7 mins read

With the coronavirus—and the fear of it wreaking havoc on life as usual—all around us, now is the perfect time to get a healthy dose of disease sleuthing with This Podcast Will Kill You. (Note: Episode 43 is a special episode all about the corona viruses!) 

This podcast will give you knowledge about and new perspective on pandemics, possibly forever changing your dinner conversation as you are invited to raise a glass with the hosts who share their own recipes for an original, disease-themed cocktail in every episode. 

Meet the Erins, best friends who write and host the podcast: Erin Welsh, PhD. is a disease ecologist and epidemiologist currently doing research at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, and Erin Allman Updike, PhD. is a disease ecologist and epidemiologist studying medicine at the University of Illinois. 

You might be wondering how this friendship resulted in This Podcast Will Kill You

Graduate students working in the same lab, the Erins became fast friends, later doing fieldwork together in Panama. Both feeling the informational isolation of life in the academic ivory tower, they wanted a way to share their work and love of epidemics and weird medical mysteries with everyone, not just colleagues. 

 “In our last year of our PhDs, we started thinking our work would not ever be seen outside the world of academia,” Allman Updyke shared. 

“We were getting disillusioned with academia and a little frustrated,” Welsh added.  “We didn’t want there to be barriers to getting scientific information. Some barriers are financial—people have to pay to get access to scientific articles. Then, there is understanding the terminology. That is another kind of barrier. We wanted to make the science [more] accessible. We wanted to humanize it. So, it led to a conversation… ‘Let’s do a podcast… really… a podcast!’” Welsh continued.

As doctoral researchers who spent many hours in the laboratory waiting on experimental data, both Erins are experienced podcast listeners. The ones they’ve enjoyed most were true-crime podcasts like This is Love, Criminal, and My Favorite Murder. So, when it came time to designing their own, they found inspiration in the crime-mystery genre. Hence, the name This Podcast Will Kill You. 

It makes sense, right? There is a lot of similarity between being a detective in a crime investigation and being a researcher looking for the culprit organism in an epidemic. Whether crime wave or disease wave, there is intrigue and emotion in the human story, the impact on the victims, and behind the drive and passion of the investigators. This podcast delivers on all those fronts. 

In each episode, Welsh presents the history while Allman Updyke tackles the biology and epidemiology. And at some strategic point, they pause to mix the disease-themed cocktail that goes with the episode:

“The ‘quarantini’ is one of the first things we came up with—a cocktail based on the disease. We thought it was a great idea for the podcast. We also came up with the ‘placeborita’—the non-alcoholic version for people who don’t want to drink alcohol,” Allman Updyke explained. 

In the informal atmosphere of friends sharing a drink, the Erins present their material as disease storytelling rather than by lecture. In this format, both Erins continuously learn as they teach and entertain their listeners.

As Welsh says, “The conditions we talk about on the podcast are usually taught in isolation. If you were to learn about a disease epidemic in a microbiology class, you would only be learning about that one aspect—the organism. If you learn about it in a history class, there will be a different focus… maybe the social or economic impact. And in a public health class, there will be a different focus, again. By putting it all together, you get a fuller picture of the disease.” 

The podcast has met with a lot of success, both inside and outside the scientific and medical community. Guest speakers are widely recognized experts. The show notes are complete with bibliography for both the history and the biology, as well as the recipe for each episode’s quaratini and placeborita. 

Now in its third season with upwards of 47 episodes (yes, 46 illnesses other than coronavirus that are potentially deadly), This Podcast Will Kill You is on Apple, iTunes, Google Play, Podbean, Stitcher, and other podcast download spots. (Visit the website for more information and a list of episodes.)

Right now, the coronavirus is uppermost of mind in all our lives. From the difficulty we may be experiencing in stocking our shelves with basics like toilet paper, to worrying about people being stricken with serious or fatal illness, to the impact the pandemic is having on business, travel, and human behavior, now is a great time to put in your earbuds and pour yourself a quarantini or placeborita (or, if listening to episode 43 about coronaviruses, the “Breath Taker), and spend time getting into a epidemiological mindset with Erin Walsh and Erin Allman Updyke. 

Tune in, and find out how scared you really need to be.

(Oh, and have you washed your hands lately?)


April 2020 Issue

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