MONDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2021
What a Year! A Look Back At COVID’s Grip on 2021
This week, Mark and Margaret take a look back at COVID’s hold on 2021, the early promise of vaccines, the relentless march of mutations and the vicious rise of new variants leading to pandemic surges around the world. They revisit conversations with memorable guests from famed virologists and epidemiologists like Paul Offit and Michael Osterholm, to President Biden’s COVID team leaders Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci and Rachel Levine. They revisited guests focused on other health news: Bill McKibben on climate change, and Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson on the existential threat to women’s reproductive rights in the U.S. It was also a year to celebrate the dramatic discovery underway in the field of science, with Eric Topol, William Haseltine and NIH Director Francis Collins.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 5, 2022
Pediatrician Dr. Peter Hotez Creates New Vaccine; Gives Advice for Families With Young Children Staying Safe During Surge
This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, and co-creator of a new, low-cost vaccine for COVID-19. Dr. Hotez discusses plans for Corbevax, a recombinant protein vaccine shown to be highly protective against COVID-19, which has just been given Emergency Use Authorization by the Indian government. Dr. Hotez’s plan is to make the formula available to poor and developing countries around the world, without any expectation of payment, to accelerate the pace of global vaccinations and bring the pandemic to an end. He also offers important advice to families with children navigating the omicron surge while heading back to school.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2022
New Pandemic Strategy Needed: Dr. Zeke Emanuel & Former Biden COVID Team Members Calling For New Approach
This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Vice Provost at the University of Pennsylvania and former member of the Biden administration’s COVID Transition Team. He and other former Biden advisors have called for a dramatic new approach to addressing COVID-19 saying we will not eradicate the virus, so we need new strategies to live with it. They’re calling for a radical re-tooling of our public health data system to capture real-time data, and for a significant investment in community health workers to address public health challenges on the ground.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 2022
A Candid Conversation with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Politics of the Office, Masking Guidelines, COVID Testing and Pandemic Frustration
This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter welcome CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, addressing confusion and frustration around lack of rapid COVID tests and need for more N95 masks for the public. She talks about the shifting plan of action from the Biden Administration in response to the dramatic surge in omicron-driven COVID cases, and the scaled up efforts to make rapid tests and high quality masks available to all Americans.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 2022
Dr. Michael Osterholm says COVID's Not Done with Us: Talks Omicron Surge, Future Variants and Building Better Vaccines
This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter welcome renowned epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, who has served 5 presidential administrations in preparing for pandemics and bio-terror threats. Dr. Osterholm says the highly infectious omicron variant will continue to threaten hospital systems, schools and supply chains, warning the threat of future variants that may evade immunity is still a very real concern. He predicts that a combination of improved vaccines and new therapeutics will render COVID more manageable in the future, but that we will have to learn to 'live with it'.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2022
US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Politics, Pandemic Fatigue and Keeping Kids Safe in School
This week hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter welcome US Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona, who discusses the Biden administration’s efforts to contain the pandemic’s impact while keeping students and teachers safe in school. He laments the influence of politics on the proven public health practices to prevent spread of the disease which includes mask wearing and widespread vaccinations. He says this pandemic has revealed the importance of providing medical and behavioral care in school-based health clinics. He also applauds First Lady Jill Biden’s thoughtful advice on education policy as a veteran of the education system.
MONDAY, JANUARY 31, 2022
House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro: More Money for Hospitals, Vaccines Forthcoming?
This week hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, on her expectations for building consensus on revised Build Back Better legislation, as well as the possibility for more relief money for hospitals and other entities in the wake of the ongoing pandemic. She says the expanded Child Tax Credit has lifted millions of American children out of poverty, significantly easing economic pressures on working families, and that it should be restored. Representative DeLauro also discusses the President’s infrastructure law, which she says will have a dramatic impact on the nation’s aging transportation and clean water delivery systems, as well as create new jobs.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2022
Biden COVID Equity Advisor Faces Dilemma as His Employer Drops Vaccine Mandate
Dr. Cameron Webb, White House Senior Policy Adviser for COVID-19 Equity, is navigating a tricky situation — as he advocates for vaccines, the university where he works just dropped its student vaccine mandate. Webb tells Conversations on Health Care hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter that he realizes the University of Virginia has some new dynamics to navigate. “There’s this rush to roll back a lot of the strategies that have gotten us to a point where we’re seeing less death,” he says. “This pandemic has been politicized to a point that it’s indistinguishable from the rest of our political rhetoric…rhetoric often meant to motivate a voter base.” Webb also discusses the administration’s efforts to address COVID equity issues, including the need to collect better data about race and ethnicity vaccination rates.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2022
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Childhood Vaccine Delay & Political Divisiveness: ‘We Are at War With a Common Enemy’, Not the Time to Fight With Each Other
This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter welcome Dr. Anthony Fauci back to the show, two years after his first appearance discussing the novel coronavirus spreading around the world. The Chief Medical Advisor to the Biden White House and long-time Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH expressed concern over the ongoing political divisiveness impacting our ability to contain COVID outbreaks leading to almost 1 million deaths in this country. He says FDA approval of the mRNA vaccine for young children will likely come on the heels of better data on efficacy with a third dose. He still marvels at the dramatic scientific achievement of the swift development and deployment of an effective vaccine against a challenging new pathogen, which he said would not have happened without decades of committing our resources to scientific research.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2022
Omicron’s Health Inequities: N.Y. State Health Commissioner Vows to Close Gap
Dr. Mary Bassett, New York State Commissioner of Health, says the COVID Omicron variant is still exposing health inequities — African Americans in New York have been hospitalized twice as much as the majority population during this latest wave. Bassett says achieving health equity “will be the North Star of my working life as a physician committed to public health.” Bassett also tells Conversations on Health Care hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter that the state has four times as many hospitalized now compared to the pandemic lull last summer. Yet she also notes the hospitalization and case rates are going down.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2, 2022
Ukraine: Live Interview with Physician at Her Clinic
The whole world is watching as Russian troops advance in Ukraine and brave medical professionals are on duty throughout the crisis. One of them is Dr. Kateryna Pochtar, who shares her chilling description of how she and her colleagues are trying to help patients in their clinic. Dr. Pochtar explains how patients are crying in her arms as her life consists of just work, hiding and sleep. She tells Conversations on Health Care hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter that some patients are afraid to seek medical care because they worry they’ll be trapped outside during an air alarm.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9, 2022
Building on the Legacy of Global Health Leader Dr. Paul FarmerAs the world faces enormous challenges, in Ukraine and from COVID, it’s doing so without one of its global health champions. Dr. Paul Farmer, the co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health, unexpectedly passed away in February.
This week Dr. Joia Mukherjee, the Chief Medical Officer of Partners in Health, shares memories with Conversations on Health Care hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter. She explains how the nonprofit’s focus will remain on community health in the countries it serves.
TUESDAY, MARCH 15, 2022
From the Front Line in Romania to Washington DC: Project HOPE Supporting the Refugee Crisis
Conversations on Health Care hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter welcome Project HOPE’s CEO Rabih Torbay and Director of Emergency Response and Preparedness Tom Cotter, who joined the show from the field in Bucharest, Romania. They share the daunting task of providing extensive support and local training to the existing medical infrastructure in handling both the destruction of medical facilities within Ukraine and the millions of refugees in need of medical and behavioral health services as they arrive in neighboring countries. “These people have all experienced trauma,” Cotter said. They are training local laypersons in Psychological First Aid techniques to help the refugees transition to safety. Project HOPE is also keeping supply lines going into Ukraine with desperately needed medical supplies. “Even if this conflict ended tomorrow, the destruction will take years to rebuild,” Torbay said. They expect to be assisting in the region for a long time. And they continue to provide medical support in 30 countries around the world dealing with COVID-19, famine, and military conflict, with a particular focus on women and children’s health.
THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2022
Ukraine Doctor’s War Dispatch: Horrific Criminal ActsDr. Iryna Voloshyna, a primary care medical professor in Ukraine, shares a harrowing account of how she and others have tried to deliver urgently needed oncology medication to patients but “can’t give them to our people…because there is no road, there are only Russian military soldiers who try to kill everyone who tries to bring boxes.” Dr. Voloshyna tells Conversations on Health Care hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter that she and her daughter had to sleep on the subway station floor for a week, and their lives are still interrupted by air sirens. She says the Russians have “criminally interrupted” the Ukrainian way of life.
THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2022
CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure Breaks Down President Biden’s Health Budget GoalsCMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure discusses President Biden’s increased health budget proposal for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is focused on health equity, mental health parity, and nursing home safety as key goals in the coming year. The Administrator says more resources are being allocated to address the nation’s mental health crisis, especially for the nation’s children still being impacted by the pandemic. Administrator Brooks-LaSure, the first African American woman to hold that office, says nursing home vaccine requirements and safety regulations should continue to inform that health sector. She says that all US government health agencies have been tasked with making health equity the centerpiece of their policies and programs moving forward. She says supports for insurance subsidies provided by the American Rescue Plan is vital to maintaining health coverage for millions of vulnerable Americans.
THURSDAY, APRIL 7, 2022
APHA Executive Director: $10B in New COVID Funding Needed, Being Spent ResponsiblyDr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says the legislative agreement for $10 billion in new federal COVID funding is “really a drop in the bucket.” He says more dollars are needed to build up public health in all parts of the U.S. He responded to some political complaints by assuring taxpayers that public health officials are indeed financially accountable.Conversations on Health Care hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter also asked Dr. Benjamin about the reorganization plans for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; he says it needs a greater focus on emergency preparedness.
THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 2022
Reaction to Philadelphia’s New Mask Orders: “A Little Premature”
“It feels a little premature…I might have waited a little longer to see what happens.” That’s the reaction from COVID expert Dr. Robert Wachter to Philadelphia’s decision to again require people to wear masks indoors, including in schools and daycares. It’s the first major American city to take this step. Wachter is chair of the Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco and a popular voice on Twitter. He also shares that policymakers, including those looking at renewing public transportation mask orders, must consider that the public is tired of wearing masks after over two years. Conversations on Health Care hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter’s full interview with Dr. Wachter is available now.