On Saturday, May 23, diocesan communications received an email from Ryan Bowie, a fifth year biology student at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) in Abbotsford. The email contained a link to a website that he had created that lists and debunks some myths about the coronavirus caused illness, COVID-19 that has the entire planet in the grip of a pandemic.
Ryan has more than just a casual connection to the Diocese of New Westminster, his father is the Reverend Paul Bowie, Rector of All Saints’, Mission and Regional Dean of Yale. Ryan contacted diocesan comms in hopes that we would be able to distribute the link and therefore help increase SEO (Search Engine Optimization), that much coveted digital process that propels websites to higher rankings in the lists that are the results of folks searching for information using search engines, or a search engine or…Google. We contacted Ryan and he was happy to speak with us about his website. In response to the question,” What is the goal, the desired outcome for this website?” he replied:
The goal is to empower people with trustworthy information so they can make informed decisions about COVID-19. I like to think of my site as a resource for people to help them think critically. There’s a lot of misinformation that sounds like it makes sense and a lot of videos with people that effectively explain their theories on ‘what COViD-19 really is’ and I think there needs to be more people spreading trustworthy information as well.
The ultimate outcome for this site is that it can be found on international search engines so that anyone around the world can easily find the site and benefit from it. The more work I put in and the more people that go to the site the closer I get to being found by people beyond BC or Canada. Currently, BC is doing relatively well compared to other places in the world, and so that’s why I want to get the site out to a larger audience.
We asked Ryan if there was a particular moment or event that inspired him to create the website and... where do the myths come from? He said that earlier in the pandemic’s timeline he had received a link to an audio clip from his mother. Ryan quickly realized that it contained misinformation. He went on to say,
Shortly afterwards I got the same clip from another friend, so I decided to contact close friends of mine and offer to give a critical eye to any COVID-19-related info they were unsure about. Eventually, family and friends were sending me enough things that I decided the most effective way of going about it was to make a website. It was a way of cataloguing all the work I’d done as well as make it accessible for anyone who needs it.
Most of the myths I get are from people sending me requests to clarify things or articles they think would be of interest to me. Other ways include sourcing info from social media and news, but also checking other myth-busting sites and finding myths that they debunk as well.
In terms of reliable sourcing Ryan is committed to using information from websites for governments, universities, relevant organizations (ex. WHO or medical organizations), highly credible fact-checking groups, and news sites that contain clear and fact-checked quotes from experts. He also uses scientific papers in his responses.
Ryan would like the website’s content to continue growing. There is a section at the top of the home page for updates when new information comes out and he will need to revise and keep those posts current. For example, as clinical trials for hydroxychloroquine are complete he will definitely update posts and mentions of hydroxychloroquine. According to Ryan:
There is talk of a possible resurgence of COVID-19, and until a vaccine comes out it could still be a problem, so I’m going to try my best to keep updating it because it might be relevant for some time now.
When asked about his current activities, goals and more imminent plans, Ryan was happy to share:
My goal is to get into military medicine and go overseas to help in critical areas. I got into the Canadian Reserves in December and I hope to use their paid education program during medical school. I’ve also been helping run drop-in and intramural indoor soccer at UFV for the last three years and I have been playing club soccer since Grade 1. I am also a tenor for The Nota Bene Singers, although we haven’t been practicing because of social distancing.
I am planning on taking the MCAT, the Medical College Admission Test this summer, and my military training is still being confirmed, so I am still planning out how much time I can put into the site. It’s tricky because my schedule is practically full for the rest of the summer until my next semester of school, so I’m trying to sort out the scheduling for myself. The site is very important to me and so I will try my best to keep working on it. But posts usually take 7+ hours before they’re ready, so I’m worried people will think it’s not going to be updated while I’m working if I’m only doing a couple hours a day on it. One step at a time though. I’m currently just working on getting it out there.
Now of course, there are many mythbusting websites out there in the digital world, however this is a homegrown site designed and built by a young scientist in our community. Here is the link to Ryan’s new website "CoVID-19 Myths:Informing Opinions." Please take a look and consider circulating it and sharing it with family and friends.