Prof. Timothy Caulfield receives honorary doctorate in science

Simon Fraser University celebrates 'advocate for evidence-based health policy'

Helen Metella - 04 October 2019

Timothy Caulfield, the University of Alberta Faculty of Law professor who is renowned internationally for publicizing what's false about scores of popular but unproven health practices, is receiving an honorary science degree for his work.

The doctor of science degree from Simon Fraser University is the first honorary degree for Caulfield, who is the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and the research director of the Health Law Institute.

He will receive the award October 10 during fall convocation ceremonies at the Vancouver university that's called him "one of Canada's best-known intellectuals and a passionate advocate for evidence-based health policy."

Caulfield is delighted by the honour and also by the opportunity to address the graduating class. "One of my take-home messages will be that in this era of misinformation, the critical thinking skills that are provided at university are more important now than ever. Deploy them. Exercise them. Spread them."

To many, Caulfield is best-known as a sharp poke to the ballooning business of unsubstantiated health claims endorsed by celebrities.

He has explained the facts opposing junk science in hundreds of easy-to-understand contributions to the popular press. He presents similar arguments in an entertaining fashion as the host and co-producer of the award winning Netflix documentary series, A User's Guide to Cheating Death, which amusingly debunks thinly supported health claims.

He is also the author of two national bestsellers, The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012) and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin 2015).

"The good news is I think people are taking this topic of health misinformation much more seriously now," said Caulfield.

"The World Health Organization recently said that the spread of health misinformation is one of the greatest threats to people's health in the areas of vaccines, and we're starting to see new regulations from Health Canada and the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The bad news is there's just so much of it. It's increasingly difficult to tease out what's real science and what's not."

Caulfield's current research concerns the fascinating new discoveries about the gut microbiome and how they are being exploited to sell unproven therapies, and continuing work on the science of precision medicine.

His next book, Relax, Dammit!, focuses on his observation that with so much misinformation engulfing them daily, people are now worrying about the wrong things. It will be published in April 2020.