by Shanna Combs, MD
This article was originally published in the March/April 2022 issue of the Tarrant County Physician. You can read find the full magazine here.
“I’ve done my research.”
These can be some of the most dreaded words to hear as a physician from our patients and their families. We can spend seven-plus years in medical school, residency, and sometimes fellowship, studying our field before we embark on our journey to practice medicine. We also hone our craft through continued learning throughout our careers. Yet, we are often confronted with the above phrase. Since when did Dr. Google become such an expert that it can supersede our years of training and practice?
This became ever more apparent as the COVID-19 pandemic started over two years ago. (Yes, we have crossed over the two-year mark and are still counting). With a lack of information and understanding of this novel virus as well as increased access to information on the internet, we in science and medicine saw people seeking out answers from all the resources they had access to. This unfortunately led to propagation of numerous pieces of misinformation, distortions, and half-truths. Add to this the politicization of our nation and the polarization regarding best measures on how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, and unfortunately, we in science and medicine are left as the ones not to be trusted.
As a women’s health physician, I am confronted with this on an almost daily basis. While the internet can be a valuable resource of information, it can also be a not so valuable resource of misinformation, lies, and myths. Misinformation was commonly passed along in relation to women’s reproductive health even before the advent of the internet. Unfortunately, nowadays it has a much wider reach with the “expertise” of Dr. Google to further spread these untruths.
What are we to do in this constant back and forth of the internet versus the doctor?
For me, I try to meet my patients and their families where they are. I work with them to better understand where they are coming from as well as who or what their source of information is. I cannot undo the vastness that is the internet and Dr. Google, but I can work to build a relationship with my patients and their families to come to shared decision making to provide the best care for them.
“For me, I try to meet my patients and their families where they are. I work with them to better understand where they are coming from as well as who or what their source of information is. I cannot undue the vastness that is the internet and Dr. Google, but I can work to build a relationship with my patients and their families to come to shared decision making to provide the best care for them. “
While this is helpful in individual encounters of patient care, I also feel that it is important for us as physicians to be out in the public arena as well. Because of this, I never turn down an opportunity to speak when asked, and I am always happy to provide my expertise for those in the media. As physicians, we have a duty to educate. This is a responsibility not only to the individual patients we take care of, but also to the public. By offering education that is based in science and grounded in our years of continued study and experience, we can work to counteract the vast amount of distorted information that is out there. I, for one, will continue in my efforts to dispel myth and spread truth.