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August 29, 2023 21 mins

Shahidul Haq Khan, a Bangladeshi health worker, and Tim Miner, an American with the World Health Organization, worked together on a smallpox eradication team in Bangladesh in the early 1970s. The team was based on a hospital ship and traveled by speedboat to track down cases of smallpox from Barishal to Faridpur to Patuakhali. Every person who agreed to get the smallpox vaccination was a potential outbreak averted, so the team was determined to vaccinate as many people as possible.

The duo leaned on each other, sometimes literally, as they traversed the country’s rugged and watery geography. Khan, whom Miner sometimes referred to as “little brother,” used his local knowledge to help the team navigate both the cultural and physical landscape. When crossing rickety bamboo bridges, he would hold Miner’s hand and help him across. “We didn’t let him fall,” chuckled Khan.

Episode 4 of “Eradicating Smallpox” explores what it took to bring care directly to people where they were.

To conclude the episode, host Céline Gounder speaks with public health advocate Joe Osmundson about his work to help coordinate a culturally appropriate response to mpox in New York City during the summer of 2022. “The model that we're trying to build is a mobile unit that delivers all sorts of sexual and primary healthcare opportunities. They're opportunities!” exclaimed Osmundson.

In Conversation With Host Céline Gounder:

  • Joe Osmundson
    Public health advocate and clinical assistant professor of biology at New York University
    @reluctantlyjoe

Voices From the episode:

  • Tim Miner
    Former World Health Organization smallpox eradication program 
    worker in Bangladesh
  • Shahidul Haq Khan
    Former World Health Organization smallpox eradication program 
    worker in Bangladesh

Find a transcript of this episode here.

“Epidemic” is a co-production of KFF Health News and Just Human Productions.

To hear other KFF Health News podcasts, click here.

Subscribe to “Epidemic” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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