Communicate Science or Die Trying: Dr. Paul Offit to speak at MU

Dr. Paul Offit

Misrepresentation of facts is a huge barrier facing the science and medical fields. With information so easily spreadable and accessible, false information can often lead to incorrect conclusions. A common example of this issue is the vaccination debate. Despite reassurance by the CDC, doctors, and scientists, some Americans still doubt the safety of vaccines because of false information found on the internet. 

The vaccine debate is just one example of how the spreading of incorrect information can discredit truthful and important information. Many scientists and medical professionals are actively working to fight this misrepresentation of information. One of these professionals is Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Dr. Offit will be visiting MU on November 29 as the 2018 Cherng Distinguished Visiting Scholar. Dr. Offit is a pediatrician, professor, researcher and author who has dedicated his career to the development, research and education about vaccines and immunity. As the 2018 Cherng Dedicated Visiting Speaker, Dr. Offit will host brown bag discussions, classroom visits and a public lecture. His lecture is about how to effectively communicate science to the public, a topic of which he is passionate and knowledgeable.  

Dr. Offit’s career has centered around breaking barriers in the fields of immunity, vaccines and virology. He is a co-creator of a rotavirus vaccine, which is recommend to infants worldwide. He is a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, as well as a founding board member of the Autism Science Foundation.  

Dr. Shari Freyermuth is one of the faculty members who invited Dr. Offit to campus. Dr. Freyermuth is very familiar with Dr. Offit’s work, as she has used two of Offit’s books for Honors Tutorials and he spoke to her class via Skype. Describing Dr. Offit as a kind, intelligent and passionate physician, Dr. Freyermuth said she is excited for Honors students to hear him lecture. She hopes he will encourage students to speak about science effectively and report about science accurately. 

“Scientists often get a bad rap because they can’t explain their work in a way that the public can understand,” Freyermuth said. “Dr. Offit has an amazing way of telling stories that are both educational and captivating. I think he will be a great resource for the students in our Honors College.” 

Dr. Offit’s work in the medical field proves him to be a great fit for the Cherng Distinguished Speaker, as Andrew and Peggy Cherng, the supporters of Cherng Program, are actively involved in supporting medicine. The Cherngs have a longstanding partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and has donated over $37 million to hospitals in the network. 

Students, faculty and community members alike are encouraged to attend Dr. Offit’s lecture on November 29, as well as the post-lecture reception. According to Dr. Freyermuth, the importance of understanding science and medicine, and spreading the knowledge accurately, is crucial. She is hoping the attendees of Dr. Offit’s lecture will be inspired by his career, knowledge and advice. 

“I hope that students and faculty will be inspired by Dr. Offit’s message about the importance of science and a scientifically literate citizenry,” Freyermuth said. “If we can get our science faculty and students as well as our journalism faculty and students inspired to explain science to the general public, everyone will be better off.” 

Dr. Offit’s lecture, “How to Communicate Science to the Public, or Die Trying”, will take place on November 29 from 6:00 to 7:15pm in Jesse Wrench Auditorium, Memorial Union South. Reception to follow. 


For more information about Paul Offit, visit his website.

For more information about the Honors College Cherng Scholar program, click here.

For an article further detailing Andrew and Peggy Cherng’s philanthropic activities, click here.