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Episode No.

Date
Length
No. 38

Pfizer’s CEO on the Big Gamble That Brought Us the COVID Vaccine

Bapu Jena talks with Albert Bourla about his unusual path to the top, developing a life-saving vaccine in record time, and the second-hardest decision he made along the way.

5/19/22
34:48
No. 37

Can Fear Be Good Medicine?

Fear is a popular tool in public health campaigns. But is it an effective one? Bapu Jena discusses new research on whether we can — and should — scare people into being healthier.

5/12/22
28:42
No. 36

Bad News — It’s Your Surgeon’s Birthday

Distractions are everywhere — including in the operating room. So, what happens if a surgeon loses focus? A tap dancer, a health researcher, and a surgeon help Bapu Jena find out.

5/5/22
34:13
No. 35

Are More Expensive Hospitals Better?

For lots of things, price is an indicator of quality. But what about in health care? Bapu Jena gets some clues from Steve Levitt’s wine tasting experiment, and looks at why shopping for healthcare is so hard.

4/28/22
30:27
No. 34

Should We Have to Pay for Our Sins?

Taxes on alcohol and tobacco promise to make people healthier and raise public funds. But can they backfire? Bapu Jena looks at the complicated economics of sin taxes.

4/21/22
26:30
No. 33

What Do a Full Moon, the Super Bowl, and Tax Day Have in Common?

Tax deadlines can stress us out. But do they also influence our conscious — and subconscious — behavior? Bapu Jena looks at why, with our health, timing is often everything.

4/14/22
29:52
No. 32

What is a Good Death — and Why Do So Few of Us Get One?

When it comes to end-of-life medical care, getting it right can be hard — even for doctors. Bapu Jena discusses surprising research on how we can live better — and maybe longer — before we die.

4/7/22
24:05
No. 31

Should You Trust Angelina Jolie or Your Doctor?

Celebrities influence the clothes we wear and the books we read. Do they also affect our health decisions? Bapu Jena looks at what happens when people take medical advice from movie stars.

3/31/22
26:58
No. 30

How Do We Know if Alcohol Is Bad for Us?

Getting solid answers in medicine can be hard — especially when the normal tools are off-limits. Dr. Bapu Jena discusses a research method that’s helping to solve some of science’s most challenging questions.

3/24/22
32:42
No. 29

How to Save a Stranger’s Heart

Cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death globally. What if it doesn’t have to be that way? Bapu Jena walks us through some solutions that can help save lives — and explores why change in medicine can be hard.

3/17/22
32:15
No. 28

Is Daylight Saving Time Hazardous to Your Health?

Changing the clocks has been linked to car accidents and heart attacks. This week, Bapu Jena sheds some light on the damage we might be doing by springing forward and falling back.

3/10/22
27:46
No. 27

What Can Bin Laden Teach Us About Medicine?

When trust in doctors or the healthcare system is lost, it’s really hard to get back. Bapu Jena explores the ripple effects of a C.I.A. operation to catch Osama bin Laden on medical distrust in Pakistan — and its parallels to distrust in the U.S.

3/3/22
28:07
No. 26

When is a ‘High-Risk’ Pregnancy a Good Thing?

Giving birth in the United States can be dangerous for both moms and their kids. Sometimes, that’s because of too little medical care — and sometimes, it’s the opposite.

2/24/22
34:54
No. 25

Would You Rather See a Computer or a Doctor?

Well, which is better at predicting your risk of having a heart attack? Bapu Jena explores the promise — and perils — of artificial intelligence in medicine.

2/17/22
32:24
No. 24

How Can You Choose the Best Doctor?

We often select doctors based on their reputations or on misconceptions about what really matters. But research shows that doctors’ experience and where they trained can significantly impact patient care.

2/10/22
36:00
No. 23

Is the Placebo Effect for Real?

In Latin, the word “placebo” means “I shall please.” In the medical world, placebos mean something … well, a little different. Bapu Jena walks us through the thorny world of placebo research and the implications the placebo effect can have for patients.

2/3/22
37:11
No. 22

What If TV Isn’t Bad for Us?

We now have more access to TV, movies, and streaming entertainment than anytime in history. So what do we actually know about what all that screen time does to us? We look back at some compelling studies that show, actually, it may change us for the better.

1/27/22
35:24
No. 21

Should We Pay People to Be Healthier?

Each year, millions of people get sick or die from diseases caused by their own unhealthy behavior. Getting people to change their bad habits – to quit smoking, eat better, or exercise – can be extremely hard. But what if we paid them?

1/20/22
29:18
No. 20

Do Our Politics Need a Doctor?

Bill Frist was a transplant surgeon before serving in the Senate, where he drove controversial legislation on embryonic stem cells and end-of-life care. Did he change politics? Or did politics change him?

1/13/22
35:40
No. 19

Do Your Doctor’s Political Views Affect Your Care?

Since doctors are human, they bring their own beliefs and preferences into the examining room. But they’ve also taken an oath to act in the best interest of all patients. What happens when politics and medicine collide?

1/6/22
29:10
No. 18

When Is a Natural Disaster Good for Your Health?

A clever study tracking the survivors of Hurricane Katrina came to a bold conclusion: when it comes to your health, place is destiny. So how can the benefits of healthier places be spread to everyone?

12/30/21
27:47
No. 17

How Does Retirement Affect Your Brain?

Aging carries a risk of losing our memory, focus, and ability to take care of ourselves and others. Does leaving the workforce worsen that risk? We investigate the research. And…Bapu asks: is it time for dad to retire?

12/23/21
27:32
No. 16

An Exit Interview with N.I.H. Director Dr. Francis Collins

The National Institutes of Health is the backbone of health research in the U.S., and Collins has been in charge for more than a decade. Now that he’s stepping down, he ponders the arc of his history-making career, from his leadership of the Human Genome Project to the fight against Covid-19 (not to mention the absolute happiest moment of his life).

12/16/21
26:39
No. 15

The Most “Unique, Excellent, and Promising” Episode

Studies by men published in scientific journals are more likely to include glowing, hyperbolic terms. Bapu talks about this “groundbreaking” research (see what we did there?) in a wide-ranging discussion with physicians and an economist about the gender gap in medicine.

12/9/21
31:38
No. 14

Is Uber Good (or Bad) for Your Health?

When you need a ride to the hospital, who should you call? Bapu talks with economist David Slusky about how ridesharing services are increasingly replacing ambulances. Plus, an unexpected reason why rideshares may lead some people to unhealthy behaviors.

12/2/21
25:34
No. 13

When Bapu Met Levitt

Once upon a time, Bapu Jena was a graduate student at the University of Chicago. His most interesting teacher? The economist Steve Levitt. This week on Freakonomics, M.D., a replay of a conversation between Steve and Bapu from Steve’s podcast, People I (Mostly) Admire, where they cover everything from the ethics of human-challenge trials to why Bapu decided to start his own show.

11/25/21
34:53
No. 12

Where Do All the Bad Ideas Go?

Ideas are currency. This couldn’t be more true in academia, where it’s the job of researchers to think of questions and, hopefully, find answers. Bapu talks with economists Steve Levitt and Emily Oster about how they come up with ideas for studies, why most never make it off the ground, and what should be done with scrapped projects.

11/18/21
35:59
No. 11

Why Do So Many Donated Kidneys End Up in the Trash?

Every year, thousands of people in the U.S. die while they’re waiting for a new kidney, yet thousands of available organs get thrown away. Bapu talks to a kidney doctor and an economics Nobel laureate about why this happens and how the system could improve.

11/11/21
25:27
No. 10

The Mystery of the Man with Confusion and Back Pain

Hear diagnostician Gurpreet Dhaliwal try to solve the case of a patient who came to the emergency room with an unusual combination of symptoms. Plus, we discuss how difficult it is to separate the signal from the noise when treating patients, and how cognitive biases factor into doctors’ decision-making.

10/28/21
23:42
No. 9

Why Fridays May Be Dangerous for Your Health

When researchers analyzed which day of the week most drug-safety alerts are released — and what it means for public health — they were stunned. So was Bapu Jena. He talks with them and a physician this week about the “Friday Effect,” a common problem with big repercussions for the safety of the medications.

9/30/21
22:02
No. 8

A Playbook for Beating the Next Pandemic

We dig into why Covid-19 caught us so unprepared and how we can make sure we’re ready for a future public-health crisis with former F.D.A. director Scott Gottlieb.

9/23/21
33:53
No. 7

What Happens to Patients When Thousands of Cardiologists Leave Town?

This week, Bapu Jena presents some hot-off-the-presses research exploring the relationship between how many patients a doctor sees, and how well those patients do. Plus, the surprising impact of annual cardiology conferences that prompted Bapu’s first conversation with Stephen Dubner on Freakonomics Radio.

9/16/21
33:27
No. 6

Are Barbershops the Cutting Edge of Healthcare Delivery?

Bapu Jena talks with a barber and a pharmacist whose study brought healthcare to Black men in Los Angeles who were getting haircuts. They discuss its impact on high blood pressure among customers — and how unconventional approaches like this could help build trust.

9/9/21
26:07
No. 5

How to Solve a Medical Mystery

A woman comes to the emergency room with back pain. She’ll leave with an unexpected diagnosis. How does her doctor figure out what’s wrong? Listen as host Bapu Jena puts master clinician Dr. Gurpreet Dhaliwal on the spot to solve a real medical mystery. Along the way, you’ll learn how doctors think and the most important questions they ask.

9/2/21
21:49
No. 4

What Do Grocery Store Prices and Heart Surgery Have in Common?

Humans are hardwired to focus on the left digit in numbers. It’s why products are priced at $3.99 instead of $4.00. But does this left-digit bias also affect medical decisions? Host Bapu Jena is joined by a fellow researcher and a cardiologist to explain how left-digit bias shows up in one of the most important decisions a doctor can make, what it means for patients, and what we can do about it.

8/26/21
19:25
No. 3

Why Are Kids With Summer Birthdays More Likely to Get the Flu?

After struggling to schedule a flu shot for his own toddler, host Bapu Jena went down a research rabbit hole. He discovered that the time of year kids are born has an unexpected and dramatic effect on whether they and their families end up getting the flu. Bapu explains his findings and asks a pediatrician and public health expert what could be done about it.

8/19/21
20:48
No. 2

Do As Docs Say, Not As They Do

Does having more health information actually change behavior? To test this question, host Bapu Jena explores whether doctors make healthier choices than the rest of us (and he fesses up to an unhealthy habit of his own).

8/12/21
21:52
No. 1

Covid and the “Birthday Effect”

Host Bapu Jena is an economist and medical doctor whose latest research measures the link between birthdays and Covid. He explains his team’s findings, explores the role that kids’ parties may have played, reveals whether politics made a difference, and convinces a Zoom magician to reveal the secrets of making virtual parties awesome. 

8/5/21
20:09
No. 465

Introducing a New “Freakonomics of Medicine” Podcast

Bapu Jena was already a double threat: a doctor who’s also an economist. Now he’s a podcast host too. In this sneak preview of the Freakonomics Radio Network’s newest show,  Bapu discovers that marathons can be deadly — but not for the reasons you may think.

6/9/21
23:09

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