Stories and Films from a Disease Detective
Episode 435

Celine Gounder, CEO and Founder of Just Human Productions

Stories and Films from a Disease Detective

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Stories and Films from a Disease Detective

Episode 435

Recommended Book:

These Truths

Mentioned Link:

In Sickness and In Health Podcast 

Stories and Films from a Disease Detective with Celine Gounder, CEO and Founder of Just Human Productions transcript powered by Sonix—the best audio to text transcription service

Stories and Films from a Disease Detective with Celine Gounder, CEO and Founder of Just Human Productions was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text in 2019.

Saul Marquez:
Hey, everybody Saul Marquez here with the Outcomes Rocket. Are you going to HLTH? It’s the largest and most important conference for health innovation. HLTH pronounced health is one of a kind of ecosystem event for the health industry. And they’re on a mission to bring together 5000 plus senior leaders to solve the most pressing problems facing health care today and actualize the most promising opportunities to improve health. They bring together senior leaders from across payers, providers, employers, investors, fast growing startups, pharma, policymakers and innovation centers to ask one question: how do we create the future of health? I’ll be there. And I hope to see you there, too. If you use outcomesrocketpodcast150 as the promo code that’s outcomesrocketpodcast150, you’ll get $150 off your ticket. Looking forward to seeing you there. Go to hlth.com to sign up. That’s hlth.com. Use that promo code outcomesrocketpodcast150. And I am excited to see you there. I’ll even have a booth recording some podcast live at the event. The MGM in Las Vegas. So, so excited to see you there. Don’t be afraid to say hi and we’re gonna learn a lot there. So hlth.com.

Saul Marquez:
Today I have the privilege of hosting Dr. Celine Gounder. She’s a doctor and a disease detective and a storyteller. She’s a president, CEO and founder of Just Human Productions, a non-profit multimedia organization. She’s also the host and producer of In Sickness and in Health podcast. It’s a podcast on health and social justice. She’s written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Guardian, U.S., The Washington Post, Reuters, Courts and many others. And she’s a frequent expert guest on many national news agencies. In early 2015, Dr. Gounder spent two months volunteering as an Ebola aid worker in Guinea in her free time, she interviewed locals to understand how the crisis was affecting them. She’s done a lot of work, as well as been a consultant to TEDMED on TEDMed’s Editorial Advisory Board and between 98 and 2012, studied TB and HIV in South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi and many other countries. She’s a practicing physician and lives in New York with her husband, Grant. So with that, I want to I want to give that, Dr. Gounder, a warm welcome. And Dr. Gounder, did I leave anything out in the intro that you want to tell the guests about?

Celine Gounder:
Well, that was pretty comprehensive. I do still see patients. So I am still a practicing doctor. I’m with the NYU School of Medicine and I see patients at Bellevue. And, you know, I have a former life working in global health. So I get to scratch a little bit of that itch with my patients at Bellevue, as well as working at some Indian health service and tribal facilities across the US.

Saul Marquez:
Well, I do not know how you do all the things that you do, but it’s awesome. You do some great work and it’s not like you’re doing a bunch of things a little bit. I mean, you really get deep and so really excited to learn more about you and for the listeners to learn more about the work and the incredible content that you’re putting out there and the difference that you’re making. So why did you decide to get into the medical sector?

Celine Gounder:
Well, I think the short answer is that I saw it as a way to use science in the service of others. I think the longer answer has to do with where my data’s from in particular. So I’m a first generation American. My father was from India, but not one of the big cities. He was from a very, very rural village, rice and sugar cane farming village. He was the first person to leave for advanced studies. So they only had up until elementary school in the village. And he was the first person to go on for higher studies to college, to grad school for that entire generation. It took another generation before anyone else did that. And my life would have been very different if my father hadn’t had that story, hadn’t had that journey. And it’s not that my life would have been bad. I’m not saying that at all. But I am very appreciative of the journey that he traveled and really want to do what I can in service of others as a sort of a way of showing that appreciation.

Saul Marquez:
I love that. It’s a it’s a great story. And using science in the service of others and your dad really kind of paved the way for you. And I think it’s great that you’re honoring him by mentioning him here. So you’re focused on a lot of things, Celine. So what would you say is the hot topic that needs to be on health leaders agenda and how are you and in your work approaching it?

Celine Gounder:
Really, over the entire arc of my career and as you’ve mentioned, I’ve done a lot of different things over time, for me the consistent theme has been health and social justice. And through the media work that I’m doing now, what I’m really trying to achieve is to change the way that people think about these issues and to build community and collaboration around them. So sort of the the tools that I use are using inspirational stories, but at the same time being very evidenced based and providing solutions. I think what’s very depressing sometimes about these stories is that you’re just faced with the problem and then no solutions are provided. And I think that’s where you can help people act and do something. And then finally, I think it’s about giving voice to the voiceless. So making sure that their concerns are brought to the fore and that their experiences are understood, because I think sometimes we think we know what people need and that’s not necessarily what they need.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, it’s a great thought. And definitely the theme of health and social justice, something on the minds of a lot of folks listening. Folks, I want to recommend that you check out Celine’s podcast, go to InSicknessandinHealthpodcast.com. She’s organized it in a beautiful way, different seasons. Last season was on gun violence in America, something very close to me here in Chicago. It’s a big problem. And she dives into a deeply. And the opioid crisis was season 2, the opioid overdose crisis. Another problem that all of us are thinking about and her very first season being youth and mental health. As you can hear, these are all very, very important topics that we’re discussing here on the outcomes rocket. And I invite you to go check out what she’s done beautifully. The website is In Sickness and in health podcast. And obviously you could pick that up on iTunes, Google, Spotify, any application where you’re listening to us on. You can also find her. So she wanted to give you a plug because your work is outstanding.

Celine Gounder:
Well, thank you, Saul. I really appreciate that.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. So out of the things that you’ve done, I’d love to hear an example, Dr. Gounder, of what you’ve done to improve outcomes or awareness by doing it differently.

Celine Gounder:
Well, I’ll give you an example with the most recent season of my podcast, which focuses on gun violence in America. And, you know, having also written for mainstream publications and appeared on CNN and so on, I can tell you that in the mainstream media you’re really not going to find this kind of analysis. The focus tends to be on the latest mass shooting and things like bump stocks and, you know, R 15s and debates about the Second Amendment. But no one else has really pulled together experts from across the field, whether it’s public health or criminology or other social sciences, to really understand, first of all, why we have this problem in the US. What’s unique about the US in terms of our history or culture, issues of intersectionality? And then also what’s the evidence, what actually has been shown to work? And there’s actually a lot that does work that has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. And you never hear those programs really talked about in the mainstream media. Now, there are some other podcasts that have done a nice job of touching on the gun violence issue and other places. You can go and I’ll I’ll give a plug to Hopkins. They have a great online course on gun violence, but those types of programs tend to be limited to the resources within that institutions, of course. Hopkins is going to highlight their professors. And nowhere are you going to find really people from across the board and not just from the U.S., but, you know, the U.K., Australia and others who have a lot to teach us on on what works.

Saul Marquez:
Well, I’ll tell you what. It’s a great thing that you’re doing. And the nature of health care and not just health care, but we’re very guilty of it. We’re very siloed. And so the approach that you’re taking, Celine, is a great one because you are connecting a lot of silos and and providing exposure to a lot of sources of information and perspective. So appreciate you doing that. So tell me about something that hasn’t worked. It hasn’t always come together easily for you. Maybe you could share a story when it didn’t work and what you learned?

Celine Gounder:
Well, you know, I’m still trying to, as I think we always should be, learning and improving on what we do. And I think, you know, with the podcast, I’ve been really trying to hone the kind of storytelling I want to be doing. And I think one of the things I’ve learned is, frankly, the average listener is less interested in hearing from experts and more interested in hearing narratives, you know, lived experiences, personal experiences. That’s just what people engage with more. And that’s how they learn. They learn from stories not as much from data and statistics. And frankly, this applies to teaching on the hospital wards to a patient or residents learn better from learning based on a patient’s case than if you go and you get a chalk talk. So, you know, I think it’s sort of applying that and figuring out. How to synthesize the evidence and the data and have it in there. But to really focus on on the storytelling and the lived experience and doing so.

Saul Marquez:
Love that. Yeah. Something that is important. The you know, I forget where I learned this, but it was a leader in health care that shared that when you make it about a person and you give in. Confidentiality is important to Right.. So you don’t necessarily have to call that person’s name out. But when you mention a person’s name and you talk about their story just becomes that much more real than just stats and anecdotes. So I love that you’re you’re so focused on being better at this craft, Celine, and making it personal.

Celine Gounder:
Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, it has to start with the personal.

Saul Marquez:
Love that. And so what would you say one of your proudest leadership experiences has been to date?

Celine Gounder:
Well, I don’t know if I’d have any one that I could point to, but maybe an example of one when it comes to science communication. You know, if you recall back to all of the Ebola coverage that was happening, you know, 2014, 2015 and what the focus of that coverage was. And a lot of it was not on the people who were actually infected. It was on, oh, my gosh, is this going to spread in the US? Craig Venter, the physician who came back to New York and was actually at Bellevue after he became sick with Ebola, you know, a lot of the questions were, well, can I get it from a bowling ball? Can I get it from touching a subway pole that he touched? Should we be closing the borders? And a lot of what I tried to do when I would go on air was to say, look, let’s talk about the people who are actually getting sick and dying from this and what’s going on with them and what do we need to do to address the problem on the ground. So I’m really proud that I was able to, at least to the degree that I could as an individual, steer the conversation in that direction to have had the platform and ability to do so.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. And it’s not easy to do. It’s easier to get seduced by where it’s easy to go versus where you feel like the attention should be.

Celine Gounder:
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. I don’t watch the news. Celine, I do not watch it just because I feel like it’s irrelevant to anything that I can do for the most part. Maybe, maybe maybe 1 percent is relevant to the day to day difference that I’m trying to make. And we need more people like you in the news and then maybe, maybe I’ll start watching it.

Celine Gounder:
Well, you know, what’s funny Saul is I don’t watch the news either. And if I go on, I don’t watch it. I mostly I’m a NPR podcast, New York Times New Yorker, Washington Post reader. You know, in terms of my my regular news, not medical news. So, yeah, I hear you.

Saul Marquez:
And sidetrack. But what would you say today is one of your most exciting projects?

Celine Gounder:
Well, I’m starting to report Season 4 of In Sickness and in Health, which is going to focus on indigenous health. And as part of that, I think I’m gonna be doing a book also around that same reporting. And so as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been spending part of the year working at Indian Health Service and tribal health facilities. And it’s not that I report on what I see, you know, in my clinical work. It’s that that sort of helps me focus on what the issues are and understand what’s happening. And then I do my reporting sort of separate from that. But, you know, it’s some of the topics that I’ll be covering include issues like historical trauma and what the impact of that is on problems like mental health and substance use and suicide, access to natural resources. And then also in terms of resources, mining and what the impact of mining near or on reservations has been for the health of these populations or other interesting areas, especially as we talk about reforming our criminal justice system, which is really a retributive system. So it’s really about punishment. The indigenous approach is on what they call indigenous peacemaking is really more of a restorative justice approach. So it’s more about how do you rehabilitate? How do you get people to function better within the community? How do you address people’s needs in terms of healing? And that has huge implications for health. So it’s been really eye-opening for me to learn about some of these issues. Even, you know, as an American, having grown up here, I still feel like there was so much I didn’t know.

Saul Marquez:
Wow. And what would you say is the is the inspiration behind your work?

Celine Gounder:
You know, I think to me, justice is a major issue. I think I also am really fascinated by different cultures, different ways of thinking. So I think that’s part of what led me to do global health work. It’s also part of what led me to work with Native Americans, trying to understand different points of view and learning from that. I think I’m definitely a lifelong learner. And so I guess those kinds of things drive the work that I do.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. Very cool. So this is the point of the podcast, Celine, where we do a lightning round. I got a couple questions for you there, followed by a book that you recommended listeners. You ready?

Celine Gounder:
I’m ready.

Saul Marquez:
All right. What’s the best way to improve health care outcomes?

Celine Gounder:
Focus on health rather than health care and stop treating social problems with health care.

Saul Marquez:
What is the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

Celine Gounder:
Needing external validation from other people

Saul Marquez:
How do you stay relevant despite constant change?

Celine Gounder:
Keep developing new skillsets.

Saul Marquez:
And what’s an area of focus that drives everything in your work?

Celine Gounder:
Justice and empathy.

Saul Marquez:
And what would you say is your number one health habit?

Celine Gounder:
Exercise. I go to a rowing studio. It’s called Row House, which is a sort of rowing or SoulCycle. But for rowing, I do that and then I work out with a weight trainer twice a week. And I think that’s sort of my form of meditation.

Saul Marquez:
You know what? I swear, that’s what I say, too. So whenever I get out and do my weight training three times a week, I breathe and I meditate.

Celine Gounder:
Yeah. And it’s a very different kind of meditation, yoga or something. But to me, it’s about sort of just being in the moment and clearing your mind. And for me, that works really well.

Saul Marquez:
Man, same here. And for some reason, whenever I do this chest flying machine, I think that’s… Just gets me there. You know, it’s like, wow, you know, it does that’s so cool that you said that because that’s how I feel about my workouts. So what about your number one success?

Celine Gounder:
I guess I always try to be learning. You know, I read lots and to be looking for people who are intellectually curious and creative and willing to take risks and be have build a community of people like that who you can share your ideas with. And as I said, I don’t think you should be looking for external validation. But at the same time, I think we each kind of need our community of people to bounce ideas off of and to help us grow.

Saul Marquez:
Totally love that. It’s a great one. What book would you recommend to the listeners?

Celine Gounder:
Well, I don’t have any one favorite book, but the book that I’m reading right now, which I am just absolutely loving and I think it’s so relevant right now is I’m Jill Lepore. These Truths, which Jill Lepore is the professor of history at Harvard and she writes for The New Yorker. And I would say the book is really about the history that brought us here in the US to this moment in time. And there’s so many lessons for us in that we haven’t fundamentally changed as people were basically reliving many of the same conflicts, the same stories are playing out over and over again. And I think understanding that history really informs who we are as a nation and the many contradictions that define us as a nation.

Saul Marquez:
Sounds like a good one. These truths by Jill Lepore and folks go to outcomesrocket.health in the search bar type in CelineGounder, you’ll be able to find all of our show notes, a full transcript, the short notes and links to all of the resources we’ve discussed, including her podcast as well as the book that she has recommended. And just as a reminder, the podcast is can be found in any of the podcasting platforms, including the one you’re listening to now. It’s called In Sickness and in Health. Celine, this has been fun, but if you could just leave us with the closing thought. And then where the listeners could continue the conversation with you.

Celine Gounder:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, check us out. I’d love to get everyone’s feedback on the current season and we’d love to get your ideas for future seasons or in the midst of planning Season 5. And we’d love to get some ideas. And yeah, you can find me through the podcast website. There’s a form that you can use to submit your feedback or anything else. Questions. Anything else like that. And that’s insicknessandinhealthpodcast.com.

Saul Marquez:
Outstanding. Celine, just want to say thank you again. Keep up the amazing work and look forward to checking out the new season when it comes out.

Celine Gounder:
Thank you, Saul. I really appreciate it. It’s been fun.

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