'Best Health Care Podcasts of 2022' Transcript

December 1, 2022

Note: This transcript has been created with a combination of machine ears and human eyes. There may be small differences between this document and the audio version, which is one of many reasons we encourage you to listen to the episode!

Dan Gorenstein: 2022 has been huge for health policy news.

California launched its plan to overhaul Medicaid, the new national crisis line 988 went live and — after decades of talk — Democrats in Washington finally passed legislation authorizing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

The biggest health policy headline in 2022: the Supreme Court strikes down Roe. v. Wade.

And of course you’ve got the perennial issues: rising prices, workforce shortages, racial disparities.

We’ve covered these issues, but, of course, no one single podcast can fully do them justice.

So today, our annual end-of-year Best of Health policy podcast episode where we talk with other health care podcast hosts about some of the work they appreciated most.

From the studio at the Leonard Davis Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, I’m Dan Gorenstein. This is Tradeoffs.

*****

DG: Abdul El-Sayed growing up was interested in medicine. Abdul’s dad wasn’t into it.

Abdul El-Sayed: There’s no immigrant parent who, you know, looks askance at their kid, become a doctor except for mine.

DG: Stubborn and committed, Abdul stuck with it.

Got his MD from Columbia. As a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford he got a doctorate in public health.

Ran Detroit’s health department for two years. Wrote a book.

And Abdul’s dad? Still with the shade.

AES: My dad just kind of, you know, he’s always like, oh, you guys are just mechanics, you know, my dad’s an engineer. He’s like, you’re just mechanics and you work on this machine that’s always breaking.

DG: When Abdul launched his podcast…

America Dissected: This is America Dissected. I’m your host Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.

DG: He interviewed his dad in one of the show’s early episodes about his father losing two siblings back in Egypt.

AES: I never appreciated why he was so circumspect about medicine. He tells a story that one of his, his little brother who passed as an infant, had thrown up earlier that day before they took him to the hospital. And this was after a sister of his had already died in the same way. And when my grandmother came home without his brother, he guarded the place where his brother had thrown up because it was the last thing he remembered of him.

DG: Abdul had seen the health inequities between Egypt and the U.S as a kid, but as he got older he saw those same inequities here in the U.S., where the zip code you live in plays a big role in how long you live.

This is a big part of what drives Abdul professionally, and his show raises questions, he says, at the edge of health and society. 

AES: Health isn’t just about me or about you. It is about the choices that we make. And so living your healthiest possible life is also about advocating for a place where everybody else gets to live theirs too. And that starts with basic access to health care. Fine. But it means advocating for a more just and equitable distribution of all of these basic resources, whether it is the air you breathe or the water you drink or the sidewalk you walk on or the job you work. Making those connections for folks, that it really is the thrust of the show.

DG: And so, Abdul, when you look back over the year and all the big stories, can you tell us about one that matters to you?

AES: So the first story is from a podcast called Throughline, which is an NPR podcast. Their whole schtick is to go back in time to understand the present. They’re not a health podcast per se, but they did a fantastic episode tracing the ideological undercurrents of the modern anti-abortion movement.

DG: And this is an episode that came out before the Court overturned Roe, upholding the new Dobbs decision. Why did it stand out?

AES: Now, I’m not anti-doctor in any way, but I am circumspect about the ostensible good intentions that my profession tends to claim. 

Throughline clip:

ABDELFATAH: For tens of thousands of years…

REAGAN: Childbirth and pregnancy was all in the domain of women. There was a crowd of women involved in the delivery, along with the midwife.

AES: Particularly when you look in history, so much of the brokenness of our health care system come from doctors.

Throughline clip:

ABDELFATAH: But in the early 1800s, as more doctors…

REAGAN: Male doctors. Doctor equaled male.

ABDELFATAH: …Entered the delivery room…That began to shift a millennia-old dynamic.

AES: And this episode they trace the rise of the anti-abortion movement to a particular set of doctors who recognized that the rise of midwives were a threat to the income of physicians. 

DG: And as Throughline explains these physicians, with the help of the newly minted American Medical Association, made a full-court press on state houses around the country and germinated the modern anti-abortion movement.

Throughline clip:

REAGAN: So in the terms of the way the laws are written, there is always an exception that allow for medical professionals – for doctors to perform abortions if they, in their medical judgment, believe it is necessary to save a woman’s life or to save her health. 

And that medically necessary is not defined in the law. But it does mean that they can kind of control this and also say, you know, other people – midwives, you know, immigrants – you know, “bad people” are doing this procedure and it’s immoral, and now it’s illegal.

DG: Part of what Abdul likes about this episode is how it frames the 19th century anti-abortion movement in the U.S. as a grab for money and power. 

AES: And and I just felt like they did a great job peeling back the onion in a way that sort of just put a puzzle piece into my thinking. I was like, Oh, yeah, like of course that was. And, and so they just did it masterfully. And I thought the episode was, was totally worth a listen.

And I hate to say it, but so much of American health care, right. The answers underneath that are like, oh, yeah, it’s just people want to make more money. 

DG: He may also like it because, like his dad, Abdul shares a skepticism for docs, at least some of them.

Abdul, thanks so much for joining us on Tradeoffs.

AES: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.

DG: We’ll be back with our second guest whose recommendations touch on health equity and treating people in crisis. 

MIDROLL

DG: Welcome back.

Keris Jän Myrick: Quick question: is the pod clean? It’s a clean pod, right? It’s not explicit? Cuz I know I’m gonna swear.

DG: I’ve known Keris Jän Myrick for a few years now, and one thing that’s so great about her: She comes right at you. 

The other thing: her fashion sense. 

Purple streaks in her hair, bold glasses framing her face, multi-colored shoes on her feet. 

But really, it’s her conviction more than her appearance that stands out.

Unapologetically Black Unicorn clip:Welcome and welcome back to Unapologetically Black Unicorns. Yay! 

DG: And you can hear that in her podcast. 

So you’ve produced 79 episodes so far. In one sentence what’s it about?

KJM: So Unapologetically Black Unicorns is about the stories of people with lived experience primarily who are Black and Brown, who are unrepresented, unheard, who are doing amazing things in the mental health and substance use space. It also includes psychiatrists, psychologists and other policy folks who are Black and Brown and underrepresented as well. 

DG: Keris’ podcast, in many ways reflects the life she’s lived.

She’s a Black woman who has worked in mental health the last 15 years, ran a peer support nonprofit in LA. She’s worked for the federal government at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, known as SAMHSA, and currently works for the advocacy organization Inseparable. 

She’s also gone through the mental health system as a patient, diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

So Keris, I know you brought in two recommendations. Let’s start with the one that comes from the show Doin’ the Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change.

KJM: The episode that that I really kind of glommed onto and I’ve listened to it many times, is one with a psychiatrist

Doin’ the Work clip: I am your host, Shimon Cohen. In this episode, I talked with Dr. Jessica Isom…

KJM: And there they are, this social worker and psychiatrist talking about mental health equity and as a Black person and as a peer, I was just blown away and I was just like, wow, they’re having the same experience that we’re having as the patient. 

Doin’ the Work clip: For people who have lived experience of racism, it’s very clear what it is to a certain extent. However, even those with lived experience can often narrow down the definition to just interpersonal prejudice and discrimination, but it obscures all of the other ways that racism is kind of baked into how we are accessing lots of things from banking institutions to going to get some food at Starbucks. 

KJM: Most of the episode was focused on what is it like to be a Black psychiatrist? What is it like to go against something as big as like the American Psychiatric Association? So they have this discussion about it in ways that are similar to how the peer community talks about the oppression they feel from psychiatry. 

DG: Dr. Jessica Isom ultimately left the APA. 

Doin’ the Work clip: Life is short. So if I’m going to intervene and make psychiatry something more useful to black people, I have to be in places, in spaces where that’s more possible. 

DG: She made the difficult decision after feeling too many members were talking the talk rather than walking the walk about fully engaging structural racism inside the Association. 

And the push back she got for calling that out. 

Doin’ the Work clip: I was talking about this recently with someone about what society could learn specifically from Black people and really any person and or group that exists on the margins, because being on the margins, requires you to tolerate a lot of things that those in the center don’t have to. And by tolerate, I mean restrain yourself from your natural reactions. 

Doin’ the Work clip: I was in a meeting within the APA where I was talking under a high level of racial stress. So I mean, like sweating, heart racing brain going like 100 miles per hour, trying to articulate a point in a space where people were not really understanding the point. And someone comes off of their mic in this virtual space just to offer an annoyed sigh of frustration I was like, I had to, like, restrain Jessica from Fayetteville in that moment ‘cuz should I break from my commitment to professionalism. That would be a ding against my my advocacy moment, which was addressing cultural racism in the organization. 

KJM: One of the things that I was really struck by that Dr. Isom said was that not only do we have to show up in certain rooms and public spaces with this code switching of language, we also have to do it with our behavior. What kind of pressure does that put on a person that you can’t be yourself authentically yourself in a room? 

I know for me as a Black person and I’m a big Black person. I’m not tiny and I have a deep voice that if I yell and scream, I am considered quote unquote, an angry Black bitch. And if I am that ABB angry Black bitch, I’m not heard. So I have had to dial it back and figure out another way of showing up. That’s code switching, not just language, behavior everything. And so what Dr. Isom was saying is that how can people really understand that work that we have to do to show up? 

DG: Keris says the episode resonated so much with her because it highlighted the double standard Black people can be held to and the toll that it can take.

And having more of those conversations, she says, is important.    

KJM: So I’m hoping that people can hear at least that message. What can society learn from Black people about how we have to show up, how we have to be resilient? And what does that mean for what you will do when you’re around other Black people or to ensure more Black and Brown people are in the room? That’s really one thing that I hope people will take away. 

DG: Keris, I know you brought this second rec: Get Mad hosted by Vesper Moore. It’s a podcast about disability rights, LGBTQ rights, mental health.

What is it about Get Mad that speaks to you?

KJM: So the first episode I was on the floor kind of just with just pouncing my fist on the floor going, Yes, yes, yeah, it was, Oh my God.

Clip: And the Psyche Ward Says

KJM: So it was with spoken word artist and poet Anita Diaz, and she talks about her lived experience of being a mental health client. 

Clip: And just like the straps on the stretcher that you rolled in on,

we are going to keep you safe and secured. 

Notice the locked doors and all the cameras perched in the corners like hawks. 

We will be watching.

KJM: And she wrote this poem about her experience in a psychiatric emergency room.

Clip: We have old radios with no antenna, but the static is still loud enough to drown out the sound of the woman screaming in 2B. 

That’s just Cindy. She just does that sometimes.

KJM: And when she read it, I was like, Yep, yep, Check, check, exclamation point. Oh, yeah. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. It was so spot on.

Clip: We didn’t cause your social anxiety. 

We only heightened what was already there. 

We just want to see you reach your full potential as a patient. 

We told you this asylum was built to help you.

KJM: No words. I know I’m on a podcast, but I just have no words for the power of that particular episode.

DG: Wait, why do you have no words? 

KJM: It’s like your heart wants to burst open. Those are the words that I have about it.

DG: Why did that make your heart want to burst open?

KJM: Because I’ve been there. I have been there. It is horrible.

When you think of going to a hospital, do you think you’re going to be locked in a room and never see a doctor for two days? Not told the truth about how long you can be there? If you can come and go? No, it doesn’t happen. But it happens to us in mental health and, yeah, it just. It hurts, quite frankly. You see me sort of tearing up a little bit. I mean, to hear and to hear someone else talk about it and to put it into a spoken word poem.

DG: The poem was a validation for all the times Keris was involuntarily committed.

KJM: When I went into the hospital, the door closed behind me. My father didn’t understand it. My mother didn’t understand it. They were on the other side of the door. They couldn’t see what was going on and then we’re not believed about what’s going on. And people keep saying, well, you know, this is for the best. There’s nothing about it that’s for the best. It’s traumatizing. 

DG: I’m just I’m scribbling in my notebook as you are answering that question. And I’m thinking about the connective tissue between your first recommendation and your second recommendation. And the one that jumps out most to me is: Both podcast episodes you described would give anyone who chooses to listen a sense of what it’s like to not be trusted every single day. It seems like these episodes would both give folks better insight into what that actually feels like.

KJM: 1,000%. I think we’re touching an elephant, Dan. Quite frankly, we’re all touching a piece of the elephant. So psychiatrists, especially Black psychiatrists, have a particular experience, and we don’t understand that experience. And so sometimes our complaints can seem anti-psychiatry. But when I hear Dr. Isom, I hear the very same things that we’re complaining about when we’re touching our side of the elephant. And then Anita, who talks about her personal lived experience, that’s another side of the elephant. But for these two pieces, these two podcasts. I think we’re much closer to talking about the same elephant.

DG: Keris, we’ve only just gotten to know each other over the last year or so, year and a half. It’s really pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us on Tradeoffs.

KJM: Well, thank you for inviting me. This is a super exciting and, you know, really got my brain churning.

DG: Keris and Abdul each had a few other recommendations they wanted to share. We’ve listed all their picks on our website tradeoffs.org, where you can also find staff picks for some great listens from 2022.

I’m Dan Gorenstein. This is Tradeoffs.

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Episode Resources

More Recommendations from the Tradeoffs Staff:

Serum (Grant Hill and Maiken Scott, The Pulse and Local Trance Media)

Healthcare is Hard (LRV Health)

Complex PTSD (The Allusionist, 2/18/2022)

Even with risky survival rate, shortages of ECMO machines cost lives, study finds (Blake Farmer, WPLN, 3/28/2022)

The Mystifying Rise of Child Suicide (Andrew Solomon, The New Yorker, 4/4/2022)

After Roe: A New Battlefield (Throughline, NPR, 6/16/2022)

What overturning Roe v. Wade means for Black maternal mortality in Texas (Elena Rivera and Azul Sordo, KERA, 8/23/2022)

How Safe Injection Sites Can Help Address Our Addiction Crisis (Alan Montecillo, Lesley McClurg and Maria Esquinca, The Bay, KQED, 8/31/2022)

The Pink House at the Center of the World (Maisie Crow, This American Life, 7/1/2022)

ORGANized with Greg Segal (America Dissected, 9/13/2022)

Exit Strategy (Amy Bloom, This American Life, 9/16/2022)

A Little Bit Pregnant and Therapy Ghostbusters (Invisibilia, NPR, 9/16/2022 and 9/23/2022)

The Rise of Guinea Pigs (Revisionist History, 9/29/2022)

How Hunger in America Drives the Obesity Epidemic (In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt, 10/3/2022)

Other “Best Of” Podcast Lists:

Apple announces the 2022 Apple Podcasts Award winner (Apple, 11/29/2022)

The Best Podcasts of 2022 (So Far) (Liam Hess and Emma Specter, Vogue, 11/14/2022)

10 Best Podcasts of 2022 (Eliana Dockterman, Time, 11/14/2022)

The Best Podcasts of 2022 (So Far) (Nick Quah, Vulture, 11/1/2022)

Episode Credits

Guests:

Abdul El-Sayed, MD, Host of America Dissected

Keris Jän Myrick, Host of Unapologetically Black Unicorns

The Tradeoffs theme song was composed by Ty Citerman, with additional music this episode by Epidemic Sound and Blue Dot Sessions.

This episode was produced and mixed by Andrew Parrella. It was produced for the web by Ryan Levi.

Special thanks to Stacey Richter.

Additional thanks to the Tradeoffs Advisory Board and our stellar staff!