Debunking Misinformation with Seema Yasmin, M.D.


Seema Yasmin, M.D. is a medical doctor, poet, professor, and professional debunker.

She’s Director of the Stanford Center for Health Communication and a clinical assistant professor in the Stanford University School of Medicine. Yasmin teaches science journalism and global health storytelling and studies the spread of microbes and misinfodemics.

Seema is the author of the new book, Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them.

In this episode, we discuss a range of topics related to how to combat misinformation, make professional transitions, tell high-impact stories, and other issues such as:

What Seema has found to be a useful approach and attitude to help her move through phases of her professional life

Her new book “Viral BS” and Seema’s realization that to improve public health, she had to train as an expert storyteller, “combining narrative with medicine to make people care” 

As a medical doctor and communications expert, how Seema developed talent in both the scientific and storytelling domains and how scientists unaccustomed to communicating with general audiences can sharpen their storytelling skills

What Seema means by using medical knowledge about fighting viruses to inform communication strategies for combatting misinformation, including what is meant by the “pre-bunk” approach she mentions in the book

The importance of empathy in countering misinformation and why Seema uses this approach and whether she thinks empathy, generally speaking, is used enough in our efforts to short circuit viral BS

Seema’s comment in the book that “Whatever you think of facts, facts alone are not enough” to persuade”, the writings of Aristotle more than 2,000 years ago about the need for emotion and credible, respected speakers to move audiences – not only facts – and why Seema thinks it sometimes seems we have to learn the same lessons over and over when we seek to persuade

In general terms, how Seema sees the interplay between politics and disease-fighting – including her own experiences outside the U.S.

Looking ahead – with the disparities in vaccination rates and the rise of the Delta variant of SARS CoV2 – whether Seema thinks there are any lessons from campaigns to respond to misinformation during the earlier waves of the virus that we should be – and maybe already are – applying now and whether there’s anything we should be doing now to respond at this moment in the pandemic that would be more effective than what were were doing during our earlier attempts to quell the spread of the virus

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