one faculty member. Thank you for clarifying that the faculty member views are not endorsed or supported by the College of Medicine and/or USask.

  20. Thanks you for this, I agree that our College is working extremely hard. I would like to add the work of Dr. Veronica McKinney, Northern Medical Services, who has provided direct advice to our federal and provincial ministers, Indigenous leaders, physicians and community members. Dr. McKinney has been interviewed on national news numerous times, sometimes with other Indigenous physicians from across Canada. These interviews are essential to our people and include interviews on APTN where out people look for their news. She is outstanding in her dedication, commitment and knowledge. No one in our College has played such a direct role in supporting our FN and Metis people in the province during the pandemic as Dr. McKinney.

  21. It’s unfortunate that doctors around the world are being silenced. Science is observation and must undergo questioning. Any other drug or vaccine on the market with this many adverse effects would have been stopped long ago. Why are those that question vaccines censored? Are their views just not as important as any other doctors views? Shouldn’t we all be working together to find the best and safest plan for all? It’s highly alarming that doctors that want to treat early or suggest anything other than the MSM narrative are quick to be threatened. Does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms mean anything anymore? Does the Nuremberg code mean anything anymore? Truth will prevail, and when it does their will be blood in the hands of many.

  22. A real shame when we are only allowed to hear one side of the medical professionals ideas. Why are medical professionals who are questioning the good of the Covid vaccines not allowed to voice their concerns? Only medical professionals who support the vaccine are allowed to voice their opinions? Seems very wrong to me. I would love to hear these professionals both for and against present their opinions and present their data to back them. Very wrong to silence one side and threaten to take their licenses.

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