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Science Podcasts

Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.


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Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.




693 - DoxyPEP: A “Morning-After Pill” for STIs

An alarming rise in sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, gonnorhea, and syphilis in the US calls for new prevention and treatment tactics. Dr. Matthew Hamill, a Johns Hopkins clinical researcher specializing in HIV and STIs, talks with Stephanie Desmon about DoxyPEP, or the use of antibiotic doxycycline after sexual contact. They discuss its effectiveness and availability, use in the context of antibiotic resistance, and why DoxyPEP isn’t a silver bullet in the prevention of STIs.


692 - How Migration Affects Human Health

Our individual health is shaped by the environments we live in. So what does that mean for the more than 280 million people worldwide who have moved across country borders from the place of their birth? Johns Hopkins Health Policy and Management assistant professor Catherine Ettman, who recently edited the book Migration and Health, talks with Stephanie Desmon about the many factors that impact the health of migrants, including whether they’ve moved by choice or to escape conflict or natural disaster.


691 - Maryland’s Public Defender Works to Keep Young People Out of Trouble

As Maryland’s Public Defender, Natasha Dartigue’s office sees 90% of criminal cases in the state. In addition to the mission of representing individuals with criminal charges, there are new efforts underway to keep young people from getting into trouble in the first place. She speaks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the office’s new outreach and collaborations to close critical gaps for families and help young people thrive.


690 - A Conversation With Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams

Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams talks about his new book, “Crisis and Chaos, Lessons From the Front Lines in the War Against COVID-19" with Dr. Josh Sharfstein. On the topic list: his compelling personal story, the “emotionally jarring” experience of leading during a highly politicized pandemic, and his efforts to advocate for health as a bipartisan priority.


689 - Do Overdose Prevention Sites Make Their Communities Less Safe?

Overdose prevention sites—places where people can use illicit drugs under supervision—are extremely controversial and many cities are opposed to them because of the belief that they’ll invite disorder and crime to the communities where they’re operating. Dr. Brandon del Pozo, assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about a new study that put this question to the test and what they observed in the areas around two OPCs in New York City. Read the JAMA paper here:


688 - Red Flag Laws, Maine’s “Yellow Flag” Law, and Preventing Gun Violence Through Policy

In the wake of last month’s Lewiston shootings in Maine, the state’s “yellow flag” law has come under scrutiny. Josh Horwitz of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions talks with Stephanie Desmon about red flag laws, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and why Maine’s hybrid approach is so ineffective. They also discuss the constitutionality of red flag laws and a number of other effective policies that can help prevent all kinds of gun violence.


687 - Two New RSV Products to Protect Infants

RSV—respiratory syncytial virus—is a common infection that causes cold-like symptoms but can become very severe in young children and is the leading cause of hospitalization for babies under 1. Dr. Ruth Karron, director of the Johns Hopkins Vaccine Initiative, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about two new products, a vaccine for pregnant people and an antibody treatment for babies, that could substantially lower the rates of severe infections among children. However, the rollout has been slow and people may still have a hard time getting them for their children as RSV season kicks into gear.


686 - Some Practical Tips For Coping With Grief During the Holidays

The holiday season can be intense for anyone, but especially those who are living with grief—whether it’s recent or decades old. Eleanor Haley, who has a master’s in counseling psychology, and Litsa Williams, a clinical social worker, are co-founders of What’s Your Grief, an online community for grieving people and grief support professionals. They talk with Lindsay Smith Rogers about ways to approach celebrations or rituals, the importance of communication with loved ones, and the need to make room for flexibility, honesty, and maybe even a little joy. Learn more:


685 - Still in Court: COVID Vaccine Mandates

Many lawsuits against employers for requiring COVID-19 vaccines remain in U.S. courts. Dawn Solowey, a partner in the labor and employment practice of Seyfarth Shaw, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about these court cases, the rise in public discourse around religious and medical exemptions, and implications for other workplace issues like diversity training and protections for LGBTQ individuals.


684 - From Contraception to COVID to Climate Action, The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs Has Inspired Healthy Behaviors Worldwide for 35 Years

The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs was established to develop and research creative ways to boost the use of modern family planning around the world. Today, as the center marks its 35th birthday, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein speaks to CCP’s new executive director Debora Freitas Lopez about the program’s continued mission to inspire and enable people around the world to make healthy choices about everything from contraception to COVID-19 to climate action.


683 - In the West Wing With Dr. Ashish Jha, Former White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator

Dr. Ashish Jha, former White House COVID-19 response coordinator under President Biden, helped the country move out of the acute phase of the pandemic—and learned a lot in the process. Dr. Jha talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what surprised and disappointed him during his federal experience, what it was like to feel responsible for the health of 300+ million people, and why he’s concerned about respiratory virus season this year, and every year. Plus: listen to the end to hear a little history about Dr. Jha and Dr. Sharfstein.


682 - The Surprising Benefits of Narrower Traffic Lanes

The U.S. is home to some of the widest streets and driving lanes in the world—and that's not something to brag about. Shima Hamidi, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Climate-Smart Transportation, talks with Stephanie Desmon about a new report from the Bloomberg American Health Initiative that challenges the notion that wider lanes are safer. They also discuss how altering roads could not only help with safety, but our physical health and climate change adaptations. Learn more here:


681 - All About Ringworm

Ringworm, athletes foot, and jock itch are all names for a fungal infection of our skin, hair, and nails. Dermatologist Dr. Avrom Caplan talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about tinea, the actual name of the infection, and how people can get it, how it’s treated, and why there are global concerns about new strains that may be much harder to treat.


680 - How Genomics is Helping Scientists to Understand Why There Is Local Malaria Transmission in the U.S.

For the first time in 20 years, locally transmitted cases of malaria have been reported across three US states. Scientists are trying to piece together why and how malaria is appearing in places where it’s no longer endemic. Guest host Thomas Locke talks with Jane Carlton, the new director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, about her work decoding the genomes of the parasites that have infected individuals in Maryland to determine their lineage. They also discuss the role of climate change in malaria infections, the global fight against the disease, and the extent to which the public is at risk.


679 - October 28 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is coming up, and Dr. Caleb Alexander joins the podcast to help you clean our your medicine cabinet in preparation. Dr. Alexander talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about the history behind the day and its roots in response to the opioid epidemic, what kinds of drugs and equipment require safe disposal, where you can find a Take Back drop-off in your community on the 28th, and how to safely get rid of unused prescription drugs year round. Learn more: NOTE: In this episode we discuss medical equipment, such as syringes or “sharps” as they’re called. Most DEA drop-off locations will not accept these as part of Take Back day, but you can take them to pharmacies, health clinics, police stations, and many other locations.


678 - The Urgent Need to Conserve Groundwater

Humans are using up groundwater—or water stored in naturally occurring aquifers underground—at a dangerous pace. Kellogg Schwab, the Abel Wolman professor in water and public health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about why groundwater is being depleted so quickly, what needs to happen to ensure the world doesn’t run out of this precious resource, and how water conservation could bring people together across state and country borders.


677 - Fighting For The Right to Contraception Access

Opill, the over-the-counter birth control pill recently approved by the FDA, marked a major win for access to contraceptives. But, in the wake of SCOTUS’s Dobbs decision, some have called for codifying the right to contraceptive access in federal law. Dana Singiser, cofounder of the nonprofit Contraceptive Access Initiative and senior advisor to Americans For Contraception, talks with Stephanie Desmon about Opill, the overwhelming bipartisan voter support for contraception, and her work advocating for access as a federal right.


676 - Could We Genetically Modify Mosquitos to Die From the Diseases They Carry?

The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits deadly viruses like Zika, chikungunya, and dengue, but doesn’t actually get sick from the diseases it carries. George Dimopoulos of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute talks with Stephanie Desmon about a new discovery of a protein, Argonaute 2, that plays a key role in the mosquito’s immune system, and how genetically modifying mosquitos could make them vulnerable to the viruses they carry. They also discuss how much of an impact killing off large numbers of mosquitos would have, both on the burden of disease and larger ecological balance.


675 - How Phone Calls Can Help Combat Loneliness

The Surgeon General issued an advisory about the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the U.S., saying there are serious physical and mental health impacts of loneliness. Dr. Maulik Joshi, president and CEO of Meritus Health, talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about Care Callers, an innovative volunteer program aimed to combat loneliness among Meritus patients. They discuss the incredible impacts these phone calls can make, and Dr. Joshi’s own experience as a Care Caller himself.


674 - An Update on Ukraine

Just back from a trip to Kyiv, Human rights expert Len Rubenstein talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what things are like on the day to day right now. He recounts meetings with officials and health care workers, and their stories ranging from some degree of normalcy and routine health care delivery to brutal attacks on facilities and workers. They also discuss the status of war crime prosecution, the critical need for sustained international support, and the presence of an unwavering sense of hope and optimism among Ukrainians. Content warning: this episode contains depictions of violence and torture.