Dr. Beth Linas

The Specialists Cohort (Washington, DC)

Dr. Beth Linas (Washington DC)

“Public health is a data driven field. However if there isn’t broad understanding of the data, what it means & what it means for you, public health efforts likely won’t succeed,” Dr. Linas said.

“I use Twitter to help translate and put context to scientific data/results as I believe science communication is critical to building trust and behavior change.”

From Dr. Linas’ website:

“I am an infectious disease epidemiologist whose research interests include improving the development, evidence base, and use of digital health technologies to understand social determinants of health and improve health outcomes. I am deeply passionate about the use of data to inform public health policy, and am an active science communicator working to help scientists communicate their science. You can follow me on twitter: @bethlinas”

“​I completed my post doctoral training and graduate degrees (Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD), Masters of Health Science (MHS)) in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health . As an undergraduate at Brandeis University (BS, BA) I studied Science Policy and Biochemistry.”

​”Currently, I serve as an Epidemiologist and Lead Public Health Specialist with MITRE, working to implement health informatics and digital health products across the federal government. Previously, I was the Manager of Research and Science at the health technology company selected by the National Institutes of Health to lead the Participant Technology Systems Center for the ground breaking All of Us Research Program. From 2015-207, I served as a Science and Technology Policy fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where I supported computer science and engineering researchers to improve health with the Smart and Connected Health Program at the National Science Foundation.”

​”While a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, I developed a passion for science communication and created, produced, and oversaw all production of the Sci on the Fly Podcast whose goal is the promotion of a public dialogue around science and science policy for the public by scientists.”

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Linas:

“Dr. Linas provides clear and easy to understand explanations of new papers, preprints, & regulations related to COVID19. Her passion for #SciComm comes through on her Twitter feed as does her advocacy for evidence based COVID policies. Her communications meets people where they are and help make COVID less scary and confusing.”

Click here to visit Dr. Linas’ Twitter page
Click here to visit Dr. Linas’ website

Dr. Vin Gupta

The Specialists Cohort (Washington)

Dr. Vin Gupta (Washington)

Dr. Gupta spends much of his day with his physician hat on, treating patients at the University of Washington Medical Center. He also wears the hats of faculty member at Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Medical Analyst for NBC News, and member of various medical, research and policy councils.

That’s a lot of hats.

So making time to do the news, to combat misinformation, and lead data-driven reporting on COVID-19 is nothing short of a miracle.

“As a critical care pulmonologist and public health researcher at IHME, I’ve tried to emphasize the best scientific evidence to keep people and their loved one’s safe while leaning into storytelling as much as possible to make what I’m saying more accessible and understandable,” he said.

“Now more than ever, people need reliable public health information rooted in the best evidence to serve as guideposts during this crisis, and I feel privileged to help serve in this capacity.”

A few more hats, per U.S. News and World Report:

“A pulmonary and critical care medicine physician by training, Dr. Gupta has been caring for critically COVID-19 patients since the early days of the outbreak in Seattle. He helped a cross-sectoral team stand up the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, the nation’s first effort to scale home-testing for COVID-19. His background in public health has focused on epidemic preparedness, with relevant roles at the US CDC’s Emerging Infections Program, the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, the China CDC, and the Pentagon’s Center for Global Health Engagement. Finally, Dr. Gupta is a deployable critical care physician for the US Air Force Medical Corps Reserves, medical contributor for MSNBC and NBC News, and term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.”

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Gupta:

“He is honest, factual, and easy to understand.”

Click here to visit Dr. Gupta’s website
Click here to follow Dr. Gupta on Twitter

Dr. Peter Hotez

The Speciliasts Group (Texas)

Dr. Peter Hotez (Texas)

If you’ve watched the news at all this past year, you’ve definitely seen him before.

Dr. Peter Hotez appears almost daily on CNN or MSNBC, explaining the science behind COVID-19 epidemiology and vaccinology to the public, while also communicating with fellow scientists to highlight cutting edge findings in the pandemic.

With his signature round-rimmed glasses, bowtie, and wide smile (with dimples and a mustache to boot), Dr. Hotez makes it a point to confront disinformation and those who spread it using the data and his warming demeaner to reach as many people as he can.

Apart from the usual guest appearances on television, Dr. Hotez stretches his time to fit in data-driven analysis, editorials, podcasts, and alternative-media interviews, ensuring the data and science reach a wide range of audiences.

Not only does Dr. Hotez fight dangerous misinformation on prime-time, but he also works on the research that helped develop the vaccines, and to address issues of vaccine hesitancy.

An article Dr. Hotez recently published in the journal Microbes and Infection documents the rise in anti-science extremism during the last five years, and addresses critical concerns over the forces who seek to dismember the public from medical experts and scientists.

For his efforts, like many of our nominees, Dr. Hotez has been harassed, threatened and suffered personally from the anti-science and anti-vaccine groups.

Dr. Bob Watcher, another one of our nominees who is currently hosting Andy Slavitt’s “In the Bubble” science podcast while he serves on the COVID-19 White House Task Force, recently commended Dr. Hotez for his bravery:

Dr. Hotez is a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine who co-leads a team of scientists developing a new COVID-19 vaccine suitable for global health and now being scaled for production in India.

And when the flocks of alt-right and science-impaired do attack, Dr. Hotez is ready with a witty reply to puts the focus back where it belongs.

A few public comments of support for Dr. Peter Hotez:

“Always appreciate Dr. Hotez’ talent to communicate big info w/o resorting to drama or fear. We need to be well-informed to choose accordingly, not so freaked out that we just hide!”

“I’m blessed to live in the same city as Dr. Peter Hotez. I’ve been following his research since before COVID and am glad he’s at the forefront keeping us informed.”

Click here to follow Peter on Twitter
Click here to visit Peter’s website

Dr. Emily Smith

The Specialists Cohort (Texas)

Dr. Emily Smith (Texas)

Dr. Emily Smith, who also goes by moniker “Your Friendly Neighbor Epidemiologist,” is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Baylor University. Her research focuses on pediatric epidemiology and global health, particularly in developing nations.

Dr. Smith began providing a forum — both on Facebook and through her website — for her neighbors to ask (and have answered) questions about COVID-19 last March (2020).

The project quickly bloomed from its humble origins, and Dr. Smith became a celebrated science communicator across Texas, with 71,420 followers on Facebook as of March 2, 20201.

She works on the principals of “Love thy neighbor,” and makes communicating pandemic data and risks about communities. She works to reach out to faith-based organizations and open dialogues about social responsibility, from the church where her husband is a pastor to more conservative-leaning religious organizations.

Like many of our nominees, Dr. Smith endures harassment for her efforts to bring data to the public. Last August, she remarked on the shift in tone.

“At the beginning, people just said thank you and by and large were appreciative of trying to figure out what the pandemic was,” Dr. Smith said in an interview with Baptist News. “The further we’ve gotten into it, there is a significant divide on people who are posting. I have to delete or hide most of them, because that is not the battle we are facing.”

The author also captured her personable and collaborative attitude, noting “…she wants to talk to anyone who will listen in her naturally friendly tone, like talking to a really smart neighbor who just might be the nicest person you ever met.”

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Emily Smith:

“Emily Smith has made epidemiology relevant and applicable to the “average Joe/Jane” with her moniker as “your friendly local epidemiologist” in an area of Texas with many Covid deniers. She accidentally garnered a large following of people who want to learn more and of people who are simply curious. Her style is kind, yet informative, and she has filled a needed communication gap during the pandemic. Hats off to Dr. Smith for reaching out to common folk on Facebook and figuring out how to engage and act on important ideas.”

“Dr. Smith has been teaching the public about COVID-19 and related issues through posts on Facebook and her website. She has been guiding her community of followers through the pandemic with science-based information stated clearly enough for laymen to follow. She has been able to be encouraging yet realistic without fail. People have learned to depend upon her to deliver accurate information which they can use in their personal health decision making. Dr. Smith has demonstrated devotion to humankind and dedication to the field of epidemiology. The countless hours which she has spent serving the public on these forums has been without compensation. She deserves to be recognized for her exemplary work.”

“Dr. Smith has become one of my favorite resources for info about COVID-19 and the vaccines. She does a wonderful job of explaining data to non-experts in ways that are easy to understand and relatable, and always includes links to original data sources and articles. While Facebook has been her primary platform, she shares most of her posts on her website to increase accessibility. I’ve appreciate that she also sometimes speaks not only as an epidemiologist, but also as part of a religious community who has struggled with people not believing in/following the science; she has clearly addressed many myths, has endured personal criticism and threats, and has worked to support religious leaders that are seeking to serve their communities who may have opposing views. Though all of this, she has lived up to her nickname of Friendly Neighbor Epidemiologist!”

Click here to visit Dr. Smith’s Facebook page
Click here to visit Dr. Smith’s website.
Click here to visit Dr. Smith’s Twitter.

Dr. Theresa Chapple

The Specialists Cohort (Georgia)

Dr. Theresa Chapel (Georgia)

Dr. Theresa Chapple has dedicated the last 13 months to combating misinformation about COVID-19, building her science communication skills to teach the public about Covid-19 prevention approaches, and advocating for data-driven public policy to address the pandemic.

Since June, she’s worked with 27 school districts across the country to aid in Covid-19 data and research interpretation, setting data related metrics for reopening and closings, and identifying and training on risk mitigation approaches.

She has also utilized platforms such as social media and traditional media to share public health prevention messages and translate research into language understandable by the masses.

Her thought-provoking and thoroughly researched messages on school reopening challenged narratives being pushed by economists who intentionally misled the public about the risks associated with in-person learning during the pandemic.

She breaks the data down, offers analysis and context, and is one of the most responsive experts for COVID-19 information on Twitter.

“There’s a reason Dr. Chapple put this [COVID-19 outbreaks in schools and childcare settings] exhaustingly long list together, and why it’s still growing,” Karen Johnson wrote in Yahoo! News last August. “She wants us to realize and truly understand that this is what happens when people gather in groups. When adults gather in groups. When teens gather in groups. And when children gather in groups. Camps, daycare centers, and how it will be schools.”

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Chapple:

“Dr. Chapple may be the most courageous woman I’ve encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic. She unabashedly challenges misinformation in a confident and assertive way that doesn’t come off as talking down to people.”

“When a lot of junk science about schools came out from people with no subject-matter expertise, Dr. Chapple confronted them with the realities of what the real science and data showed, and by doing so likely saved many lives.”

Click here to follow Dr. Chapple on Twitter.

Dr. Amber Schmidtke

The Specialists Cohort (Georgia)

Dr. Amber Schmidtke (Georgia)

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Dr. Amber Schmidtke recognized there was a large gap between the way that scientists communicate and how non-scientists receive information.

So she made it her mission to reach out to other experts, journalists and the public to work on clear and effective communication about COVID-19.

And she did so in a state that has been among the least transparent and accessible with Coronavirus data in the country — Georgia.

“She has shared and broken down the real facts and meaning behind the Covid numbers for us Georgians when we could not trust our health department to report the data honestly,” wrote one person who nominated Dr. Schmidtke for our program.

Friendly, patient and comforting, she has become one of the most trusted voices in Georgia for analyzing and understanding the COVID-19 pandemic.

A self-described “data nerd,” Dr. Schmidtke worked at Mercer University as a professor in the School of Medicine when the pandemic started.

Dr. Schmidtke earned a Ph.D. in medical microbiology and immunology from Creighton University in Nebraska, and completed her postdoctoral research fellowship in the CDC’s Pertussis and Diphtheria Laboratory, later becoming a microbiologist for the Atlanta-based health protection agency.

She has combined her roles as a public health specialist and college educator to provide meaningful analysis and explanation of disease trends to the public through a popular newsletter and podcast.

As a result of those communication efforts she was invited to serve as a member of the Georgia COVID-19 Data State Task Force, advising government agencies on how to package their complex data to meet the needs of the public.

Dr. Schmidtke frequently informs the public on the issue of school safety during COVID-19, wading into an obscenely politicized debate, using the science and data to advocate for ensuring CDC protocols are closely followed and that teachers are able to get vaccinated.

Dr. Schmidtke warned the public in February when a national cheerleading competition in Atlanta brought more than 40,000 people to the event. She noted the timing of the event, and the risk attendees might bring home or spread the B.1.1.7 variant, of which Georgia ranks fifth in the country for confirmed cases.

An article from the Mercer University newsletter detailed how Dr. Schmidtke joined the state task force to help with presenting data to the public.

“She works most closely with the Georgia Geospatial Information Office, which maps data, and has helped the health department refine how the information is presented on its website,” the article stated.

When data from Georgia would go missing or was suspicious, Dr. Schmidtke called them out, worked to find answers, and led her state (and the country) by example with her steadfast, data-driven approach.

Though with her calming and disarming demeaner, she tries to always end on a positive note, even if the risk is grave.

“I understand and acknowledge that anxiety that people are feeling. The good news is the measures we’ve been recommending this whole time will help us to limit transmission of these new variants and that’s really what we should be focused on right now,” said Dr. Schmidtke in an interview last month.

Dr. Schmidtke’s continued energy and enthusiasm for reporting data and being an accessible, reliable, trustworthy source for Georgia and beyond make her a true data hero.

A few comments from those who nominated Dr. Schmidtke:

“Dr. Schmidtke not only kept up with very hard to acquire data to keep Georgians informed when the state failed to do so, she also put it in a very accessible format. She has been informative about the state’s true numbers (GA never reported rapid test results) and realistic in her assessments of hospital capacities. Her emails have been calming because they are honest and although they contain a lot of data they are so clear they are never overwhelming. I’m grateful for her hard work, her empathy, and her patience.”

“As Georgia DOH struggled with their own reporting, Amber filled in the blanks with her multiple-times-a-week analysis and explanations. She made the data come to life and wasn’t afraid to give her opinion on what it meant. Her explanations are so clear. She also then replies to comments and answers questions. She moved to Kansas and picked up reporting there but continued with GA!”

Click here to view Dr. Schmidtke’s Substack.

Click here to follow Dr. Schmidtke on Twitter.