Thomas Jefferson’s coming ho-oh-ohme!

Before Edward Jenner widely publicized his observations on vaccination, the only protection against smallpox was the practice of (also known as ). Variolation consisted of artificially exposing a person to smallpox (usually since it caused less death than ) under the care of a physician. Observations on this practice — along with observing those who survived full-blown smallpox — led physicians to conclude that some sort of immunity resulted from infection. However, they lacked the scientific instrumentation and understanding to truly know how the human immune system worked to protect against future disease.

The practice of…


Man in front of a crowd, with his back to the camera, with an anti-vaccine sticker stuck to the back of his coat.
Man in front of a crowd, with his back to the camera, with an anti-vaccine sticker stuck to the back of his coat.
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Are you an antivaxxer or just vaccine-hesitant?

Lately, anti-vaccine people and the organizations they belong to have been complaining a lot that people and the media are labeling them as “antivaxxers.” They claim that “antivaxxer” is some sort of pejorative term, with some going as far as saying that calling someone an “antivaxxer” is the same as calling them the n-word. (It isn’t the same.) …


Photo by Edurne Chopeitia on Unsplash

I’ve been an epidemiologist for 14 years, and I still make some of these mistakes when translating epidemiological findings to the public.

Humans are weird when it comes to assessing risk. We’ll avoid air travel, choosing instead to travel by vehicle clear across the country not only because of the cost of air travel but because of fears of the plane crashing. In fact, when two airplanes crashed in 2018 and 2019, a whole fleet of airplanes was grounded and many people felt afraid of flying a “737” type of airplane. (It was the “737 Max” type that crashed, not all 737s.)

When we polled teenagers on their use of vaping products, they told us that tobacco (in the form of smoking)…


Nipah Virus Electrograph (via CDC’s Public Health Image Library)

I’m an epidemiologist, and this is what keeps me up at night.

In 2011, the movie did a superb and very realistic job of describing how the world would react if a pandemic occurred. In that movie, a colony of bats is disturbed by deforestation, and one of the bats makes its home above some pigs. The bad defecates over the pigs’ food, infecting the pig with a virus reminiscent of the Nipah virus, a zoonotic virus that already has caused outbreaks in Southeast Asia with a high death rate. …


An Epidemiologist’s Tale

On February 4, 2020, I woke up around 4 in the morning and started to get ready for what would be a very long day. The previous evening, a friend in Washington, DC, had asked if I was available for a radio interview the next morning. A local radio station in DC — a Spanish language station — wanted to talk to someone about the virus from Wuhan, China, that was causing a stir. I agreed to do the interview, which meant that I had to be in DC by no later than 5:30 in the morning.


Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña, the first Black President of Mexico

Our Neighbor to the South Played a Big Role in Ending Slavery and Setting Up the Path to the Civil War in the United States

When my wife and I visited The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, we heard the story of the siege that took place there in 1836. The siege ended with Texans being defeated by Mexican troops, and the slaughter became a rallying cry for those who fought for Texas’ independence. A woman in the audience started explaining the battle to her young son, referring to the Mexicans as “the bad guys” and the Texans as “the good guys.”

Mexico’s Immigration and Slavery Problem

In 1836, the political situation in Texas was complicated, to say the least. For many years, white immigrants from the United States had…


Image of a small electronic paper display being held by a thumb and forefinger, displaying a news tweet from the AP
Image of a small electronic paper display being held by a thumb and forefinger, displaying a news tweet from the AP

Some code from here and there, a very small computer and a small e-paper screen, and you get a nice little breaking news notification machine.

Putting Twitter breaking news on display every few minutes on the Pimoroni Inky PHAT took some code modification, but what else is new when it comes to coding, right? We’re always adapting someone else’s work and coming up with new solutions. All the code I refer to in this instructional blog post can be found at my GitHub repository: https://github.com/RFNajera/Inky-PHAT-Breaking-News

What you need

  • Raspberry Pi Zero W (or WH). If you get the W, then you’ll have to do some soldering. No big deal.
  • Pimoroni Inky PHAT
  • 5V mini-USB power supply for the Raspberry
  • Micro SD card of at least 8GB capacity

Initial Raspberry Pi Set Up

  • Install…

Image of an anatomy textbook with illustrations of the human body and text describing the human body and other concepts
Image of an anatomy textbook with illustrations of the human body and text describing the human body and other concepts
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Many concepts you learned in school — but have probably forgotten — have come together to begin the end of the pandemic

When I was about to graduate from college with a degree in medical technology (MT), the MT (now CLS) program held a small ceremony to celebrate the accomplishment of those of us who made it through the program. It was a tough program, with any score under 75% being an F and a minimum of a B grade in all courses being required to pass. If you failed a course, you had to start the program all over again, and you only got one chance to do that re-start. …


Photo by Obie Fernandez on Unsplash

Scientific discussions are going up against cultural debates, and people can’t tell the difference between the two.

I was having a discussion on social media with a friend the other day, when one of their friends decided to jump in and post their comments. My friend and I are epidemiologists. They hold a master’s degree in public health with a specialization in epidemiology. I have the same degree plus a doctoral degree in public health, also in epidemiology. Between us, we have almost 30 years of public health practice experience. Their friend? He’s a car mechanic.

No, I’m Not Being Elitist

Now, if you think that I’m going to be an elitist and say that the third person in the discussion doesn’t…


The red dot in April 2015 indicates the date of the murder of Freddie Gray.

An epidemic of homicides started in Baltimore in 2015 and continues without signs of slowing down.

My doctoral dissertation was a study of homicides in Baltimore between 2005 and 2017 in order to better understand what is going on. Right off the start, I used data to show that, indeed, there is an epidemic of homicides in Baltimore that started right around April of 2015, and that intensified since the unrest following the homicide of Freddie Gray Jr. From there, the dissertation was presented in three parts.

The Personal Characteristics

The first part of the dissertation looked at the 3,366 homicide victims reported between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2017. The age, gender and other individual characteristics of…

Rene F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

Doctor of Public Health in Epidemiology. Associate at JHSPH. Adjunct at George Mason Univ. Epidemiologist at a large County Health Department. Father. Husband.

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