The Children’s COVID-19 media authority: Dr. Jesse Papenburg

His great skill as a communicator makes Dr. Jesse Papenburg the media’s 'go-to guy' for accurate information about COVID-19, vaccines, and the virus’ impact on children and teens.

The Children’s infectious diseases and medical microbiology specialist has done over 200 media interviews since March 2020. “When the media asks me to explain or contextualize the pandemic, which is within my realm of expertise, I feel obligated,” Dr. Papenburg explains. “If scientists and doctors don’t comment, non-experts can take up the space with conspiracy theories, personal agendas or misinformation. During the pandemic, there have been a lot of loud voices, but I try to keep mine clear, calm and considered.”

The clinician-researcher says the most challenging aspect of media interviews is conveying a clear message in 20 seconds, the length of the sound bite TV and radio reporters prefer to include in their reports.

Microphone to microscope

Dr. Papenburg says the pandemic has underscored what clinicianscientists have known for a long time: infectious and immune diseases (like COVID-19) are among the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century.

When not in front of a microphone, Dr. Papenburg is behind a microscope determining which children with pneumonia or bronchiolitis (both caused by viruses or bacteria) will benefit from antibiotics (antibiotics don’t work on viruses). He notes that sometimes doctors prescribe antibiotics to up to 80% of children hospitalized with these ailments ‘just in case’, contributing to antibiotic resistance, which leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.

Your generosity supports Dr. Papenburg’s research. “Researchers need donors who believe in novel and exploratory science. Gratefully, I received seed funding from The Children’s Foundation, which, crucially, helped me launch my research and collect preliminary data necessary to secure larger grants to continue the work.”

He proudly points out that The Children’s in collaboration with other McGill-affiliated hospitals and research institutes is a world leader in the study of major infectious and immune threats to human health thanks primarily to philanthropy—positive proof that donations save lives.