COMMENTARY: Do You Get Your Medical Advice Online? By MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

Jun 26, 2023 at 11:38 am by WGNS News

Today, Dr. Larry Burriss looks into finding medical answers and avoiding the pitfalls of online diagnosing. Listen to his commentary above.


Commentary Verbatim: “Last week “The New York Times” ran a story about what it termed a “new golden age” for medicine. The story was a little short on timelines and other details, but I found it interesting.

Of course, a problem with such stories is that many people with medical conditions mentioned in the story assume the cures are just around the corner, and at least one friend wondered how soon they could get one of the treatments.

So, I was talking to a mixed-age group recently, and fully half of the questions I got were variations of, “How do we know what is true about medical news, cures and treatments?”

But what happened next was really disconcerting.

I asked the group, “How many of you know how to get reliable medical information on the Internet?” Most, to my surprise, answered in the negative.

So let’s take this very slowly. Who has reliable information about any kind of medical subjects? Doctors and other medical professionals. And where are these people found? In hospitals and medical clinics.

And guess what: every one of these sources of reliable information have web pages accessible from almost any computer, tablet and cell phone.

That’s right, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, to name three of the most prestigious, all have information about prevention and care.

Even better, none of them are influenced by politics, none have a financial incentive to spin information and none have links to confusing news outlets.

I also did a search of dozens of local medical clinics. Every one of them had almost identical information and suggestions, all provided by health care professionals.

So, pick your favorite hospital or clinic, do an easy search, and there you are: reliable information.

Somehow, in dealing with medical issues, common sense has become in as short supply as hand sanitizer. But almost everyone has access to accurate information about medical conditions. I suggest you slow down and think it through, and I bet you can find all of the reliable medical information you need. - I’m Larry Burriss.”

About Dr. Burriss - Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.

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