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Healing from childhood trauma is what equipped Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, M.D., Ph.D., to see through what he described as public health officials’ orchestrated fear tactics during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a recent episode of “RFK Jr. The Defender Podcast,” Ladapo told Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., how the predominant public health response to COVID-19, primarily driven by fear, resulted in ineffective public policies.
Ladapo — who recently authored the book, “Transcend Fear: A Blueprint for Mindful Leadership in Public Health” — said that at the beginning of the pandemic, “There weren’t many voices” in the U.S. public health sphere, and that 95-98% of public health officials were “really saying the same thing in terms of nonsense about, ‘stay in your house and avoid other human beings because they could kill you or you could kill them.’”
To Ladapo, a highly distinguished graduate of Harvard Medical School and well-published medical researcher, fear — not sound public health science — was driving the messaging.
“The week that Governor Newsom shut down the state of California, I was working in the hospital at UCLA Ronald Reagan in Los Angeles, and some of the patients I took care of were patients with COVID,” Ladapo said. “So not only did I get to take care of patients with COVID that week, but I also got to see what was happening around me.”
Ladapo said he saw the hospital leadership and administration “in full-out panic.”
He also saw panic and fear in patients, “some of whom were actually completely fine, but who thought they were going to die” because of what they were seeing and reading in the news.
Believing the government response to the pandemic was ineffective, Ladapo wrote a series of articles for USA Today and The Wall Street Journal criticizing lockdown measures and arguing the health system “would be less burdened if more patients were treated before they require hospitalization, and there are promising therapeutic options that patients can administer themselves at home.”
Ladapo’s outspokenness and his approach to handling the pandemic caught the eye of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed him as the state’s surgeon general in September 2021.
But Ladapo said he wasn’t always so clear-headed in the face of fear.
Kennedy, who wrote the foreword to Ladapo’s new book, asked him to tell the “fascinating story” of how he went from being “literally disabled by fear during more than half your life” to a leading voice in U.S. public health policy.
Ladapo said his experience as an abused child rendered him incapable of connecting emotionally with other people and left him chronically afraid.
“I didn’t know the extent of the effect that experience had on me until my life kind of fell apart when I fell in love with my wife,” he said, because “one of the things about love” is it takes “all the things that aren’t working in your life” and “brings them to the surface.”
“I was afraid of everything — and I’m not exaggerating,” he said. “Literally … the frequency in which I lived and operated was the frequency of fear.”
At the prompting of his wife, Ladapo worked with a former Navy SEAL, Christopher Maher, who helps people who experienced trauma deal with fear and being emotionally “stuck.”
Maher used “a combination of Chinese medicine techniques” and other techniques designed to increase the flow of energy, or chi, in the body.
Ladapo said he doesn’t fully understand but is nonetheless a beneficiary of the techniques. The work helped him connect with others emotionally and move beyond living in fear.
Kennedy pointed out that fear in the form of an intuitive, instinctual knowing can be useful, according to Gavin de Becker, author of “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.” De Becker wrote the afterword to Lapado’s book.
“He [de Becker] talks about fear ultimately as a gift if we handle it correctly,” said Kennedy, “but he also knows what happened during this pandemic is that sinister forces can manipulate people by orchestrating fear in order to promote an agenda.”
Lapado agreed, acknowledging there’s a difference between the “gift” of fear as intuitive knowing and the kind of fear that shuts down people’s “frequency of joy and openness and expression and curiosity.”
“That’s a different phenomenon,” Lapado said. “Same word, but it really means different things.”
Listen to the podcast here: