A Ph.D. Does Not Equal Medical Doctor

The White House battle to use anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID spilled over onto CNN this morning. White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, claimed his social scientist qualifications as pertinent to read statistical data and make decisions on the effectiveness of the drug.

According to a report by Axios, Navarro sparred with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a meeting of the White House task force on coronavirus regarding use of the drug, which so far, has proved inconclusive in treatment, as Fauci claimed there is only anecdotal evidence. As we reported in the April 4 update (see below) President Trump also continues to flippantly tout the use of hydroxychloroquine in his press conferences without proven scientific evidence.

CNN anchor John Berman called Navarro out regarding his qualifications, and Navarro hit back.

"Doctors disagree about things all the time," Navarro said on "New Day." "My qualifications in terms of looking at the science is that I'm a social scientist. I have a Ph.D. And I understand how to read statistical studies, whether it's in medicine, the law, economics or whatever."

Berman continued to poke Navarro on his qualifications, prompting the guest to ask Berman if he would take hydroxychloroquine if he were sick. Berman's response?

“I would listen to my doctor about whether or not I should take it. I would not listen to someone involved with trade policy.”

The Takeaway: While it seems simple to match sources with the appropriate interview, it's always important to check the educational background of someone with a Ph.D. to make sure they fit the assigned topics. The information a medical doctor distributes in a crisis is highly anticipated and absorbed by the pubic, so PR practitioners must audit these sources extensively. Before you hand someone the mic, work with them on interview prep to assure they provide proven, trusted answers. There's a lot riding on information when lives are at stake.

This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.