By Rene "Epi Ren" Najera
Podcasts about the life and times of an epidemiologist. I talk to you about everything that goes on in the world and most of what goes on in my life. All from the point of view of someone whose job it is to hear hoof beats and think zebras.
We Need to Stand Up and Defend LGBTQ+ Rights
Experiences in high school led me to understand how LGBTQ+ people needed me to stand with them, defend them, and, most of all, love them. And now, we in public health need to stand up against policies from governments who are looking to hurt transgender kids.
October 22, 2022
A Walk On The C&O Trail
I went for a walk to clear my head and start thinking of things to do for next week. Here are some of my thoughts.
October 16, 2022
That Time I Was The Greyhound And She Was The Rabbit
After a bad breakup twenty years ago, I decided to take up running. I met some women and even went on dates because of running. But there was this one race where I made a fool of myself just in time to avoid being labeled a criminal.
October 14, 2021
It’s okay to listen to a podcast and cry
My culture is kind of weird. We’re not allowed to do the things our bodies and minds ask of us, like crying. If you cry, you’re apparently not a man, or you’re less of a man. Of course, that is not the case. You need to be who you are, and who the world needs you to be.
October 08, 2021
Let’s Talk About Walking Away From Arguing
When I was younger, getting into internet arguments was kind of fun, even when said arguments were not productive or had the possibility of becoming violent. As I’ve aged, one of the best things I’ve learned has been to know when to walk away from arguing. Even better, I’ve learned to apologize. I’ve learned good sportsmanship in life, I guess. Let me tell you all about it.
January 12, 2021
Let's Talk About Religiosity
I'm a scientist, so I get a lot of questions about my religion. Like others have said, many of those questions are more in order to pass judgment or to identify with me than to really get to know me. That's okay. It's how humans work. This year, I've seen many people claim to be of one religion but act nothing like it. We see it all the time with the current Administration in the White House, right? We have someone who claims to be Christian but puts their needy neighbors in cages. And their followers, who also claim to be Christian, love every minute of it. It's not just a problem with Christians, but they are who I am passing judgment on because they are the people with whom I identify. They are the ones that trouble me because they're the majority in the place where I live, and they are not acting at all like they should. They have too much power, and they're being wicked.
December 31, 2020
Let's Talk About How We Justify Our Actions in This Pandemic
Have you ever wondered why infectious diseases are a thing? I mean, why do people keep giving things like gonorrhea or HIV to each other? Why do we get colds? The reason here is that viruses and bacteria that cause disease have figured out that we humans just can't seem to stay away from each other and/or follow public health guidance. This pandemic would have been over in a matter of weeks if we all would have just stayed home, worn masks and got tested. If we all cooperated with contact tracers, this thing would be a thing of the past like it is in New Zealand and other parts of the world where people did their part to follow recommendations. But no, not us. Or, rather, not U.S. We will justify everything we did wrong in the pandemic by saying that we had to live our lives, that life is short, that businesses are people, or that one year off from school could prove fatal. Even as more than 300,000 people (and counting) are dead, we kind of just do what we do, and the novel coronavirus is laughing all the way to the bank. Lucky for you, we have these things called vaccines, right? So, no judgment and no talking down to you, I'm just going to put it out there that we are no better than one another in how we reacted to the pandemic.
December 19, 2020
Let's Talk About Faith With a Lowercase F
Do you take apart your car engine and make sure that it is functioning at 100% before you take a drive? Do you check and double-check to make sure that your airplane pilot went to the proper school, knows what to do in an emergency and doesn't have something in their past that would make you think twice about flying with them? A lot of what we do day after day -- without thinking about it -- we do on faith, with a lowercase F. We don't really think too much about stuff because doing so would drive us nuts. So, we just go with it. Should something go wrong, we do have mechanisms of making people, institutions and companies accountable. And the people who choose not to believe that all the mechanisms to make sure that something is safe are doing their job... Well, those people are in the minority. They may be loud and obnoxious -- or vociferous -- but they're in the minority. Don't be bullied away from an effective public health intervention because they call you names.
December 10, 2020
A Long Walk in the Woods in the Middle of a Pandemic
I finally worked out a schedule whereby I can get more days off and get some rest before long hauls of long days fighting the pandemic. So I went for a long walk and thought about our mortality. Fun stuff... Creatives out there, listen and thank you.
April 22, 2020
A Call from the Pandemic to Protect Our Source of Knowledge and Wisdom
In which I tell you why it’s hurtful to say it’s okay for older folks to die during the pandemic. When they do, we lose knowledge. We lose wisdom. We lose valuable lessons that we could use right now to deal with all this. Don’t be okay with older folks dying.
April 04, 2020
Epidemiological Podcast S0E3: Hi, I’m a Doctor
A quick 9-minute story of last Wednesday, the day I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation. It was quite a "day of days," and it ended very well. It brought together five years of hard work. So what's next? Listen to find out!
July 05, 2018
Epidemiological Podcast S0E2: The Weight of the Evidence
On today's podcast, I talk to you about a recent tragedy in our family and how it helped me understand anti-vaccine parents a little more. Not completely, but just enough to realize that there is very little in the way of a debate that one can have with them. See, When people who don't believe that vaccines save lives tell you that there is no evidence that vaccines are safe, they're either misinformed or lying. On the flip side, when they tell you that there is evidence that vaccines cause autism, they're either misinformed or lying again. There is plenty of evidence for both arguments out there, but only one set of "studies" pass the biological plausibility test (not to say anything about ethics). However, because an injury (perceived or real) to a child triggers such a deep-seeded, primal reaction, it's hard to be logical or reasonable. When parents see autism as death (when it's not), their search for answers becomes chaotic and full of inferences that are misguided. Anti-vaccine people looking to make a buck take advantage of that, and then we're off to the races on trying to stop further harm, encourage critical thinking, and have an actual debate based on facts. In about 33 minutes, I tell you about the different kinds of studies out there, and I explain to you why we cannot do a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study like the antivaxxers want, but we've done plenty of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated studies in an ethical and scientific way.
July 12, 2017
Epidemiological Podcast S0E1: The Perfect Epidemiological Surveillance System
Today, I thought I'd share with you a 15-minute presentation I gave in Mexico City last about two weeks ago. It was on a paper I wrote based off a previous blog post. I talk about what I imagine to be the perfect system for keeping track of the population's health... That is, if money, technology, laws, and ethical considerations were not in the way of such things. Yes, I'm giving the podcast a season and names. The first season runs from now until the end of the year and will be season zero, along with previous episodes. Kind of like "the lost season" if you will. Then, starting in 2018, I'll have a first season of six podcasts with pre-planned topics and a little more preparation. You guys deserve it... And it's a good way to be just creative enough to be doing something but not too busy to forget about the dissertation (which should be almost done when 2017 ends and 2018 begins).
July 02, 2017
Talking Tuesday on a Friday: June Update!
A few minutes where I catch you up on the craziness around me. Nothing bad, mostly good... Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoy it.
June 02, 2017
Podcast: October 2016 Update
Yeah, yeah… It’s been a while. I missed you too. Here’s 12 minutes of me catching you up on what happened this summer with dad getting cancer, me picking up cycling and swimming, and taking some exams. Also, there is something about Puerto Rico and Zika in there. As always, you can just download it by clicking here.
October 05, 2016
Talking Tuesday: Spanish Interview on Flu Edition
Back in 2010, right before the flu season started, the bosses at the health department allowed me to do an interview with an AM radio station out of Washington, DC. The interviewer was awesome, and she really did a good job of asking pertinent questions and keeping my answers in line. It was a great opportunity to practice public speaking and speaking in Spanish. Although it is my first language, sometimes I forget some of its conventions. I've speaking English too long, I guess.
May 24, 2016
Talking Tuesday: Catch-Up Edition
The best kinds of friends are those who you can lose contact with for months and then catch-up with quickly over some coffee or hot tea or hot chocolate... Or a beer. In this episode, I try to catch-up with you after being gone a while.
May 17, 2016
Talking Tuesday, On A Saturday, In A Blizzard
What else was I going to do while I waited out the great Northeast Blizzard of 2016 but do a podcast? And what is a better way to do it than to invite a couple of friends to chat with? I used a new app called ZCast to record a chat with Briana Morgan and Craig Egan about “Impostor Syndrome” and “Trolling”…
January 23, 2016
Talking Tuesday: Norovirus
If you have ever had Norovirus, then you will remember it for a while. Let me tell you about it, and tell you to wash your hands once, twice, and three times. Listen to this, then go wash your hands. If you want to download the mp3 file, click here.
September 08, 2015
Talking Tuesday: My Spanish is not very pretty these days
Growing up, mom used to make me speak English well or Spanish well, but never both. I thought I spoke good Spanish, until I came to Colombia. My Spanish is different, and, in translating a document from English to Spanish, I learned my written Spanish needs a lot of work.
July 02, 2015