The cost of anti-vaxxers: Sidra doctor shares concerns with ASD students

Second in the Mini-Med Series 2019


Photographer: Claire R.

Dr. Tang’s message resonated with ASD students on several levels, especially as outbreaks of various illnesses have hit the school community over past weeks.

Aditri P. and Claire R.

“We all take a stab in the arm so others can live.”

Dr. Patrick Tang put his message succinctly before elaborating on it to an attentive audience of ASD high school students willing to extend their learning past the regular school day.

More than 20 students attended the second talk of the Sidra Mini-Med Series on Feb. 18, which featured a presentation by Dr. Tang.  He is a microbiologist at Sidra and graciously agreed to speak about different kinds of infectious diseases and how to detect them. His inspiration for this piece was the ongoing outbreak of the influenza virus and the current flu season.

Recently, emails were sent to the school community warning about bacterial and viral infections going around. One stressed point was the suggestion to “…stay home if you are sick so that you do not cause an outbreak at school, especially if you have a fever.” As with the previous session with Dr. Jason Ford, Dr. Tang’s presentation was engaging and effectively demonstrated how to use critical thinking in real-world situations.

His presentation focusing on disease prevention and vaccinations, Dr. Tang also gave students tips on considering a future career in the medical field.  Photographer: Aditri P.

Dr. Tang said he enjoys teaching students of all ages in ways that they can easily understand without having a medical degree. He thought medicine would suit his future best because, as a high school student, he loved both biology and helping people. Microbiology was his passion because “…it is very exciting to find out the cause of unknown diseases and figuring out the cause of outbreaks.” He also finds microorganisms riveting because “…they are evolving at a faster rate than us and faster than we can create new medicines, so there will always be infectious disease challenges to solve.”

The main topics of Dr. Tang’s presentation were the types of diseases, their mediums, their symptoms, how a hospital would test for them, and information on vaccinations and disease prevention.  First, he talked about the various types of viruses, fungi, and prions. He then spoke about scenarios wherein these could be transmitted and how the hospital would diagnose and treat for certain infections. A hot topic was antibiotics, as using them for viral infections would be futile and harmful. Finally, he ended his talk with more on students protecting themselves and the topic of vaccines overall.

In advocating the need for educated and privileged people to use their awareness, Dr. Tang explained how hospitals create vaccines, the fascinating science of predicting next year’s diseases, and the thrilling race to creating the vaccines six months before flu season strikes. He shared the important message that everyone needs to get vaccinated. He explained that, with the rising trend of anti-vaxxers, we as a society have the duty of protecting the weak and vulnerable by eradicating deadly diseases where we can by getting our shots. 

Dr. Tang has been participating in the Sidra Mini-Med series for three years now, and when he was in Canada previously, he gave lectures at secondary schools there. This time, he commented that he “…enjoy[s] all the thought-provoking questions from the students. It really shows that the students at ASD are knowledgeable about a wide range of health issues.”

His advice for aspiring medical students was to find role models in the medical field to see if they could imagine themselves doing the same things. He claime they should not aim to become doctors because their families want them to! According to Dr. Tang, “You need to have good grades and be well-rounded, but if you have these two things, you can probably have lots of options other than medicine, too.”