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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.




469 - The Mental Health Crisis Among American Youths

During the pandemic, the US Surgeon General declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health—a recognition of a crisis long in the making. Psychologist and researcher Tamar Mendelson, talks with Josh Sharfstein about what young people are experiencing, who is most affected, and what can be done to help young people thrive.


468 - Dr. Tom Inglesby Returns From the White House COVID Team

Since February 2021, Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security, has been working with HHS as part of the government response to COVID-19. Now, Dr. Inglesby returns to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what he learned from inside government, the importance of renewed funding from Congress, the potential of test-to-treat programs, and his assessment of the state of the pandemic.


467 - A Talk with an Alaskan Public Health Nurse

Since 1893, public health nurses have served the rural communities of Alaska, mainly providing individual patient care for infectious diseases like TB. Public health nurse Lorne Carroll serves an area of about 15,000 people across four Alaskan native villages. He talks with Stephanie Desmon about how public health nursing has changed in recent years with more emphasis on community and systems care, the unique demands of a public health nurse in Alaska, and how COVID has impacted their work,...


466 - An Update on Ukraine’s Humanitarian Crisis

Humanitarian expert Dr. Paul Spiegel is back from Poland where he has been working with the WHO for the last six weeks. Spiegel talks with Stephanie Desmon about his work helping to coordinate the massive response for millions of Ukranian refugees seeking shelter throughout Europe. They talk about providing psychological first aid and basic care for refugees, what makes this situation different from others, and the frustration that many humanitarian crises aren’t always met with the same...


465- A Special Mother’s Day Episode

On this special Mother’s Day episode, Public Health On Call host Dr. Josh Sharfstein interviews retired pediatrician, Dr. Margaret Sharfstein, aka Josh's mom. Together they discuss the early stages of COVID, the impact it had on her perception of age, her concerns throughout the pandemic, and even why she nicknamed him “Dr. No”.


464 - How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Is Causing a Global Food Crisis

Ukraine’s strangled food exports of commodities like wheat and sunflower oil are disrupting food supplies and causing food insecurity around the world. William Masters, professor of food economics and policy at Tufts University, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about these and other consequences of the war for food, in the United States and internationally. They also discuss short- and long-term solutions.


463 - Is COVID-19 Aging Us?

Emerging research shows that COVID-19 infection can accelerate the aging process, especially for older people with chronic conditions. But the pandemic may also be aging those who haven’t been sick, from social isolation and depression to burnout and worsening of chronic conditions. Hopkins geriatrician Dr. Alicia Arbaje talks with Stephanie Desmon about how chronic stress and uncertainty may be affecting us. They also discuss implications of the health care staffing crisis, including an...


462 - Friday Q&A With Dr. Amesh Adalja

How did omicron numbers affect hospitalization rates? Why are positivity rates so high in some areas, and should we even pay attention to those? How accurate are rapid tests, and how forgiving are they of user error? Are our immune systems more “naive” after two years of physical distancing and masks? Dr. Amesh Adalja from the Center for Health Security returns to the podcast to talk with Lindsay Smith Rogers and answer your questions sent to


461 - How COVID-19 Became a “Watershed” Moment for Wastewater Surveillance

Wastewater surveillance has become an indispensable leading indicator of community COVID levels, providing real time data a week or so ahead of health department testing reports. Johns Hopkins environmental health scientist Dr. Natalie Exum talks with Stephanie Desmon about wastewater surveillance for COVID and tracking new variants, why it’s not a replacement for nasal testing, and how the technology could help warn hospitals about other outbreaks like flu, RSV, and antibiotic resistant...


BONUS - The Obstacles Slowing Down America’s “Test-to-Treat” Program for COVID-19

The federal “test-to-treat” program was designed to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by getting antivirals to people who test positive for COVID-19 as quickly as possible. Hannah Recht, a reporter at Kaiser Health News who has written about the topic, talks to Stephanie Desmon about how confusing websites, lack of up-to-date information and costs have kept many of the neediest from receiving prompt care.


460 - World Malaria Day: Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Malaria, a serious disease caused by the plasmodium pathogen which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, affects some 228 million people worldwide each year and kills more than 600,000—90% of whom live in Africa. On World Malaria Day, Dr. George Dimopolous of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute talks with Stephanie Desmon about his lab’s research into genetically modifying mosquitoes so they can’t carry plasmodium—a potential game-changer in the fight against malaria. They also...


459 - Advances in Treating Hospitalized COVID Patients

In-patient treatment for severe COVID has come a long way since 2020 thanks, in part, to the rare opportunity of real-time data collection from so many people sick with the same disease at the same time. Dr. Brian Garibaldi, director of the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit, returns to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about treating severely ill COVID patients, advances in therapeutics like antivirals and anti-inflammatory treatments, and why vaccines remain “the most astounding...


458 - A National PrEP Program to End the Nation’s HIV Epidemic

The Biden administration recently approved nearly $10 billion to broaden access to PrEP, a medication that is 99% effective at preventing HIV and key to ending the nation’s HIV epidemic. Amy Killelea, a policy expert on HIV and public health financing, talks with Stephanie Desmon about why health policies have meant this game-changing drug hasn’t yet delivered on its potential, how experts hope Biden’s budget will build a better nationwide PrEP distribution system, and how much is at stake...


457 - Black Public Health

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Black physicians and social scientists connected racism to a host of health consequences. Dr. Ayah Nuriddin, a Princeton scholar of race and science in this era, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about this emergence of Black public health and its efforts to push back against prevailing messages. Long underappreciated, these insights are now front and center in discussions of health equity.


456 - Book Club: The Invisible Kingdom—Reimagining Chronic Illness with Meghan O’Rourke

For 15 years, science journalist Meghan O’Rourke chased a diagnosis for a constellation of symptoms that left her bedridden at times. O’Rourke talks with Stephanie Desmon about capturing the “messy, repetitive, and chaotic” story arc of chronic illness in her New York Times bestselling book, and how long COVID is drawing new attention to the conversation about and treatment of chronic illness.


455 - The Public Health Consequences of Russia’s Disinformation About Ukraine’s Biosecure Labs

Russia has claimed that the US and Ukraine were working on bioweapons in labs across Ukraine, dangerous disinformation being used in part to justify the Russian invasion. Biosecurity expert Gigi Gronvall returns to the podcast to talk with Lindsay Smith Rogers about the dangers of this disinformation, the attempted cover-up of a 1979 bioweapons anthrax accident in Russia, why biosecure labs are so critical to public health, and the potential impacts of this disinformation campaign.


454 - How Hospitals Can Help Prevent Gun Violence

Emergency departments not only treat gunshot wounds, they can help prevent them. Trauma surgeon Dr. Chethan Sathya talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about treating gun violence as a public health issue in emergency departments, how to help people at risk of being shot, and the push to make conversations about gun safety standard practice.


453 - Why It’s Still Too Soon to End the US’s COVID-19 Emergency Response

Ending the US’s COVID-19 state of emergency has far-reaching effects and may leave Americans vulnerable to the next pandemic. Reducing spending on COVID-19 now could mean fewer tests, reduced access to vaccines and a weakened understanding of how COVID-19 is behaving. Health policy expert Dr. Zeke Emmanuel of the University of Pennsylvania joins the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about why ending the response too soon is so shortsighted and may have impacts on securing much-needed...


452 - Making COVID-19 Decisions Amid Uncertainty

A persistent pandemic challenge has been making decisions when the evidence is limited. Should masks be required? Should bars and restaurants be closed? Should kids in school be spaced out by six feet -- or just three? Dr. Sherry Glied, dean of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, is studying ways to make these decisions better. She joins the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the three dimensions of decision making amid uncertainty—and how we can do better.


451 - Ready Or Not? The Trust For America’s Health Report Assessing States’ Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Even as COVID-19 remains a critical public health issue, there are all sorts of emergencies that can occur due to diseases, disasters, and bioterrorism. Dr. Nadine Gracia, CEO of Trust for America’s Health, joins Dr. Josh Sharfstein on the podcast to talk about the organization’s report, Ready Or Not 2022. The report ranks states on their ability to respond to extreme weather and other crises. Learn more at