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Episode Info

Episode Info:

Maryn McKenna is an independent journalist and author who specializes in public health, global health and food policy. She is a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Human Health at Emory University, and the author of the 2017 bestseller BIG CHICKEN: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats, as well as the award-winning books Superbug and Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.

In this episode Maryn shares her unique career journey, describes why storytelling matters, and tells us what it’s like to cover stories on the front lines of disease outbreaks.

For more information and full episode transcription go to Contagious Conversations (

Key Takeaways:

[1:04] How Maryn became a journalist.

[2:27] Immersion in the public health field.

[4:01] Falling in love with investigative journalism.

[5:04] Realizing the need to become a storyteller.

[6:02] The unique challenges of public health storytelling.

[6:18] The role of journalism in increasing awareness.

[7:40] On the frontlines of a health response.

[10:32] Why did Maryn get interested in the area of antibiotics resistance?

[13:53] Seeing statistics about how we use antibiotics in livestock compared to medicine led to a new book.

[14:24] Why chickens?

[16:50] An experience in France that changed Maryn forever.

[19:33] Does Maryn still eat chicken?

[21:18] Disease X.

[23:15] Acute flaccid myelitis, new epidemic in the USA.

[24:10] Concerns about U.S. public health in response to epidemics.

[26:14] Antibiotics development is expensive and challenging .

[26:48] The role of public-private partnerships in public health.

[29:12] Maryn’s advice to young people pursuing journalism.

[31:05] Journalism’s openness to people from other fields today.


Mentioned in This Episode:

CDC Foundation

Answer this episode’s question:Have you ever had chicken or any food in another country that changed your life? Email to win a signed copy of Big Chicken

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