The Doctor Who Can Rebuild Trust: Joseph Ladapo
If you are like me, you are exhausted of the lies. Every day seems to bring new revelations about how our lives came to be upended. The connections are becoming clearer between the pandemic response and the growing economic crisis, the ballooning debt, the growth of the surveillance state, the corruption and scams, chilling absence of integrity in public life, and, with the failure of FTX, the way in which an outright financial scam was integral to the calamity.
While we await new revelations, depositions, coverups, pleas for amnesty, and bad economic news, whom can we trust? Is anyone telling the truth?
Today was Anthony Fauci’s last White House press conference, and he spoke as if life is all normal and everything is fine. It’s as if the whole disaster never happened. He never locked anyone down, he says. He has happy for any investigations, he says, because he has nothing to hide. And then he ended with a final push for everyone to get booster #5 or whatever number we are on.
It’s like we live in two universes: our own lives in which we read true things in some places, and official life, in which shills and publicists keep repeating the same nonsense over and over without flinching or providing anything like an honest account of these last three years.
Perhaps for this reason – and also because by any historical standard this is a tremendous autobiography – reading Dr. Joseph Ladapo’s Transcend Fear is a welcome relief from the nonsense of our times. It is brutally honest. It is emotionally affecting. It is careful and precise but also deeply radical in its observations. If what’s called the “public health world” has lost touch with both the public and health, this book provides a path to restoring it. In short, it is a beautiful and inspiring experience.
Dr. Ladapo is the Surgeon General of the State of Florida, picked by Governor Ron DeSantis to forge and explain the state’s health decisions and priorities to the public in the midst of a grave crisis. He has faced down the national press time and time again with Zen-like wisdom. He seems emotionally unflappable while also sticking to the science as he understands it. He is the only public health official in the country who has been upfront about the limits of the vaccines and warned healthy young people that they don’t need them.
What we learn from this book is that he has been a warrior against pseudoscience from the very beginning of this pandemic and the government response. After the lockdowns, most scientists and health professionals fell silent, fearing reputational and financial loss. Dr. Ladapo was different, On March 24, 2020, still within the window of “15 Days to Flatten the Curve,” he wrote in USA Today:
We are fretting and we are fuming. As a country, we have been caught miserably flat-footed after receiving warnings about what lay ahead when cases of Covid-19 began exploding in Wuhan, China. Messages from local and state leaders about how to respond to the pandemic change almost daily—a sure sign they have no idea what they are doing. Shutdowns are happening here in California and in New York, and will probably spread to the rest of the nation….
Here’s the problem: Because of the (understandable) fear and hysteria of the moment, few US leaders are seriously talking about the endgame. The epidemiologic models I’ve seen indicate that the shutdowns and school closures will temporarily slow the virus’ spread, but when they’re lifted, we will essentially emerge right back where we started. And, by the way, no matter what, our hospitals will still be overwhelmed. There has already been too much community spread to prevent this inevitability.
We don’t have a totalitarian government like China, and we value our civil liberties too much to take the measures (i.e., total lockdown) that would be needed to rapidly decrease the infection rate to zero. This means that, even with shutdowns, the virus will still spread. Unfortunately, this also means that rates of “community immunity,” often referred to as “herd immunity,” will slow. As a result, we will always be vulnerable to the virus spreading rapidly again as soon as shutdown measures are lifted, unless they are immediately reimplemented—over and over and over again.
Was he the first post-lockdown voice from public health profoundly to object in a public forum of this magnitude? Perhaps so. Consider the bravery and presence of mind it required to write those sentences. The entire country was on a wartime footing with unprecedented horribles taking place. The media was screaming “Run for your lives” but most of us weren’t even allowed out of our homes to do that.
These were utterly crazy times. The whole world was going bonkers. And yet this man kept his cool.
This book explains where his cool comes from. You see, he is the son of an immigrant from Nigeria, born 1979. A math and science whiz, he attended Wake Forest and then entered Harvard Medical School. While he was involved in his studies, he noted the existence of the Kennedy School of Government and enrolled there too. On graduation day, he was granted a MD plus a PhD in public policy. So essentially: the highest credentials in two fields that this country offers. He became professor of medicine at New York University and then the University of California, Los Angeles.
The trouble was that none of his training had prepared him to deal with medical issues closer to home, namely his wife’s unrelenting migraines that often landed her in the hospital and his own underlying psychological fears of social interaction. The details are very painful and told in this book with disarming detail. Long story short: his search for answers led him toward alternative medical paths that eventually fixed both issues, and burned a lesson in his mind. Health is individual, and the right path is not the same for everyone and not always found in expertise as codified in the textbooks and institutions.
It was soon after these difficult times that the pandemic broke and, along with it, the claims that the experts had all the answers in lockdowns and eventual universal mandates for vaccination.
Dr. Ladapo had meanwhile developed the self-confidence to speak about such matters truthfully and fearlessly. And he never stopped. He wrote for every venue he could, month after month, urging an end to the lockdowns, a focus on therapeutics, attention to the science we had, and genuine concern for the health of actual individuals, who are not lab rats but people with human rights and freedom.
Even though Dr. Joseph Ladapo is obviously a hero (and one for the ages, so far as I’m concerned), the prose here is remarkably lucid, humble, and precise. That’s why I say that the humane concern in this book is an inspiration. Moreover, reading it is a form of therapy because he connects with a common sense that we all had in 2019 before the world descended into utter madness.
What’s more, this book shows a path forward not only for public health but for all of us as individuals. He urges personal reflection as the first step in recovery, overcoming whatever hidden fears we had that caused too many among us to go along with the preposterous parade of dangerous nonsense that controlled our lives for so long.
In my own view, this book is a classic of our times. Its value added is not only the author’s credentials, though he has them galore, or even how it speaks so directly to issues that have profoundly affected all our lives. Its real value is as a model of autobiography that offers lessons for all of us without exception.
We at Brownstone are deeply honored that Dr. Ladapo will be our dinner speaker at our annual conference and gala in Miami, December 3, 2022. There is still time to attend. You can register here.
I write as Dr. Fauci just finished his last press conference without offering so much as a hint of apology for what has happened. Meanwhile, I’m sure Dr. Ladapo is tending to his work in Florida where he has been charged with dealing with public health policy with honesty, truth, and wisdom. I know who gets my vote for hero of the pandemic.