Eric Feigl-Ding

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Eric Feigl-Ding
Eric Liang Ding

(1983-03-28) March 28, 1983 (age 39)
EducationJohns Hopkins University (BA)
Harvard University (ScD, ScD)
Boston University (DNF)
AwardsPaul and Daisy Soros Fellowship (2008)
Scientific career
FieldsPublic health
Health policy
InstitutionsNew England Complex Systems Institute
Federation of American Scientists
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Harvard Medical School
Brigham & Women's Hospital
ThesisSex steroid hormones and type 2 diabetes risk (2007)

Eric Liang Feigl-Ding (born March 28, 1983) is an American public health scientist who is currently an epidemiologist and Chief of COVID Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute.[1] He was formerly a faculty member and researcher at Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also the Chief Health Economist for Microclinic International, and co-founder of the World Health Network.[2] His research and advocacy have primarily focused on obesity, nutrition, cancer prevention, and biosecurity.

In January 2020, Feigl-Ding sounded an early alarm about COVID-19 and called for preparedness. His call went viral on Twitter and was amplified by media outlets.[3][4][5] During the COVID-19 pandemic, Feigl-Ding's Twitter posts on the matter have been popular.[3][6][7][5] His tweets on the pandemic have also at times been criticized by other scientists as alarmist, misleading, or inaccurate.[8][9][10][11]

Early life and education[edit]

Feigl-Ding was born in Shanghai, and his family emigrated to the United States when he was five years old.[12] He was raised in South Dakota[13] and Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, where he graduated from Shippensburg Area Senior High School[14] and is an alumnus of the Pennsylvania Governor's Schools of Excellence.[15]

In 2004, he completed his undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University with Honors in Public Health.[1] He completed his dual Doctor of Science doctoral program in epidemiology and doctoral program in nutrition from Harvard University in 2007.[1] He attended Boston University School of Medicine, but did not complete the M.D. program.[16][17] Feigl-Ding was awarded a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship[18] for his graduate studies.[17]


Research and work[edit]

Feigl-Ding's work focuses on epidemiology, health economics, and nutrition. He is Chief of the COVID Risk Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute. He was a Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. He was a researcher at the Harvard Medical School, and at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.[1]

Feigl-Ding is also the Chief Health Economist at Microclinic International,[19] as co-principal investigator of several intervention programs for obesity and diabetes prevention in the US and abroad. He developed a 130-year cohort study of Major League Baseball regarding the relationship between obesity and mortality in athletes.[20] He has also developed and led public health programs for Bell County, Kentucky,[21] the Danish Ministry of Health,[22] and as a report chairman for the European Commission.[23]

In 2006, while completing his doctorate at Harvard, Feigl-Ding co-authored a study on COX-2 inhibitors that confirmed serious risks specifically associated with the drug, Vioxx, which Merck had withdrawn from the market two years earlier, in 2004, and which argued that Merck should have known about the risks.[5][24][25][26] He participated in the Global Burden of Disease Study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[27][18]

He founded Toxin Alert, as a public alert tool to warn communities about drinking water contaminations to prevent future lead poisonings like the Flint Water Crisis.[28][29][30][31]

Coronavirus preparedness advocacy[edit]

On January 20, 2020, Feigl-Ding went viral[4] on Twitter after expressing his worries about the 2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak virus' basic reproduction number (R0) of up to 3.8.[3] He compared the virus pandemic potential to the 1918 influenza pandemic[3] which has an estimated R0 of 1.8 and which killed ~50 million people out of 2 billion, and called for WHO and CDC to preemptively declare public health emergency and monitor aggressively the situation.[3] With the thread going viral, his appeals were criticized by some epidemiologist peers as alarmist and based on anecdotal data,[3] by some journalists as misleading and misinforming the public,[8] while defended by other journalists,[3] and other epidemiologist peers, such as his former Harvard adviser Simin Liu, a Harvard School of Public Health and Brown University School of Public Health professor of epidemiology.[32] While Feigl-Ding deleted his earliest tweets,[3] the rapid development of the epidemic, first in China in January, then in Europe in February–March and in the United States in March, together with more studies on the virus, turned his perceptions into that of an early messenger,[3][7] and he was invited as a commentator on the pandemic by news media.[33] An earlier Atlantic article[8] by Alexis Madrigal was self-admitted by Madrigal to be due for a re-assessment[32] after his realization of the pandemic and reading of the assessment by David Wallace-Wells.[3] Madrigal admitted that his earlier "...piece made sense on Planet A, where a pandemic was not bearing down on us, but not on Planet B, where we all now live. It was right in the particulars and wrong on the big picture."[32]

Controversies concerning epidemiological expertise and accuracy[edit]

Feigl-Ding holds doctorates in both epidemiology and nutrition, with his professional experience in nutritional epidemiology and epidemiology of chronic disease. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, his research work and expertise primarily focused on the health effects of diet and exercise,[4][34][10] he also lacked academic publication in infectious disease epidemiology, the subfield of epidemiology most relevant to viral outbreaks and COVID-19.[35] Because of this, Feigl-Ding has been criticized for misrepresenting his qualifications to offer media commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic.[4][34][10] Feigl-Ding has disclosed he is not sub-specialized in infectious diseases and claims to have never misrepresented himself as an infectious disease epidemiologist.[34]

Feigl-Ding's rapid rise to prominence as a TV and media commentator and expert during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite his lack of academic activity in infectious diseases, has led to much criticism and controversy.[36][34] He received early criticism for offering public warnings on the COVID-19 pandemic as well as praise from David Wallace-Wells,[3] editor-at-large at New York Magazine. A January 2020 article published by The Atlantic covered the early controversy of Feigl-Ding's social media presence.[8] On March 26, Alexis Madrigal, its author, re-assessed his piece and stated that "it was right in the particulars and wrong on the big picture."[32] While Feigl-Ding admits he has made mistakes, one of his supporters, Ali Nouri, the president of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a scientific think tank dedicated to science communication,[37] attributed some of the criticism of Feigl-Ding down to stylistic differences in information dissemination.[34][10]

His tweets during the pandemic have also at times been criticized by other scientists as alarmist, misleading, or inaccurate.[10][11][9]

Political campaign[edit]

Feigl-Ding was a candidate in the 2018 Democratic primary for Pennsylvania's 10th congressional district.[38][39] On February 27, 2018, Feigl-Ding announced his candidacy in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania's 10th congressional district.[17] He campaigned on a progressive platform advocating for science, universal healthcare, and public health.[17] During the run up to the election, Feigl-Ding did not take corporate PAC money.[39] He received 18% of the vote to George Scott’s 36% in a 4-person primary.[38]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Feigl-Ding's graduate studies were supported by the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans (2008).[18] He was recognized by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark as one of “16 People and Organizations Changing the World in 2012”.[40] He was invited to join the Global Shapers program of the World Economic Forum,[5] and joined in February 2013.[41] He received the CUGH's Global Health Project of the Year Prize in 2014,[42] and the American Heart Association's Scott Grundy Excellence Award in 2015.[43] He was named in 2018 as a Web of Science 'Highly Cited Researcher', among the top 1% most cited scientists worldwide, and among the 186 top cited scientists at Harvard University.[44][45]


  1. ^ a b c d "Eric Feigl-Ding".
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  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Wallace-Wells, David (2020-03-26). "Why Was It So Hard to Raise the Alarm on the Coronavirus?". New York. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  4. ^ a b c d "Who qualifies as a 'real expert' when it comes to coronavirus?". Times Higher Education (THE). 2020-03-31. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  5. ^ a b c d "The Tweet Heard Round the World". Arlington Magazine. 2020-04-30. Retrieved 2021-12-15.
  6. ^ "America's COVID-19 'whistleblower'". NewsComAu. September 25, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Staff Reporter (2020-03-28). "Scientist Warned of the Danger of COVID-19, but No One Listened". Science Times. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  8. ^ a b c d Madrigal, Alexis C. (2020-01-28). "How to Misinform Yourself About the Coronavirus". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  9. ^ a b Kupferschmidt, Kai. "Studying—and fighting—misinformation should be a top scientific priority, biologist argues". Science. Retrieved 28 March 2022. In early 2020, for example, he took on Eric Feigl-Ding, a nutritional epidemiologist then at Harvard Chan who amassed a huge following with what many scientists felt were alarmist tweets....Feigl-Ding rang the alarm many times—he is “very, very concerned” about every new variant, Bergstrom says, and “will tweet about how it’s gonna come kill us all”—but turned out to be right on some things. “It’s misinformation if you present these things as certainties and don’t adequately reflect the degree of uncertainty that we have,” Bergstrom says.
  10. ^ a b c d e Hu, Jane (25 November 2020). "Covid's Cassandra: The Swift, Complicated Rise of Eric Feigl-Ding". Undark Magazine. Retrieved 14 April 2022. But as Feigl-Ding’s influence has grown, so have the voices of his critics, many of them fellow scientists who have expressed ongoing concern over his tweets, which they say are often unnecessarily alarmist, misleading, or sometimes just plain wrong.
  11. ^ a b Haelle, Tara (March 11, 2020). "During COVID-19 pandemonium, be sure to vet your sources for the right expertise". Association of Health Care Journalists. Retrieved March 21, 2021. Yet Feigl-Ding’s followers rapidly grew, from around 2,000 to now more than 109,000, as they voraciously consumed Feigl-Ding’s often misleading, inaccurate or exaggerated tweets.
  12. ^ Mervis, Jeffrey (2018-05-22). "Defeated but unbowed: Two Pennsylvania scientists regroup after primary loss". Science | AAAS. Retrieved 2020-07-10.
  13. ^ "How restrictions affect the spread of COVID-19". 2020-11-20. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  14. ^ "SASHS grad Dr Eric Ding urges students to follow their passion". 2017-10-26. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  15. ^ "Pennsylvania Governor's School". Archived from the original on 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  16. ^ "MED Student Awarded Soros Fellowship | BU Today". Boston University.
  17. ^ a b c d "Public health scientist hopes to take his activism to Congress". Science | AAAS. May 9, 2018.
  18. ^ a b c "Meet the Fellows: Eric Feigl-Ding". Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. Archived from the original on 2022-04-21. Retrieved 2022-11-12.
  19. ^ "Microclinic International". Microclinic International. Archived from the original on September 4, 2018.
  20. ^ "MLB Dead Weight: Fatness, Mortality Up".
  21. ^ 'Contagious' program helps Bell County residents get healthier
  22. ^ "Texts For Healthy Teens: A Health Education Program for Adolescents - Full Text View -". 14 November 2016.
  23. ^ "Research and innovation". European Commission - European Commission.
  24. ^ "New, Comprehensive Analysis Shows Rofecoxib (VIOXX), But Not Other COX-2 Inhibitor Drugs, Increases Risks of Adverse Kidney and Heart Rhythm Disorders". Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved 2020-07-10.
  25. ^ Berenson, Alex (2006-09-13). "Studies Find Higher Rates of Heart Risk With Vioxx". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  26. ^ Nesi, Tom (September 16, 2008). Poison Pills: The Untold Story of the Vioxx Drug Scandal. Macmillan. ISBN 9781429931854 – via Google Books.
  27. ^ Mokdad, Ali H.; Forouzanfar, Mohammad Hossein; Daoud, Farah; Bcheraoui, Charbel El; Moradi-Lakeh, Maziar; Khalil, Ibrahim; Afshin, Ashkan; Tuffaha, Marwa; Charara, Raghid; Barber, Ryan M.; Wagner, Joseph; Cercy, Kelly; Kravitz, Hannah; Coates, Matthew M.; Robinson, Margaret (2016-10-01). "Health in times of uncertainty in the eastern Mediterranean region, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013". The Lancet Global Health. 4 (10): e704–e713. doi:10.1016/S2214-109X(16)30168-1. ISSN 2214-109X. PMC 6660972. PMID 27568068.
  28. ^ "Lead Contamination Beyond Flint". April 12, 2017.
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Where lead lurks". January 30, 2017.
  31. ^ "No One Has the Data to Prevent the Next Flint". Wired – via
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  33. ^ "Coronavirus inaction: Could leaders have blood on their hands?". Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  34. ^ a b c d e Bartlett, Tom. "This Harvard Epidemiologist Is Very Popular on Twitter. But Does He Know What He's Talking About?". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  35. ^ Haelle, Tara (March 11, 2020). "During COVID-19 pandemonium, be sure to vet your sources for the right expertise". Association of Health Care Journalists. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  36. ^ Madrigal, Alexis C. (2020-01-28). "How to Misinform Yourself About the Coronavirus". The Atlantic. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  37. ^ "Social Media Conversations in Support of Herd Immunity are Driven by Bots". Federation of American Scientists. 2020-10-30. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  38. ^ a b "Eric Ding". Ballotpedia.
  39. ^ a b Ding, Eric (May 11, 2018). "I'm running for Congress because facts matter". pennlive.
  40. ^ "16 People and Organizations Changing the World in 2012". December 26, 2011.
  41. ^ "Global Shapers Alumni Network". Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  42. ^ "Consortium of Universities for Global Health - Fifth Annual Global Health Conference" (PDF).
  43. ^ "AHA Connections Spring 2015".
  44. ^ "Harvard Chan faculty members among most highly cited". Harvard Chan School of Public Health. 2020-03-31. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  45. ^ "Global Highly Cited Researchers 2018 List Reveals Influential Scientific Researchers and their Institutions". Clarivate. 2018-11-27.

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