Only Human | Podcast Review | October 8, 2015 | By

Only Human: “Keep the Baby, Get the Chemo”

Harris notes that her show is about the intersection of health and the human. And I have an awful lot of hope for the excellent content that could arise from such a charge.



What does the phrase, “quest for health” mean to you? It was the subject line of the press email sent to Audiologue announcing the debut of Only Human, a new offering from WNYC, and the phrase piqued my interest. It could mean setting a new PR at your CrossFit box; it could mean receiving a patent for a drug, or successfully marketing a “disruptive” technology, one that, say, reduces the inefficiencies in mammography exam exchanges.

It could mean maintaining your children’s health. Or it could mean just surviving another day.

These are the notions that swirled in my mind before I listened to the debut episode of Only Human, hosted by Mary Harris. How can a show tackle such a broad question? This review, in full disclosure, comes from someone who is (academically, personally, and professionally) plagued with questions about personal and population health. And, accordingly, a claim that the podcast discusses a (maybe singular?) ‘quest for health’ makes me skeptical. Can it capture the newly interdisciplinary conversation around health as a field—back as a Masters in Public Health student, I took law school courses and statistics courses; courses in the business school and courses in the medical school; courses taught by nurses, hospital administrators, and epidemiologists; and ‘field research’ courses taught by ex-Peace Corps participants. The sheer breadth of topics within public health is astounding. Hence my concern.

But, after scouring the website and listening to the debut, I have hope. Only Human is attempting to discuss a “unique blend of first-person stories and journalism about well-being, medical discovery and revolution in healthcare,” which may actually touch on, well, a lot of the things I brought up above. As we know from This American Life, Radiolab, even All Things Considered, sometimes broad goals work out.

The first episode introduces host Mary Harris, who, over 18 minutes, discusses her personal path with pregnancy and (simultaneous) breast cancer treatment. And, as is to be expected, we also get a brief overview of future episodes and segments—including some dedicated to “Health Confessions” and an #onlyhuman hashtag endeavor (to share weird health habits). Mary (I think we’re on first name basis now) notes that her show is about the intersection of health and the human. And I have an awful lot of hope for the excellent content that could arise from such a charge.

(Stay tuned for my new, weekly review of Only Human, by WNYC.)

About the Author

Annie Ungrady is a writer at Audiologue, where she writes a weekly column called Podcast Perusal with her impressions of classic podcast and radio episodesYou can email her at annie@audiologue.xyz.

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