Hello TWIV team,
I’m really glad that you had Andy Slavitt on recently, as I think his work at the interface of science, public health, and communication is also one with deep resonance for the TWIV community. It was really interesting to hear the hosts and guest discuss the challenges of finding solutions to problems when people in our society have so many different streams of information, backgrounds and experiences.
One thing that I would ask you to reflect on is a comment made at about the 16 minute mark of the podcast. That comment was about how academicians work in a bubble and that you “rarely see this kind of behavior at schools worth going to”. This comment was made directly after a comment that you have to “treat everyone equally”. I’m not sure exactly what was meant by these comments, but they stood out to me, and I’m sure to others listening in.
As you can see from my email address and my signature below, I work at a school that many people in academia might not be that impressed by. It is a regional state school. I actively chose to work here, because I love it and I think it’s important. At work I see students from every possible background, from affluent white kids who are the descendants from early colonial America, to recent immigrants from all over the world who are working multiple jobs to support their families and education.
In my bubble I see all the different challenges that Andy Slavitt was talking about just before the moment I mentioned. I see the working mom trying to homeschool her kids while also complete her classes, I see the students whose life is in crisis because people at home had either lost their jobs or gotten sick with COVID, or perhaps both. In fall 2020 I had a student who attended zoom classes from his hospital room when he was hospitalized for Covid, because he said it helped him think about something else.
My students have gone on to MA and PhD programs and into medical/PA/nursing schools. They have also gone on to work for biotech companies, like the Thermo Fischer Scientific and Moderna. They work in academic labs, such as the Broad Institute and Mass General Brigham. Many have gone from poverty to a middle class life while also supporting the scientific advances that allowed us to develop things like the mRNA vaccines.
My school is a school worth going to. Students get an excellent education for a (more) reasonable and affordable price. My students don’t all need to be treated equally (to each other or to students at other schools or people at other points in life). They need to be treated fairly, as all people do. Acknowledging that different people need different things, whether that’s different information, different supports, different understanding – we definitely don’t all need to be treated equally, but we do need to treat each other fairly.
This is long. I hope no one has to read it on the air, it certainly isn’t my intent for you to do so. My intent with this email is to alert you that the message I received from that moment in your podcast went completely against the message you were attempting to send. I hope that this message helps you see that. And, if you are ever in the area and interested in exploring this bubble here at Salem State, I would be very happy to welcome you and host you. I continue to be very grateful for your work communicating science, as well as all of your scientific work moving knowledge forward, both of which help create a better world for all of us.
And the hosts were right that the audience listening to TWIV throughout 2020 knew that the vaccines likely wouldn’t produce sterilizing immunity. So you can tell Andy Slavitt that. 🙂
My best to all of you,
KRISTIN PANGALLO, Ph.D.
DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY & PHYSICS
SALEM STATE UNIVERSITY
I’m at 1h 10min of TWIV episode 929 & I thought to stop and tell you that some tremendous magic happened, at least for me, listening to this episode.
I’ve been listening to Slavitt’s podcast since Dr. Griffin recommended it, although I’ve got to say I wasn’t going to listen to your interview with him tonight when the episode dropped as I thought him to be a little milquetoast.
I was wrong, it was an excellent discourse & he gave you a RAW perspective that I haven’t really seen before. I know, MBAs can be annoying but it isn’t just bits of sneaky genetic stuff that virus exploit us when they do.
Just throwing in my two cents,
Dear Vincent and Crew,
I’ve been a steady follower of your podcast since April 2020, and I am deeply grateful for all of the thoughtful instruction and commentary you have provided throughout the COVID pandemic. You have been careful to educate non-scientists like me, who started out this pandemic not knowing whether an epitope was a foreign substance or something generated by the human body. When I first started listening and heard the term IL-7, I thought you might be referring to “Aisle 7,” and I wondered why you might be talking about aisles in a grocery store.
Having served on many NIH study sections, I also thoroughly enjoyed your detours into discussions on the research grant process. It is indeed hard to get novel, risky ideas funded. Over the years, I learned that I needed to put much more time and preparation into arguing FOR a proposal that I thought should be funded, than in criticizing a proposal that I didn’t think warranted a favorable score. Even with the requirement that we include the innovativeness of a proposal in our assessment, it never seems to get the appropriate weight. Perhaps a completely different set of reviewers should be asked to rank proposals only on their riskiness—just how uncertain we are about what the final study result would be—and factor that into the final score.
I listened with great interest when you said that you had decided not to get a second COVID vaccine booster. I agree with your reasoning, and I have chosen not to get a second booster either. I’m in my late 50’s, and I’m generally in great health, although I had major cancer surgery in early 2019 (no recurrence, thank goodness). Could you please tell me whether you plan to get the new booster shot when it becomes available in the fall? I get a flu vaccine every year. Most of the time the flu vaccine slows me down, and my 2nd Moderna shot and the booster were real doozies. The COVID vaccines incapacitated me for a full day, and I didn’t recover my full energy when exercising for a month each time. I understand why Daniel Griffin had to make a different choice, and you can explain that better than I can. I guess you don’t have to read this email on the air. I listen to every single episode. So, if you do get the fall booster, please be sure to mention that on one of your epitopes.
Vivian Ho, Ph.D.
James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics
Professor, Department of Economics
Professor, Baylor College of Medicine
Hey, Alan. Next time you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, visit the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. Just went and it was fantastic. (And I’m not even an aviation enthusiast.) Many historical planes and reproductions. Really well-done exhibit explainers and photos, describing how a particular aircraft was used and why historically and/or technologically it was important. Fascinating and fun.
Walnut Creek, CA
Hello TWiV Team,
I enjoyed Dickson’s discussion of the “wonderfulness” of big bands as well as of the terrible economics of such groups. I thought I’d let you all know that the 16-piece Birdland Big Band has a regular Friday, 5:30 pm gig at the Birdland jazz club on west 44th street in NYC. Now in its 21st year, they benefit by not traveling much and by being in NYC where there is not only a ready pool of great jazz artists but there’s also a ready pool of gigs for the band members to be able to make a living during the rest of the week.
Big bands are LOUD and Birdland is not large and I’ve been able to sit right up in the front, just a few feet from the players, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that the conductor and most of the band members wear earplugs! You can see just how close you can get in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRHLadCvQwc that I took in 2014 and watch for the saxophonist in the center adjusting his earplugs before they start!
I cannot tell you how much your podcast has meant to me over the last decade or so of listening—as a GIS specialist who spends most of his time either mapping disease outbreaks or trying to model and understand the complexity of the interaction of social disparity in disease outcomes, TWIV has been a true voice of reason, education and explanation, especially through the pandemic.
In recent episodes there has been a great deal of reflection, from both the guests and the podcasters, about the social, economic, and non-scientific aspects of responding to infectious disease outbreaks–how historical and past developmental, demographic, and educational disparities are often the controlling factor in access to vaccinations and modern health care.
Your discussion reminded me of something Paul Farmer wrote in his book, Fevers, Feuds and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History. In it he writes that two questions dominate social medicine:
Why did Ebola spread so rapidly in some places and not in others?
Why did some die and others survive?
His conclusions suggest, much like in our current SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic, that the answers to these critical questions are not completely scientific, but rather hint at policy mistakes, the influence of under development in cities and countries around the globe, and a lack of social justice in access to modern health care.
For this reason, I would like to suggest his book as a listener pick, as it is at once a devastating critique of what happens when historical and economic factors are ignored and how they influence the spread of infectious disease, and a book that sincerely is a masterpiece of EMPATHYOLOGY expressing deep concern for those who are helpless in the face of something like Ebola.
Thank you for all you do.
Dr. John Hessler
Lecturer in Spatial Epidemiology &
Geographic Information Science
Johns Hopkins University
Hi TWiV Team,
The night before listening to episode 929: Empathyology with Andy Slavit, I watched the movie, “The Social Dilemma.” It’s a fantastic look at social media and how it’s gone wrong. It features Tristan Harris who was a Design Ethicist at Google and is currently co-founder and President of The Center for Humane Technology. His new venture is working to change how social media is designed, regulated and used.
Given the discussion you had about social media in the episode, I wanted to share this with you. You can find it on Netflix and more info is at thesocialdilemma.com.
Thank you for creating such fantastic content each week!