The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted racial and ethnic minorities, especially here in the United States. Higher infection, hospitalization, and death rates due to COVID-19 have been observed for historically marginalized groups, and the harmful effects stem beyond those relating to health, with higher unemployment and food and housing insecurity also reported. Yet these disparities did not emerge anew from this current pandemic; rather, this pandemic has served to amplify existing structural inequalities in the healthcare, educational, legal, and housing systems, among others. In this episode of our Anatomy of a Pandemic series, we explore the deeply entrenched roots of racial disparities in the US, how our narrow focus on outcomes often fails to capture the complex causes of inequalities, and ways in which we can begin to work towards health equity in this country. We are so thrilled to be joined by Harriet Washington (@haw95) (interview recorded March 10, 2021), writer and medical ethicist, whose groundbreaking work on this subject through books such as Medical Apartheid, A Terrible Thing to Waste, Carte Blanche, and others has led to much-deserved critical acclaim. As always, we wrap up the episode by discussing the top five things we learned from our expert. To help you get a better idea of the topics covered in this episode, we’ve listed the questions below: Can you tell us a bit about your new book, Carte Blanche: The Erosion of Medical Consent, and what inspired you to write it? Although health disparities have been around forever, it was only within the last few decades that the term itself was coined, and it’s often only vaguely defined. Would you mind describing what we mean when we talk about health disparities? Can you talk a bit about how it’s not just being able to go to a doctor or afford a doctor, but how things like access to education, chronic stress, and environmental justice interact with and compound each other when it comes to health disparities? What are some of the different ways that we measure health disparities?  Can you talk about why it is important to understand the context of these disparate outcomes?  Can you talk about the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities that were already facing significant barriers to healthcare? How has the narrative of ‘race-based medicine’ shown up in discussions of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain groups of people? How can we increase health equity in this country? What can we do at an individual level to help, and what are some policies at the state or national level that could help narrow this gap? How can the medical establishment work to earn back the trust of these communities that we have historically disenfranchised (and in many ways continue to disenfranchise) when it comes to health? See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Of the many topics our podcast has covered in the past, from smallpox to scurvy, vaccines to birth control and beyond, one factor has linked nearly all of them: HeLa cells. These cells and the woman from whom they were taken have often remained behind the scenes in the coverage of these topics, but they have nevertheless been absolutely fundamental in the development of technologies, the advancement of knowledge, and the discussions of ethics, ownership, and informed consent. In this week’s episode, we want to do more than acknowledge the contribution of Henrietta Lacks and her cells to the field of biomedical science. We want to explore what it is about HeLa cells and other cell lines that makes them ‘immortal’. We want to learn what Henrietta was like as a person. We want to ask how it was possible for her cells to be taken from her without her consent or knowledge. And we want to share the tremendous impact Henrietta and her cells have made and continue to make on our world in so many ways. For more information about the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, check out the website. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
We’re over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and our understanding of this virus and the disease it causes has grown immensely. And while we’ve learned so much about the spectrum of disease severity, the wide array of symptoms, and the effectiveness of various treatments, there is still so much we are discovering about this illness. In this installment of our Anatomy of a Pandemic series covering the COVID-19 pandemic, we review what we currently know about the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as emerging questions such as what exactly is long COVID or how well do vaccines work against the new variants? To take us through this massive topic, we enlisted the help of two experts, Dr. Krutika Kuppalli (@KrutikaKuppalli), infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina (also featured in Ch. 3: Control of this series), and Dr. Jason Kindrachuk (@KindrachukJason), assistant professor and Canada research chair in molecular pathogenesis and emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba (interview recorded March 16, 2021). As always, we wrap up the episode by discussing the top five things we learned from our experts. To help you get a better idea of the topics covered in this episode, we’ve listed the questions below: How much does the infectious dose, or the amount of virus a person is exposed to, play a role in whether they will get the disease and/or how severe the disease might be? How soon after being exposed does someone become infectious and how does that infectivity change over the course of infection? How much does infectiousness or viral shedding vary across disease severity? Are people who are severely infected more contagious than those who are asymptomatic? Could you walk us through the spectrum of COVID-19 in terms of symptoms or clinical observations, touching on first asymptomatic, then mild, then moderate or severe cases? What proportion of cases are severe vs mild vs asymptomatic? How much do symptoms or the general course of disease vary from person to person? How predictable is this virus? Can you talk about some of the lingering effects of infection and how frequently long COVID seems to occur? How has our estimate of the case fatality rate changed over this pandemic? Can you talk about some of the risk factors that seem to be associated with severe infections? Is there any link between blood type and risk of infection? What do we know about pregnancy and infection with COVID-19? Do risks regarding pregnancy vary depending on when during pregnancy someone may be exposed or infected?  What do we know about the duration or nature of immunity and the risk of reinfection? How has treatment for COVID-19 cases changed throughout this pandemic? Are we any better at treating patients with severe cases now than we were eight or so months ago? What do we know at this point about the vaccine candidates in terms of their effectiveness against new variants that have emerged? What does it mean if these vaccines are slightly less effective against some variants than others? What do the latest studies show about vaccines preventing asymptomatic as well as symptomatic infection? What is something you hope to take away from this pandemic, either on a personal level or as a society? See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Despite being one of the earliest recognized genetic diseases, many aspects of Huntington’s disease remain shrouded in mystery. This stems in part from our limited grasp on how our own minds work but also from the dark history of Huntington’s disease and the shame and silence that accompanied it for so long. In this episode, we attempt to bring what we know about Huntington’s disease into the light, to talk frankly about the characteristics and progression of this hereditary disease, the role of eugenics in creating and promoting the stigma surrounding it, the ethical considerations surrounding genetic testing, and the medical and scientific advancements that give us reason to hope. And we are so grateful to the provider of our firsthand account for sharing their perspective on what it’s like to be diagnosed with this disease. Tune in for all this and more. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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Creator Details

Episode Count
91
Podcast Count
2
Total Airtime
4 days, 16 hours
PCID
Podchaser Creator ID logo 790248