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Comment: What she said before she said what she would do

It wasn't what she said ...
dr deena hinshaw
Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw. CHRIS SCHWARZ/Government of Alberta

It wasn't what she said at the August 4 news conference ... well, in honesty, it probably was — as she was telling Albertans how the government plans to best protect our children as they go back to school in September — but it was also how the province's top medical boss explained and defended the data collection that helped to build the plan.

In a world where star-powered 'influencers' can lead audiences to millennial snake-oil with a swish of their hair or background music of their Top 10 song, last week's fact-heavy description by the Chief Medical Officer about the process behind the province's back-to-school plan was just as powerful of a sales pitch.

While most Albertans focused on the actions about to happen: students going back to school, the use of masks, desk configurations, bus transport, teacher interreactions and class sizes, it was Dr. Deena Hinshaw's airtight explanation of how the plan's data was collected that was the star of the news conference. She broke down the process with scientific precision, explaining that after the announcement on July 21 that Alberta students would be heading back to school in a near 'back to normal' scenario created by government officials, her team was "reviewing the current guidance, including evidence from jurisdictions around the world."

Hinshaw went on to say that "since Day One," her team has "continued to act on the best evidence available at any given time."

We know, we know —  doctors saying they worked 'really hard' on something is nothing new. Doctor Jonas Salk spent eight years working hard on developing the polio vaccine, Alexander Fleming's accidental discovery of penicillin came after 20 years of hard study, and Dr. Phil McGraw ... well, since his Dr. Phil show aired on TV in 2002, we're all still waiting for something useful to be discovered. But Dr. Hinshaw expanded the tried-and-true explanation that her team has worked 'really hard', going on to explain the collection, verification, dissection and implementation of the information.

"This means not relying on any single study or jurisdiction's experience," she said, "but methodically assessing all the evidence available and then acting on that information."

So — this team of professionals gathered all the information available, weighed its relevance, explored details and results, compared that to the results of other jurisdictions ... around the world ... and presented their findings accordingly.

Imagine if we all did that? 

It makes, "It's true: I read it on facebook." seem a little weak.

In our fast-click Internet world of Google Images-fact-check, the fact that Dr. Hinshaw and her team not only completed all of that background fact-checking, but also took the time to explain the method of data collection, is refreshing. 

We checked too

Does that mean that this article's praise for the fact-gathering skills of Dr. Hinshaw and her team is based solely on that one news conference's video footage — aired on Youtube, of all things? Not at all. Taking a page from the good doctor's skills of data collection, we found more sources.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney — sitting in the Lac La Biche POST newsroom on Thursday — praised Hinshaw.

VIDEO: Premier Jason Kenney praises Alberta's Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw during an interview on August 6 at the Lac La Biche POST newspaper office with LakelandToday. ca writer Janice Huser and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge.

"We are so fortunate to have her as our chief medical officer. She is a brilliant scientist, she is very careful about public health — but she is also very common sense," Kenney told newspaper staff during an exclusive one-on-one sitdown. "She wants her recommendations to government to be based on the latest data and the latest scientific research."

Realizing that in such a politically-polarized world, some may not recognize the sitting provincial premier as a trusted source, we went back to the masses, scouring the ground-level social media commentary, and found this complimentary, albeit personalized viewpoint from regular commentor to the Lac La Biche POST's facebook page, Greg Pruden.

"She is smart, sexy, nerdy ... and beautiful smart is beautiful."

Does that make Hinshaw and her team great fact-checkers? No — but it speaks volumes to the attention that many Albertans have focused on her — and hopefully her message. A feature story on Hinshaw in a recent edition of the the University of Alberta's Folio publication, runs under a headline "the making of an unlikely folk hero."  In the article, Hinshaw is described by instructors and colleagues as "quiet," "thoughtful" ,"calm" and "measured".  

As this piece has progressed to these last lines, it's becoming apparent that Hinshaw is in fact an "influencer." If people like her, they will perhaps like what she is presenting. Hopefully, her measured and calm presentation, her attention to detail, her tremendous education ... and to some, her 'smart beauty' ... will influence useful and healthy choices that will sell the public on information based on fact rather than fame.