Student-run podcast bridges gap between researchers and community

The graduate student podcast “From the Front Row: Students Voices in Public Health” seeks to inform the public about current public-health issues. In February, episodes expanded to Apple Podcasts and Spotify, in addition to SoundCloud.


James Year

The College of Public Health Building as seen on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

Select master’s of public health students at the University of Iowa are going a step beyond research and the classroom, diving headfirst into what it’s like to communicate scientific issues that affect the lives of everyday people.

The UI College of Public Health’s podcast, “From the Front Row: Students Voices in Public Health,” aims to bridge the divide between researchers and the public to increase information and awareness.

Started last year, the podcast speaks with students, staff, faculty, and guest speakers about public-health research and resolution, producer and graduate student Ian Buchta said. This year, he honed in on improving the service.

He had long wanted to start a podcast, he said. When arriving in Iowa City this fall to continue his education, Buchta started working with the UI College of Public Health’s program for graduate student ambassadors. There, he learned about the podcast and decided to do some revamping.

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Buchta took the initiative with his team to publish episodes on popular platforms that hadn’t been reached before. Originally, they were published solely on SoundCloud. As of February, episodes were made available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, he said.

Buchta wants to expand episodes to publish weekly. Currently, the gropo members publish two to four times a week, but he expects that to change next semester.

Often, there is a disconnect between researchers in the field and communities they serve. Public health affects everyone, but academic and scientific findings are poorly communicated to the greater population, graduate student and co-producer Hailey Boudreau said.

“Public health is an interesting career because it’s really everywhere, but we don’t do a great job of spreading awareness,” she said.

A main goal of this podcast is to allow students and researchers learn how to communicate their discoveries beyond the university setting, she said. It allows the public to have a better understanding of public-health issues and what’s being done to solve them.

In addition, the podcast brings in public-health figures beyond the UI bubble. Those in the field and outside the field have an opportunity to learn, Boudreau said.

“There are a lot more stories to be told than just the ones that are happening in the college,” she said.

Recently, the podcast brought on Mona Hanna-Attisha, pediatrician and author of What the Eyes Don’t See, a memoir about her experience during the Flint water crisis. Graduate students Chelsea Keenan and Abigail Lee interviewed journalist Hannah Harris Green, who specializes in reporting on reproductive health in India.

“Podcasting is the next technological media progress step. It’s being used in unique ways. It’s conversational and participatory,” Lee said. “Communication is widely underestimated to the human experience. The fact that our college values communication is spectacular.”

Keenan, a former journalist for the Gazette, knows the importance of communicating ideas clearly.

“It’s really important that we learn how to communicate things effectively. There are so many areas of public health that can be very confusing,” Keenan said. “It’s going to be important to be able to communicate well to the public when we are in our careers.”