Sunday, June 12, 2011

JJJPod: Emerging Infectious Diseases

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's social media involvement is impressive. They're on twitter, flickr, facebook, and they have podcasts. In fact, they have a lot of podcasts that cover an array of topics. My favorite of which is esoteric and comes as a supplement to the CDC's Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) journal. As an aspiring epidemiologist, I have a special interest in diseases. And infectious ones. And also emerging ones! This program rules for three reasons: it's technical, it's short, and it has bonuses.

When I first listened to the EID podcast, I was deterred by the formality of it. The host and guest often read right from the script. However, I came to appreciate this element, knowing that I'm going to get a highly research-based and technical explanation of each topic. It often feels as if I'm reading out of a textbook or reading a research paper, a level of science that I sometimes crave.

This program delves deep into science in less than 10 minutes. Simple as that! A listener can spend hours reading the online journal or they can just enjoy the audio snippet available during their morning commute.

The online journal is a bonus to me as initially just a podcast listener (although it is the other way around--the podcast is a supplement to the journal). Published monthly, the journal offers the high quality of research generated through the CDC. The podcast interviews one of the scientists whose work is featured that month. I often pull up the journal on my iPhone and read it when I'm waiting for the train or during a break at work. This can be trouble, however, when a coworker asks, "What are you up to this weekend?" after I've completely immersed myself in tick-borne relapsing fever borreliosis in rural Senegal and that the presence of this bacterial infection was detected by using specific semiquantitative real-time PCR with primers. Additionally, they used water as their negatives! Science is so incredible yet simple and you're asking me about my weekend?

Another wonderful element of the journal is the cover artwork, highlighting the connection between art and science. Each month features a piece of artwork, entitled by a poem. In June the CDC is remembering the 30 years that HIV/AIDS has been prevalent and this month's cover, "captures both the complexity of the scientific challenge of this unknown and lethal disease and the massive human loss." The piece depicts those tangled in the human web, either from illness or the complexity of life. We are all humans, suffering from the same diseases and living in the same way. The poem connecting this all together is from Wallace Stevens, called The Emperor of Ice Cream. As the cover description says,

The only element of value is to "be" alive. Prolong and embrace it. All other considerations only "seem" important. Or as Stevens put it, "Let be be the finale of seem / The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream."
In short, this podcast and it's "bonus material" successfully cover rare diseases and contemplate the meaning of life. Yay science!

No comments:

Post a Comment