The pandemic transformed doctors into unexpected national and local celebrities. Think Anthony Fauci or Rhode Island Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott. Megan Ranney is another, a local doctor and educator who became a national authority on COVID response, appearing on CNN and being interviewed by The New York Times and The Atlantic.
“My work on COVID has, in many ways, taken over my life,” she says. “I became a frequent commentator on national and local media, translating the latest science into comprehensible guidance for the average American. We are going to continue to need strong science communication and clear guidelines for policymakers.”
She also founded a national nonprofit, GetUsPPE, in response to shortages of personal protective equipment on the front lines, in addition to continuing to practice as an emergency room physician.
Before the pandemic, Ranney was planning to work on an entirely different set of intractable health problems. As director of the new Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health, which launched in July, Ranney is managing 13 faculty and 10 staff tasked with the research and development of innovative, tech-oriented approaches to health.
“We have the potential to truly transform the creation, validation, and scaling of technology-augmented tools – things like apps, text-messaging, wearables, and social media – to improve health on an individual and societal scale,” she explains.
As the pandemic is brought under control (we hope), Ranney will be able to turn her attention – and newfound celebrity – toward other pressing health-related matters.
“I’m going to continue with my own research, clinical care, and service to the community. I maintain my commitment to identifying and implementing new techniques to prevent violence and related behavioral health disorders,” she says. “Finally, I’m committed to continuing to work to improve science communication – to be a public voice for public health and science.”
One way or another, we’ll need those voices.
Her Reason for Optimism: “I’m excited by the potential to build a better society, together. When we look at history, we know that the greatest tragedies lead to the greatest innovation and growth. In 2020, we dealt with disappointment and tragedy, but I also saw individuals and communities come together to create good. In 2021, we have the chance to take this entropy and channel it – to create a more just, equitable, and healthy world. This potential is what keeps me moving forward.”