Ashish Gandhi, 2nd-year Health Policy & Management
It is common knowledge that a gap exists between traditional academic journalism and the general public – new information is published in ways too difficult for non-experts to fully comprehend, and news agencies often misrepresent ongoing research to garner higher readership numbers.
A few weeks ago, our very own Jim Curran (RSPH Dean) and Carlos del Rio (Global Health Department Chair) attempted to bridge this gap by logging onto Reddit, a social media site and the 24th most popular website in the world. On Reddit, they performed an AMA – “Ask-Me-Anything” – where individuals all across the globe could ask questions pertaining to their research and experiences. In this case, questions centered on HIV/AIDS research and treatment efforts, as well as Dr. Curran’s integral role in identifying the disease back in 1981. You can read the AMA here: http://redd.it/2wf7ar.
What is great is that this was spearheaded by students – a few of us approached Dean Curran and Dr. del Rio with the idea to do an AMA, and they took the time to discuss logistics and get the ball rolling. When the day of the AMA came around, they were enthusiastic – in fact, Dr. del Rio started answering questions several hours before his allotted time. Here is a picture of me (center) transcribing answers for Dean Curran (left), while Dr. del Rio types his answers.
The AMA was extremely popular. It is the 2nd highest Science AMA of all time, and it gained more “upvotes” than AMAs by celebrities including Jerry Seinfeld, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Denzel Washington, Amy Poehler, and Tom Hanks. Over a quarter million individuals around the world have read their answers, and several million saw RSPH’s name on the front page of one of the world’s most popular websites.
To me, this represents two things. First, we have incredible faculty and leadership whose accomplishments attract the attention of individuals all across the globe. Second, our faculty members are extremely interested in student ideas – even though Drs. Curran and del Rio had never heard of Reddit, they excitedly and enthusiastically took this opportunity to answer questions on the website and engage with hundreds of thousands of global citizens.