WENATCHEE - Columbia Valley Community Health Physician and former Chelan-Douglas Health District Medical Officer Dr. Malcom Butler appeared charged about his convictions from the lessons he learned while at the helm of the health district during the pandemic.
Dr. Butler resigned at the end of August 2021.
At the start of his speech, Butler spoke to what resonated with him most during his tenure as a public health official.
“…what struck me as one of the most difficult parts of that experience for me was the fact that a significant portion of the community felt entirely at ease criticizing my professional expertise and opinion.”
Dr. Butler addressed the issue of misinformation during the pandemic.
“…people who hear a story on the news, or watch a video feel empowered to debate the informed opinion of a professional who has made their living in a very complex field,” Dr. Butler said.
Dr. Butler went on to explain the dangers associated with devaluing expert opinions.
“…our expert opinions are our stock and trade. We have to resist the ability of folks to devalue that expert opinion. They come in partially informed and feel absolutely at ease criticizing what we’re trying to help them with,” stated Dr. Butler. “That is just wrong.”
Dr. Butler coined the term ‘professional unexceptionalism’ to describe the trials many health experts face during the pandemic.
“…our professional opinions that have come hard fought are (to some) in no way exceptional and our opinion is valued as much as anyone else’s,” he explained.
Dr. Butler says people are playing a dangerous game of relying on unprofessional opinions of superficial information sources that support the personal argument a person is trying to make contrary to the expert opinion being offered to them by an officious and professional source.
Dr. Butler added that the pandemic in America has killed more U.S. citizens than WWI, WWII, Vietnam, the Korean War, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812, combined.
“Over 730,000 lives have been lost and counting. Somehow, in the midst of this national tragedy, perhaps the worst our country has ever experienced, somehow, it’s been ok in this democracy during this information age for people to believe opinions carry equal weight and should be valued equally, and that’s what I’m worried about,” he said. “It’s intellectually corrupt and runs contrary to everything that pulled us out of the dark ages…”
“I learned that as professionals we must be ready to take a stand and say 'you are not qualified to understand the issues in play' and then walk away. That was a mistake I made, I did not say that.”