With the Presidential Election in less than 60 days, the current tightly contested race has led the candidates to a repetitive and almost desperate distortion of the truth in their speeches. The candidates often blatantly manipulate statistics, previous events and specific responsibility for negative events. I am grateful for the fact checkers in the media and non-partisan organizations that now quickly clarify serious errors or misrepresentations during political campaigns.
This begs a question: Who are the fact checkers in the podiatric profession?
On a daily basis, I am exposed to blogs, professional list-serve postings, advertisements, articles in trade publications and peer-reviewed research in academic journals. Other than peer-reviewed publications, we have no real opportunity to fact check an author’s or a presenter’s statements. Often, the author or speaker has simply not taken the time to research the subject and provide documentation that the information is accurate. Other times, the individual is so swayed by commercial interest or personal bias that he or she cannot interpret the science with any objectivity.
Either way, the author may convince the reader or listener to embrace certain ideas that have never been validated for accuracy or validity. Ultimately, our patients rely on us to implement new treatments that researchers have studied and tested for safety and efficacy. The patient may therefore become an innocent victim of false advertising, distorted podium presentations or biased articles written in podiatric trade publications.
The solution to this problem in the podiatric profession is for all of us to become active fact checkers. If any of you have attended conferences of other medical specialties, you may appreciate the fact that it is common practice for the audience to challenge speakers to defend the conclusions and recommendations they make from the podium. This is particularly evident in the academic biomechanics community, where the audience routinely confronts the speakers. They demand validation of each and every statement the presenter makes.
This is a rare occurrence in the podiatric profession. At most scientific meetings, the audience listens politely but almost never demands that the presenter provide validation and substantiation of facts. Of the many articles and blogs presented at www.PodiatryToday.com, the readers almost never ask authors to defend their conclusions. While most of us are not always up to date with current research on all subjects relevant to podiatric medicine and surgery, most of us are familiar with certain subject areas that can provide credible scrutiny of the information presented. I have my own areas of interest and recently stepped up to refute conclusions of published research in an article on ankle-foot orthotics published in Podiatry Today (see http://tinyurl.com/c73bvlg ).
Demanding intellectual integrity is an obligation of our profession. Authors, speakers and even advertisers have a duty to present information based on sound scientific research. When authors cite research, the conclusions must be accurately reported. When we all adhere to this principle, everyone will benefit. The only way to ensure that appointed authorities in our profession maintain the highest standard of integrity is for all of us to actively assume the role of the fact checker.