Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fady Joudah: Poetry, Medicine, Power and Dispossession
Show for April 13, 2014

Fady Joudah is a physician, a poet and the son of Palestinian refugees. And in so labeling him, I run the risk of doing exactly the sort of categorizing he and his writing resist. Fady is deeply suspicious of the way linguistic habits, packaged narratives and institutional norms buttress social inequities and occasional iniquity. So what’s a practicing doctor and serious poet to do? We discussed how Fady responds to the challenge in both of his vocations. Including:

  • Readings from Fady’s books The Earth in the Attic, Alight and Textu
  • Poems of witness based on his work in an American VA hospital and in Darfur with Doctors without Borders
  • Verses from Mahmoud Darwish, recalled from childhood
  • Poetry in the age of smartphones
  • The refugee experience, dislocation as the modern condition, the illusion of “home”

Fady Joudah’s book The Earth in the Attic won the Yale Series of Younger Poets award in 2008. He has also just been named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow in poetry.

Click the Listen arrow above to hear the show, or download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose “Save Target As…”)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Social Genomicist Steve Cole
Show for Jan 5, 2014

If you’ve bought into the simplified idea that genes are top-down bosses, issuing marching orders that your cells, body and brain merely obey, it’s time to rethink. Steve Cole first came to national attention with studies showing that HIV-positive gay men had lower survival rates if they were closeted. The real kicker: social stresses were depressing the mens’ viral resistance by affecting their genes. No, not the sequence of genes but their regulation – which genes are switched on and how much. In the succeeding years, Cole and fellow researchers have assembled an increasingly detailed portrait of our socially and psychologically responsive genome. Though scientists have long known that external inputs play a role in gene expression, the degree to which large numbers of genes are influenced on a moment-to-moment basis by our experiences – including our social life, our feelings and perceptions – is an important developing story.

Steve and I talked about this new understanding of the mind-body connection, genes as listeners and the emerging field he calls “social genomics.” After hearing this interview, you may never feel the same about your genome again.

Click the Listen arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Show for June 9, 2013: Gary Greenberg on our Changing View of Mental Illness

The latest edition of the DSM – the diagnostic manual of psychiatry – is hot off the presses, and it once again redraws the map of mental malfunction. Hoarding disorder and caffeine withdrawal are in, Asperger’s and kleptomania are out (or subsumed). Critics like psychotherapist Gary Greenberg say there’s a reason the DSM is something of a palimpsest: despite its quasi-scientific airs, it has little to do with any clear understanding of mental illness and a lot to do with changing societal attitudes, politics and money. Gary and I discussed his new book, The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Show for Oct. 28, 2012. From Animals to Us: David Quammen on Zoonotic Disease.

There’s more between humans and our fellow animals than a common ancestry and a common planet. We also share some really gnarly pathogens. Our “infernal, aboriginal connectedness,” as David Quammen puts it, makes humanity a target-rich environment for zoonoses – diseases that spring up in other species and leap to us. In fact, most of our infectious maladies may have gotten their start in animals, and the latest wave of emergent contagions, including HIV, Ebola, SARS, Hantavirus, Lyme disease, avian flu and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) all have non-human beginnings.

David has spent the last few years absorbing the latest research, hanging with scientists and Indiana Jonesing his way through jungles and caves (with respirator and hazmat suit in place of fedora and bomber jacket), in pursuit of zoonotic wisdom. His new book, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, is simultaneously a serious introduction to the biology and epidemiology of animal-to-human disease, a series of medical adventure stories and a somber warning (he says human actions are responsible for the uptick in spillovers).

Despite the scary cover, David Quammen’s book eschews
the sensational and sticks to the science.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Show for June 12, 2011. Carl Zimmer and Planet of Viruses

The last time we had science writer Carl Zimmer on the show, it was to discuss E Coli, the subject of his book Microcosm. The book is an eye-opener for anyone who would dismiss bacteria as rudimentary bugs. As Carl explained, E Coli have a social life, sex of a sort, seem to learn and may even be said to lie and cheat. Now he’s moved a notch down the biological yardstick, revealing the richness of life on the smallest scales. We talked about his latest book, A Planet of Viruses, and the huge role viruses play in human history, in the evolution of life on earth, the ecology and even the world’s climate.

Click the “play” arrow above to listen to the show, or download the MP3 here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Show for Aug 29, 2010. What’s In a Face?

Three people discuss their experience of facial disfigurement. Writer David Roche developed a severe facial deformity when young and learned to live with it. Gina Butchin grew up disfigured, then got a new face in her late 30s. Actress Louise Ashby lost her face in a car accident, and eventually got it back after many years of surgery. They talk about self-image, the judgments of others and the meaning of beauty—inner and outer. Originally broadcast October, 2009.

Click the arrow above to listen to the show. If you don’t have Flash player or have other playback problems, click this link for the MP3.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Show for Jan 24, 2010: Tracy Kidder on Paul Farmer and Partners in Health

Following the Port-Au-Prince earthquake, the medical organization Partners in Health has played a key role bringing emergency aid to Haiti. On this edition of the show, we re-aired Robert’s 2003 interview with writer Tracy Kidder discussing PIH, its work in Haiti and its founder, Dr. Paul Farmer. Farmer was the subject of Kidder’s best-selling book “Mountains Beyond Mountains.”

Stand With Haiti

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Show for Nov 8, 2009. Medicine at the Extremes: Ashis Brahma

Physician and human rights activist Ashis Brahma of the Phoenix Global Health Foundation talks about practicing medicine in conflict zones and refugee camps. Ashis has spent years caring for the ill in India, Nepal, Burundi, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia. He was for a time the only doctor at the Oure Cassoni camp in Chad, treating refugees from the Darfur conflict.