What are We Even Talking About: Seven Observations on the Art of Communicating Science

What are We Even Talking About: Seven Observations on the Art of Communicating Science

Dr. El-Sayed reflects on his experiences as a physician, scientist, former health commissioner, podcast host, and CNN commentator to share key insights about the challenges and opportunities of science communication as they apply to the pandemic.

Some insights include: 

  1. Science is not a body of knowledge, it’s a process—and sharing that process is critical to engaging with vaccine hesitant people.
  2. Narrative is how people instinctively make sense of the word. Bring data, but don’t forget to tell the story of that data.
  3. Communicators have to be thoughtful about their audience—and understand that their audience may have different values and beliefs.
  4. People are a lot more likely to listen to us when they understand why we care, not just what we care about.

At 30, Dr. El-Sayed served as Detroit’s Health Commissioner, making him the youngest health official in a major American City ever. As Health Commissioner, he rebuilt Detroit’s Health Department post-privatization during the city’s municipal bankruptcy.  He led the Department to multiply city funding for public health tenfold, attract millions of dollars in grants, and become a national leader in public health innovation. Prior to his work in public service, Dr. El-Sayed was a tenure-track faculty member at Columbia University’s Department of Epidemiology; Director of the Columbia University Systems Science Program; and co-Director of Global Research for Population Health. He graduated with Highest Distinction from the University of Michigan. He holds a Doctorate in Public Health from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, as well as an MD from Columbia University.