Pandemic Perspectives: Lynora Saxinger

How is the U of A infectious disease specialist addressing misinformation during the global pandemic?

Kirsten Bauer - 16 September 2020

Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Canada in March, the public appetite for accurate, evidence-based information about the novel coronavirus has been insatiable. 

Lynora Saxinger, associate professor of infectious diseases in the Department of Medicine at the University of Alberta, has become a household name for many Canadians. During her many appearances on local and national news and radio broadcasts, she has reassured and informed the Canadian public about avoiding infection and reducing viral transmission. She will be providing the most up-to-date COVID-19 facts in the online panel discussion event “Pandemic Perspectives – What we’ve learned from COVID-19” on Sept. 23. Saxinger offers a preview of her approach to public information in the Q&A below. 

What has been your perspective in approaching the COVID-19 pandemic?

At the beginning of the pandemic I started to worry about the quality of information that was circulating, so although I'm actually an introvert, I decided to say yes to as many reasonable interviews and media requests as I could.

How has COVID-19 changed your professional life?

I’m a member of the Alberta Health Services scientific advisory group, so I’ve been spending all my free time trying to understand what's really going on with COVID-19, and trying to answer as many questions as possible about the latest facts. 

What, if anything, would you say you have learned during the pandemic?

Doctors are often uncomfortable talking to the media because they are worried about things getting misconstrued. But I've learned that people working in communications and media are usually motivated to provide good information and are really doing the best they can.

What is something from this pandemic that has surprised you?

My patients are just thrilled to bits. They’ll say “I saw you on TV!” and it's actually really nice. I didn't realize how many people watch the news. People are excited to see and hear local expertise.

If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice at the start of the pandemic, what would it be?

I actually think that more academics and people in medicine should consider what they can contribute to public discussions. If you can step in, it really is an asset to be able to do it. And it might take a bit of practice before you're comfortable, but it really demonstrates and applies our skills in a public way. 

What’s one thing you want people to know moving forward, or for the next pandemic?

Different people have different kinds of questions and concerns. The conversations on Twitter are very different from radio or television. Within academic settings, questions from family doctors are more focused on how to care for people. So we have to be ready to communicate and answer some of the questions in a different way.

What can people expect from you at the panel?

I actually think that just being genuine and natural and answering questions as I would to a family member is really helpful for people, so hopefully that’s what people will see. 


Pandemic Perspectives - What we’ve learned from COVID-19

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 23

Time: 7 p.m.



Carole Estabrooks, Faculty of Nursing. '87 MNurs, '97 PhD

Dean Eurich, School of Public Health. '03 MSc, '07 PhD

Lynora Saxinger, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Lorne Tyrrell, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. '64 BSc, '68 MD

Moderator: Lawrence Richer, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. '92 BSc(Hons), '96 MD, '09 MSc