A recent national survey in Nigeria revealed that only 33% of children received all three doses of the pentavalent vaccine (which includes vaccines for Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, H. influenza and Hepatitis B)—well below the global World Health Organization goal of 90%; for comparison, the global average for children who have received all three doses is 85%. Kyla Hayford, PhD, is an Assistant Scientist at the Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center who works on improving surveillance of the effectiveness of vaccines and how to improve coverage rates in countries like Nigeria. In this podcast, we talk about better tests for estimating the effectiveness of vaccination (i.e. serological surveillance), the causes of lower coverage rates in Nigeria, and how to translate research into interpretable and useable material for policymakers.
When I was at the bench doing science experiments, bioethics tended to be an afterthought for me; in public health–which is basically deciding for communities how to best promote well-being–bioethics is (or should be) at the core. Dr. Travis Rieder, our latest podcast guest, is a bioethicist at the Berman Institute for Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University and emphasizes that we should not be making public health policy without bringing in ethical and moral discussions. Using abortion as an example, Nina and Travis discuss how we can move policy and discussions forward in a respectful way in our deeply pluralistic Democracy and society, which tend to oversimplify public health issues into black and white camps that demonize the other viewpoint. We as a society need to move past these debates to find common ground so we can make progress. What’s the common ground? Listen to find out!
Although some listeners may be new to thinking about science communication, it’s not a new field. Our latest podcast guest, Dr. John Durant, puts current science engagement practices in its historical context. In the 1990’s in the UK, there was a shift in expert thinking about working on ‘Public Understanding on Science’ to “Public Engagement On Science.” The shift came after practitioners realized the shortcomings of The Deficit Model, which states that if the public knew more about science, they would accept it better. Practitioners realized that this has some glaring assumptions that made the model not helpful: (1) that scientists have all the knowledge and the public knows nothing, (2) that if the public had more information they would love science (i.e. to know us, is to love us) and (3) that the public has nothing important to say. Newer thinking believed that the public does have an important part to play in science and that we need to get scientists and the public to talk together instead of just the transmission of knowledge from one to the other. John has been involved in science communication science the 1980’s and is an expert in formulating and measuring best practices for science communication as Director of the MIT Museum in Boston. He has led the charge on many science engagement practices, including founding the International Science Festival Alliance and being the founding Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed publication, “Public Understand of Science” (Sage publications).
Is the world prepared for the next global health threat? In our latest podcast, Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security shares with us how the Center is helping the world prepare for health threats, both natural and manmade, with evidence based policy. Originally created by D.A. Henderson, well known for his Smallpox Eradication Campaign, the Center started in the late 90’s/early 2000’s to research, create and influence evidence-based policy in face of of major health threats like anthrax, SARS, and bird flu. Nina had tons of questions about how to know if policies made by the government are evidence-based or if they are pure fear-mongering (she in particular recalls all of the questions around the Ebola quarantines in 2014 and 2015).
“As you may refer to a Dickens novel or a piece of artwork to help contextualize a cultural or lifestyle issue, so you could also bring your science to bear. When you’re looking at the world as a round, you probably want to bring in a scientific perspective, even if you’re not a scientist because that is how the world is.”
Dan Glaser is all about crossovers. He is a neuroscientist and co-Director of Science Gallery London, located at King’s College London, where the main message is that art and science are intricately linked. Science Gallery is a space and project that was started in Dublin, Ireland and aims to make science a cultural event that targets 15-25 year olds from neighborhoods that wouldn’t typically be included in science or art campaigns. The exhibits are a testament to social justice and are co-created with the target audience, getting input from 15-25 year olds in the neighborhoods from before the topic is even chosen.
Dan also writes a weekly column in The Guardian where he gives current event news a scientific twist, like Brexit.
Last time on PHU Podcast, we spoke about vaccine confidence with Heidi Larson and Pauline Paterson. On our latest podcast, Nina speaks with Dr. Peter Hotez on a related topic: vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine confidence and hesitancy are related but different issues. Think: opposite sides of the same coin. Vaccine hesitancy describes the idea that people are unsure about whether to get vaccinated (and they may be pro- or anti-vaccine). According to the WHO, vaccine hesitancy is caused by any of the 3 C’s: complacency, convenience and confidence. Note that this only refers to scenarios in which vaccines are readily available to the person.
Peter Hotez is well known for his science communication and advocacy efforts on vaccines–which have been motivated and inspired both by his daughter, who has autism, and his long research career in vaccine development for neglected tropical diseases. Peter is has a long list of jobs including:
Founding dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine
Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine
Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics
Director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development
Baker Institute Fellow in Disease and Poverty at Rice University.
Co-founder, Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases in 2006 as part of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Founding Editor-in-Chief of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
From his earliest days, Dr. Rush Holt has been interested in “how the world works (that’s science) and how people get along (that’s politics).” There are few who want to do both. Rush is one of the rare scientists who has served in Congress and has integrated ‘science and society’ into everything he’s done. Hear about what it was like to be a scientist in Congress and how scientists should be communicating. Rush is currently the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) & was the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 12 congressional district from 1999 to 2015.
Ellis Rubinstein always knew that he wanted to combine his seemingly distinct passions for reporting news and science. Before stepping into his current role as New York Academy of Sciences’ President, he served as Editor of Science Magazine, the scientific journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In our latest podcast, he discusses how important it is for young scientists to be involved in AAAS and NYAS, and to not limit membership and activism to just those in their later careers as some other scientific societies due. Under his watch, the NYAS has the highest number of young scientists (including graduate and more junior students), thanks to the tremendous amount of work Ellis has done to promote career development, networking, and mentoring opportunities.
“My people were out there, I just hadn’t found them yet.”
Dr. Kris Lehnhardt, our latest podcast guest, is currently applying to be one of two new astronauts accepted into the Canadian Space Agency (Canada’s NASA) out of thousands of applicants. Kris, besides being amazingly passionate about space, is a pioneer in the field of Space medicine (think Beverly Crusher or Leonard “Bones” McCoy). Nina and Kris discuss how a growing group of doctors are finding their own path to serve patients where they are needed most in the missions to explore farther and farther into space.
This podcast is particularly inspiring as Kris shares with us his personal story of having career visions that were not traditional for the standard medical training path. He had to blaze his own trail, actively search for the right mentors, and eventually found “his people” who share his love for both space and medicine. Truly an inspirational person to listen to and we wish him all the best in his application to become an astronaut! Everyone send him some good vibes!!!