Scott Atlas has been described variously as an “extremist”, “Trump’s latest yes-man”, a “crackpot” and other politically driven insults that do not reflect his character, motivation or skill. Common criticism from the general public, promoted by media-led character assassinations, has included “he’s not an immunologist or a virologist”, as though public health consists of nothing else. Public health as a discipline is as broad as the subjects that it covers, which include microbiology, infectious diseases, virology, immunology, global health, biostatistics, epidemiology, health promotion, health policy, health management and so on. Most people who study Public Health will focus on a set of core related subjects so that no two Masters or Doctorates of Public Health are the same.
Atlas, a medical doctor and neuro-radiology specialist, has dedicated his career to evaluating, critiquing and advising on health care policy. This is close to my own heart as I have experienced the way that systems and policies impact significantly on health service quality. I have also developed a fascination with human reactions to infectious diseases and public health responses (such as vaccinations), which I have observed first-hand for some years across different cultures and environments including diseases which are endemic in some populations but uncommon in others, as well as during disease outbreaks including the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic.
Human responses are impacted significantly by the information people receive, the way it is communicated to them, and the way in which they interpret information and perceive risk. It is very easy for health messages to be interpreted in unpredictable ways, leading to unforeseen complications. Which leads to the point that even anthropology, sociology, economics, media, ethics and psychology have important parts to play in public health. This is demonstrated in pandemic plans which always discuss the possible ramifications of different mitigation strategies.
Two recent short interviews with Scott Atlas relating to the Covid pandemic are shared below. He understands public health and has the aptitude and dignity to communicate information eloquently despite being immersed in a highly politicised environment.