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Science Podcasts

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

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


United States


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




387 - Why We Need Better (and More!) Masks Before the Next Pandemic

At this point in the pandemic, what do we need to know about masks? Dr. Amesh Adalja from the Center for Health Security talks with Stephanie Desmon about a new report, “Masks and Respirators for the 21st Century: Policy Changes Needed to Save Lives and Prevent Societal Disruption.” They talk about which masks are best for day-to-day use and why innovation is necessary to develop masks that are comfortable and wearable. They also talk about HOW to overcome supply chain issues and why it’s...


Bonus - How COVID Is Pushing People Out Of and Into Public Health Careers: A Special Episode From The Tradeoffs Podcast

On a special episode, Tradeoffs host Dan Gorenstein talks about how the pandemic has affected the public health workforce: More than 300 officials quit, were fired, or retired while, at the same time, applications to public health programs jumped 40%. Gorenstein introduces a conversation between Jen Miller, who left her job with the Montana Department of Public Health after constant harassment and conflict, and Nicole Snyder, a first-year master’s student at UNC Chapel who was called to...


386 - What To Expect From This Year’s Flu Season

There was virtually no flu in the U.S. last year thanks to a confluence of factors including COVID-related mask wearing and social distancing. But, now that more and more of life is “back to normal,” what can we expect to see this year? Virologist Dr. Andy Pekosz returns to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about why a resurgence of flu could complicate the COVID pandemic, how virologists can make predictions about flu when there was so little virus circulating last year, and why...


385 - How COVID-19 Is Impacting Kids’ Vision

School closures and unprecedented screen time may be contributing to vision problems for kids. Pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Megan Collins talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about a rise in near-sightedness in children, why vision problems are often missed without school screenings, potential health and learning effects, and how vision problems in kids can be addressed on the individual and national levels.


384 - COVID-19 Research Update: The Value of Masks & Testing in Schools

In this episode, Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks with researchers who break down two papers in the news. Dr. Nikolas Wada talks about a study led by researchers in Bangladesh and the U.S. which tested whether masks really help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Kate Grabowski discusses a Lancet paper from the U.K. about “test to stay” programs in schools and whether the use of rapid tests is better than quarantining when a child tests positive. These researchers are part of the Hopkins novel...


383 - Molnupiravir: The Game-changing Oral Antiviral Pill for COVID-19?

This week, Merck applied for FDA Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 oral antiviral drug, molnupiravir. Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, talks with Stephanie Desmon about how the drug works to help people recover from COVID-19 quicker and the drug’s history starting a decade ago as an experimental treatment for Ebola. Dieffenbach talks about how the drug could complement pandemic response and why...


Bonus - Why COVID-19 Policy is About More Than Just “Following The Science”

Dr. Jay Varma, physician and advisor for New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio on the pandemic response authored an Atlantic called “Not Every Question Has a Scientific Answer.” In the article, Varma talks about the critical role of politicians in determining difficult COVID-19 policy questions. In this special bonus episode, Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks with Varma about the intersection of public values, politics, and science in responding to COVID-19.


382 - Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Un-Erasing America’s History

Monday, October 11 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the U.S.—a day previously recognized as Columbus Day that is now reserved for reflection, education, and untangling the false narrative of discovery. Dr. Sophie Neuner of the Center for American Indian Health and co-host of a new podcast, Indigenae, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how non-Indigenous people can think about this observance and how Indigenous people are leading on health practices and environmental revitalization. Learn more...


381 - How the Pandemic Has Opened Our Eyes to Our Relationship with Nature

During the pandemic, many found solace outdoors on hikes and in city parks. Dr. Mamie Parker, ecologist, activist, and the first Black Head of Fisheries for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service talks with Josh Sharfstein about how getting back in touch with nature offers an opportunity to see just how connected we are to the earth, how much we depend on a healthy environment for our own physical and mental well-being, and how critical it is for us to take action on conservation.


380 - Vaccines for Pets and Zoos? An Update on Animals and COVID-19

As a zoonotic disease, COVID-19 can infect animals. Some, like farmed mink, are more susceptible to disease while others, like white-tailed deer, may only be carriers. But there’s always the chance that a new variant of COVID could impact more animals, potentially endangering wild and captive creatures. Veterinarian Dr. Meghan Davis returns to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about what we now know about the risks for our pet dogs and cats as well as protected species like wild...


BONUS - The Latest from Louisiana: A COVID-19 Delta Surge + Hurricane Ida

How does a health department cope with a pandemic surge that coincides with one of the largest hurricanes to make landfall in 150 years? State health commissioner Dr. Joseph Kanter talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the challenges of dual emergencies, how the pandemic and storm responses impacted one another, and how the health department is coping nearly 19 months into the pandemic.


379 - Mental Health Check-In With Dr. Laura Murray: Where Are We in the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Where are we with our mental health these days given that we’re past the initial panic of the COVID-19 pandemic and into a more long-term fallout phase? Clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Murray returns to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about COVID as a collective trauma; overlap with other “high impact events” like Afghanistan, hurricanes, refugee crises, and more; what’s contributing to fractures in society; and how to pad our “mental bank account” to better manage ongoing stress...


378 - What Might the Next Six Months of COVID-19 Look Like in the US?

Dr. Shaun Truelove, an infectious disease epidemiologist, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub’s models for the next six months into early 2022. Researchers projected what could happen under four scenarios of vaccination rates, including authorizing vaccines for children, and the possibility for new variants. Spoiler alert: It's not all bad news. Learn more:


COVID-19 Boosters Q&A With Dr. Josh Sharfstein

What, exactly, is a booster shot? For which groups has the FDA authorized Pfizer boosters? What about boosters for Moderna and J&J? Will we need a fourth shot in the future? Will there be a delta-specific booster? Would it make a difference in world vaccine supply if the US refrained from giving any boosters? Stephanie Desmon interviews cohost Dr. Josh Sharfstein about these and more COVID-19 booster questions.


377: An Update on COVID-19 and India

Last spring, India experienced a catastrophic wave of COVID-19 infections with more than 100,000 cases per day, exceeding hospital capacity in some areas and leading to oxygen shortages. What has happened since? From their homes in India, infectious disease researchers Dr. Vidya Mave and Dr. Brian Wahl talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the state of the pandemic and the return to daily life.


376 - Rethinking Herd Immunity and COVID-19

With the rollout of vaccines earlier this year, the concept of “herd immunity”—the idea that enough people would become immune to COVID-19 that we could more or less “return to normal”—seemed plausible. But a number of factors are complicating the US’s fight against the pandemic and we’re still seeing thousands of people dying every day. Epidemiologists Amber D’Souza and David Dowdy return to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about vaccinations and the delta variant, what the future...


375 - All Things COVID-19 Testing With Dr. Gigi Gronvall

Where are we with testing technology? Why is the demand for testing surging and are there enough tests? When is the best time to use at-home testing given the cost? What’s the difference between PCR and rapid antigen tests and how accurate are they in different circumstances? Dr. Gigi Gronvall gives an update on testing and answers questions with Stephanie Desmon. Note: Dr. Gronvall references the Center For Health Security’s Testing Toolkit resource, which you can find here...


374 - COVID-19 in Mississippi

Mississippi is leading the nation in the rate of COVID deaths. Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state’s health commissioner, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the state's pandemic crisis, including its impact on pregnant women, the role of misinformation, and the impact on the health care system.


373 - Can Fixing Dinner Fix the Planet?

How can we help the planet by rethinking our diets? In a new book, Can Fixing Dinner Fix the Planet?, Dr. Jessica Fanzo, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food Policy and Ethics points out how our food options are often unhealthy for human bodies—and for the planet. Dr. Fanzo talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about making changes at both policy and individual levels, from the responsible use of genetically modified organisms to redesigning “choice architecture” in grocery stores and...


372 - Book Club: Perilous Medicine—The Struggle to Protect Health Care from the Violence of War

There is a long history of protecting health care workers during conflict, beginning with an 1859 battle in Italy that gave rise to the first Geneva Convention. But there’s never been a “golden age of compliance” and health care workers continue to face considerable risk while trying to reduce human suffering in war zones. Len Rubenstein, a public health and human rights lawyer and faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute for Bioethics, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about his new book...