The Toxins We Carry: Tackling medical misinformation beyond COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Monday, January 16, 2023 16:00to17:00

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD

Physician and Medical Sociologist | Weill Cornell Medicine

Where: Hybrid Event | 2001 McGill College, Room 1140; Zoom


The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated infodemic – the abundance of information, both true and false, spreading at unprecedented speed and scale – has created myriad challenges for public health professionals. While COVID-19 is becoming endemic, our infodemic was, in fact, already endemic. In this lecture, I will discuss how the structure of the misinformation crisis can guide interventions to mitigate it, using as an example my work training community-oriented infodemiologists – field epidemiologists for the infodemic – to begin addressing misinformation and building healthy information environments in their digital communities.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize and define the spectrum of information disorder including mis/dis/malinformation
  • Explain how environmental health metaphors provide a lens into the structure of our misinformation crisis
  • Describe strategies to address misinformation in online forums that flow from our understanding of the structure of how misinformation flows online

Speaker Bio

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD, is physician and medical sociologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and Chief Medical Officer at Critica, an NGO focused on building scientific literacy. His dissertation examined the global governance of infectious diseases and he completed a post-doc at HealthMap.org at Harvard Medical School in spatial epidemiology. David went on to a primary care Internal Medicine residency at Cambridge Health Alliance and continues to work as a hospitalist. His current research focuses on medical communication in clinical and online settings including understanding how to address misinformation within digital communities. His work seeks to emphasize how structural factors affect our information environments to allow misinformation to propagate and misconceptions to persist. Dr. Scales’ work leverages qualitative and quantitative methods to the problem of misinformation, training “infodemiologists” to build Covid-19 vaccine confidence in online communities with community-oriented motivational interviewing. He has written about applying models of epidemic disease surveillance and response as a guide to the problem of misinformation and served as a consultant to the Office of the Surgeon General on the topic of the impact of COVID-19 misinformation during the pandemic. In his spare time he enjoys learning and speaking different languages, biking, playing water polo and reading with his two-year-old son.

Presented as part of the Epidemiology Seminar Series

The Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health Seminar Series is a self-approved Group Learning Activity (Section 1) as defined by the maintenance of certification program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada


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