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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.




474 - What We Know—and Don’t Yet Know—About the Leaked Supreme Court Draft Opinion That Could Overturn Roe v. Wade

For the first time in history, a working draft of an opinion by justices of the Supreme Court was leaked to the media and the public. Legal and public health expert Joanne Rosen talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what the opinion expressly says, why it would upend precedent, and what may happen at the state level. They also discuss the immediate and long-term consequences if it’s passed, including for public health.


Bonus - The Massacre in Uvalde, Texas

Dr. Cass Crifasi, director of research and policy at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the deadly misperception that there’s nothing to be done about gun violence. They discuss what could have prevented this senseless tragedy—and what must be done to prevent further loss of life.


473 - Police Legitimacy and Reform Two Years after George Floyd's Murder

In June 2020, amid #BlackLivesMatter protests across the country, law professor and philosopher Ekow Yankah of Yeshiva University talked with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the crisis of legitimacy in policing and opportunities for reform based on public health approaches. Two years later, Yankah returns to the podcast to discuss how and why the optimism of the protests has receded.


BONUS - Where We Are in the Pandemic: A Check-In with Epidemiologist Dr. David Dowdy

1 in 3 Americans believes the pandemic is over, but waves of illness and hospitalizations continue to cause signifiant disruption and death. Dr. David Dowdy returns to the podcast to talk with Lindsay Smith Rogers about how COVID-19 is impacting both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, why there were so many deaths of vaccinated people from omicron (hints: sheer numbers and outsize impacts on older and immunocompromised individuals), and a look at where we are now and what we can expect in...


BONUS - What You Need to Know About Monkeypox

As the world watches reported outbreaks of monkeypox, researchers are trying to learn more about how and why the virus is spreading. Dr. Eric Toner, an expert in bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about what monkeypox is and where it comes from, how it spreads, treatments and prevention, and why these outbreaks are important to know about but not necessarily cause for alarm.


472 - Learning from 1 Million COVID Deaths and Preparing for “The Contagion Next Time”

Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health and author of the book “The Contagion Next Time” talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about why the US was a “sitting duck” at the onset of the pandemic. They also discuss what needs to change in public health—and society—to be better prepared for day-to-day challenges and the next emergency.


EP 471 - A Talk With a Public Health Graduate: Caitlin Ceryes, Class of 2022

This week, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is holding its spring graduation ceremonies. Today, Caitlin Ceryes, a soon-to-be PhD in Environmental Health and Engineering, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what led her to a career in public health, her diverse research ranging from soda taxes to sustainable aquaculture, and how the pandemic caused her to pivot her dissertation work to focus on COVID-19 occupational hazards for essential food workers.


470 - President Biden’s Strategy to Address the National Mental Health Crisis

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness month, Christen Linke Young, the deputy assistant to President Biden for Health and Veteran’s Affairs, talks with Josh Sharfstein about the mental health component of the President’s Unity Agenda. The ambitious plan aims to build the mental health workforce, make mental health care much more accessible, and invest in resilience to prevent mental health disorders. You can read about the President's mental health agenda here.


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...