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Early in 2020, communication science expert Brian Southwell, PhD, launched a training workshop at the Duke University School of Medicine to address a major clinical problem: What physicians should do when patients are misinformed about their health. It’s one of only a few such programs in the nation. This year, Southwell, a scholar with the medical school’s Social Science Research Institute, and his collaborator Jamie Wood, PhD, plan to make it available as a live virtual offering for clinician practices and health care systems.
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“There’s a lot that we can learn from the past in terms of how people have engaged with misinformation historically,” Southwell said in a recent interview with JAMA. “That’s going to be helpful, but we also need to think about some of the challenges of the moment.” Misinformation is a longstanding issue, he acknowledged, but one that social media has facilitated and exacerbated—sometimes with dangerous consequences. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic brought it all to a head.
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