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This special episode of Revisionist History is brought to you by Emory University, Emory is involved in all important aspects in the battle against covid-19 and vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. You'll hear more about that throughout this episode. Visit Emery Dot Edu for more information. Six years ago, before podcasting was even a twinkle in my eye, I wrote a screenplay for a TV series. It was called Druid Hills, my first and only screenplay. I spent a year on it.
The opening scene, a battered Honda pulls up to a house on a long, leafy street. Angela Nation thirty one is behind the wheel, jeans, Afro sunglasses. She's beautiful, though, trying not to be the car. Looks like a family's been living in the backseat. She pulls up to an immaculate Victorian, a petite, very proper African-American woman, comes out the front door. Ingrid, James. Sixty three, she gets in. Let's be clear, nothing happened with Druid Hills, I got as far as pitching it to a Hollywood studio, I shouldn't say, oh well, OK, it was Fox.
Imagine a room full of TV executives around a table. I talked about the big themes, the theories, race conscious conspiracies, corruption, blah, blah, blah. I waved my hands in the air for a good hour.
The room's hushed and when I was done, the executive in charge said, We love it. But do you think you could work in a car chase? Things went downhill from there.
My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You're listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. This is part one of what will be two bonus episodes for the holiday season. I'm going to answer your listener questions, riff on things, revisionist history ish and tell random stories, including in part two, one about my dad, another about a famous rapper, and beginning in an act of shameless self promotion with the story of my failed screenplay. We brought it to life with the help of the Pushkin theatrical players.
I promise the point of all this will be clear in a moment.
Angela looks over at Ingrid, sees an Atlanta Hawks cap in the bag by Ingrid's feet. Oh, Ingrid, a Hawks cap. Wait, you made Wyatt take you to a game.
Ingrid leans forward and pushes the cap down in the bag so it's no longer visible.
My one indulgence, Angelo rarely gets the upper hand on Ingrid. Do you have one of those big foam number one hands? I most certainly do not. Will you make Wyatt buy you big things of popcorn?
Ingrid, shutter's involuntarily then with a mischievous glint. Although I did once try out for the Hawks cheerleading team what it was the 70s. She makes a dismissive move with her hand, as if that explains everything. I thought they were dances. I did ballet. You know, I didn't realize it would be so vulgar. The men play a beautiful game. The women shake their bosoms. Angela instinctively does up the lower of the two open buttons on her blouse.
They had a player named John Drew. Oh, my, Ingrid gazes out the window.
It's nice to be reminded of those days my screenplay was set in Atlanta. Now, why did I write a screenplay set in Atlanta? Because I'm obsessed with Atlanta. Ask anyone who knows me. I'm always threatening to move there.
You know, people always say such and such as the future of America, Texas. The Future of America. Florida is the future of America. No, no, no. Best case scenario for all of us is if Atlanta is the future of America, because Atlanta is the most wonderful mash up of all, the most wonderful bits and pieces of this country, birthplace of the civil rights movement, Janelle Monae and Wonderland and Gucci Mane and Magos and basically have the entire hip hop world.
CNN, Jimmy Carter, Stacey Abrams, the best Indian food in the US out of Queens, the running over at Piedmont Park, little tart bakeshop. I could go on. I was once in my favorite coffee shop in Atlanta and realized that around me we're a rock band writing lyrics, a couple of folks having a Bible study, someone from the mayor's office, and a handful of moms with kids all representing, by my count, at least six different ethnicities and an age range of maybe 70 years.
How beautiful is that? I love Atlanta, and I thought that if I said a TV series in Atlanta and somehow magically it got made, then I'd have an excuse to go there all the time. How have you been recovering, getting their. I spent seven years buried away day and night, then one day it's over. It's almost like I got a divorce. I'll tell you the whole story someday. I already know Jesus. I will always watch out for you, my dear.
Remember that, by the way, to break in here, this is an allusion to the dark mystery at the heart of the story. She reaches over and grasps Angela's hand briefly. Ingrid is not one for prolonged displays of emotion. The two of them sit in companionable silence from Grant Park, the grittiness of the old Fourth Ward, finally regal Druid Hills. Leafy streets turn of the century mansions. Ingrid is now back to her church lady routine, adjusting her hair in the visor mirror subject closed.
We see a big sign, Emory University Hospital, Angela heads toward the main entrance, Ingrid shakes her head. Angela keeps driving around to the loading docks. At the back, Ingrid smiles and Angela touches her arm affectionately as she exits the car. There's something so ostentatious about the front door, don't you think? Our hero, Angela Nation, and her mysterious sidekick, Ingrid James, are brilliant scientists on the faculty of the Medical Center at Emory University, hence the title Druid Hills.
That's the neighborhood in Atlanta where Emory is. Now, you may have noticed that Emory University is the sponsor of this bonus episode of revisionist history. Emory came to us and asked if they could talk about some of the work they've been doing during the pandemic. And it's super interesting, as you'll hear in a moment. But the offer made me happy for more selfish reasons as well.
The first time I went to Atlanta nearly 30 years ago was to visit Emory, I was a science reporter back then for The Washington Post.
And if you write about American medicine, you eventually make the pilgrimage to Emory. Emory is how I got obsessed with Atlanta. My disaster of a screenplay was a medical mystery set at Emory. I mean, what are the odds? How often does life come together so beautifully and serendipitously under the sacred umbrella of the four or four area code? So here we are, revisionist history bonus holiday, Atlanta Edition, Part one.
Before we go any further, I want to explain why Emory is such a magical place for people interested in medicine.
IT health care has been part of Emory since the campus moved from a small town east of Atlanta to to Atlanta in about 1915. And at that point, the Atlanta Medical College became part of Emory University's School of Medicine.
This is Greg Fender's, the university's president.
A decade or so after that, one of the the most important benefactors for Emory University, Robert W. Woodruff.
He's the Coca-Cola guy, right? He is the the legendary CEO of Coca-Cola. But Mr. Woodruff, as we call him here at Emory, loved the rural areas in his ranch in south Georgia. Malaria was a huge problem. And so Georgia as a state was one of the leaders in developing treatments for malaria in the early, early part of the 20th century. Years later, after World War Two, Mr. Woodruff was very good friends with Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Malaria had been a big problem in World War Two that Eisenhower had had to deal with. And so the federal government wanted to establish a research center to solve malaria, to treat malaria, prevent malaria. And Mr. Woodruff, through his friendship with President Eisenhower, had it located on Emory property, which became the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That is now not only across the street, it's actually on the Emory campus. And so that relationship between Emory, its School of Medicine and focus on infectious diseases and the CDC has been very, very close since World War Two.
One of the heroes of the AIDS epidemic was Jim Curran, head of the CDC in the 1980s. He's now the dean of the public health school at Emory. Emory was where one of the most important drugs against HIV, Emtriva, was discovered when the American medical workers who had fallen ill with Ebola in Africa a few years ago came home to be treated. Where do they go, Emory?
Because Emory was one of the few places set up in this country to treat them tucked away in Druid Hills is a really remarkable place that has played a key role in our understanding of infectious diseases for 75 years, which is something to be grateful for, especially now. My favorite part of Emory is the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, one of the oldest and biggest nonhuman research centers in the country, 3000 non-human primates and eight thousand rodents. Eight thousand. Do you know what the plot of my screenplay was?
Our hero, Angela, was testing an experimental drug for Huntington's disease on a specially engineered strain of mice created by her boss, Rogen, at the Yerkes Center.
The whole story was about mice.
And this Angela opens. An adjoining door is where Rajan keeps his mice in metal cages. We see mouse after mouse, dozens of them moving rock old man Rajan's Huntington's mice. The air is filled with the sound of feeble squeaks. Rajan is much better with mice than people.
If there is anyone out there in Movieland who is interested in a screenplay, about two black women from Atlanta trying to cure a deadly disease costarring a room full of specially engineered lab mice at the Yerkes Center. Call me. Let's make this happen. OK, time for the Listener mailbag, Ryan asks if you could have dinner with any three people from history, who would they be and why? I think it would be my great grandmother's. I only met one of them, Martha Nation, a very regal Jamaican lady who, when she died in her late 90s, had just a few strands of gray hair.
She was the embodiment of black don't crack, but I never met the other three. How great would that be? Here's a comment from a listener on iTunes, D.C. commute, you know, I read the comments, right? D.C. Commute's says, I think you should revisit the obscure virus club. Season four, Episode 10 The recent success of vaccine development stands on the shoulders of Giants. This is actually a great point and it deserves a long answer.
Obscure virus club, if you haven't listened to it, was about a small group of biologists who spent years and years in the scientific wilderness studying a group of weird animal viruses that no one else thought were even remotely meaningful. They were ridiculed, ostracized. Then one day all those naysayers woke up and realized, oh, the work these people were doing off in the shadows is going to save the world. And if you want to know how the obscure virus club saved the world, you'll have to listen to the episode, because I don't want to give away the ending.
The point of the episode was that's how science works. Everything important and beautiful begins years and years earlier with someone's quixotic obsession. And so thanks for your comment. DC commute. This is absolutely the case with covid vaccines as well. There are countless examples, but since we're telling Emori stories, let me pick one from one of their scientists, a guy named Arama Amera, who is so obscure virus Glub. In his case, his obsession was with something called the MVA vaccine.
This is a vaccine made from the pox virus family. A version of it has been used as a vaccine against smallpox. It's been tweaked so that it can't cause disease anymore, but because it still resembles something menacing, the immune system goes on high alert the minute it comes across it. And the theory that scientists like Amera had was it if you tinkered with MVA and customized it, you could produce an immune response against other deadly infectious diseases.
I was working on tuberculosis vaccines and I used to go to TB sanitoria to collect samples from TB patients. That's when I started seeing hejab infection. That's Umara. So then I developed interest in also developing a HIV vaccine. That's how I came to Emory to work on that problem.
He moves to Atlanta, to Emory. And just to put this in perspective, he moves to Atlanta in the year 2000. So for twenty years, his lab works on the problem, learning everything they can about how this particular vaccine, Emory MBA, interacts with the body's immune system. You've been working on this vaccine for this model for twenty years. As yet, nothing had reached the market. Were you did you get discouraged? Did you wonder whether anything, whether this research was ever going to bear fruit?
Personally, I was not. But I have heard a lot of times from my friends that, you know, this is going to be a long road. Uh, maybe you should start working on other vaccines as well so that there is, you know, some result at the end. Uh, so I was never going to leave the HIV vaccine effort, but I did think about branching into other vaccines as well. So I was thinking, too, we started actually working on vaccines for TB.
So that was that's where I started. It's, again, a hard target.
So you picked two of the toughest targets out there. Yes. You're someone whether you're a glutton for punishment. But that's true. So, uh, but I wanted to tackle something really challenging.
And then what happens? covid and we had a meeting in the center at the office primate center, and all of our colleagues got together and we were talking about what we should be doing. I think that was towards the end of February, beginning of March. I think then at that point, it you know, I came back to my lab from the meeting, then I was discussing with my people, you know, it would be good to make a vaccine.
But, uh, do you think we have. The bandwidth right now and then they all said, no, no, no, we really want to do it, and they were all also excited. They everybody wanted to do it. So that gave me a lot of push. And then I decided that we should do one. We should make one.
And the idea was that if you'd made such progress against HIV and HIV is much harder. Target. The notion was, well, we should be able to make really good inroads against covid was at the thinking.
Yes, that's the thinking HIV is hard to make a vaccine against because it mutates like crazy. So you have to design a vaccine that can handle all these constant changes. And HIV integrates into your body's DNA. It literally becomes part of you. HIV is Mount Everest. Then covid comes along and it doesn't mutate as much, doesn't hide in your DNA and Amara realizes I can make my vaccine climb that mountain.
Had you not done those two decades of preparatory work, you would not have been in a position to jump on. You wouldn't know whether MVA was a safe and effective vehicle for covid. If you hadn't done all of that preparatory work with HIV. No, I would.
I would not have any clue. Now, will the Emory MBA vaccine turn out to be effective against covid, we don't know yet. It's still being tested at best. It's a second generation vaccine after the first wave of vaccines that were created in record time. But if the Emory vaccine works, it will be a crucial addition. The first way vaccines are all super specific. They work against covid-19 discovered the Emory and the vaccine would be different because it triggers a much broader immune response.
It could work against new strains of covid. It could conceivably be used as a booster to extend your initial vaccine immunity. Here's my point. The lone success story in the pandemic thus far has been medical science. We have vaccines available just over a year after the pandemic started. That's bananas. But we shouldn't draw the lesson from this that science is fast. Science only looks fast. It's actually really slow. The quote unquote, sudden development usually has 20 years of work behind it.
And you can't order up progress because sometimes the magic happens only at the end of a wandering, serendipitous journey that may have looked like folly before it became a success. And what all this means is that progress doesn't come from ideas. It comes from places where smart people have the time and freedom to wander around and make mistakes and pursue interesting ideas that one day may end up saving your life. Well, thank you so much and and good luck.
Thank you so much. We're all cheering for you. Thank you. Thank you very much. OK. Emory University has a long history of being a hub for infectious disease treatment there, health care arm and in-house clinical trial facilities have positioned Emory to be at the center of any emerging infectious disease threat. You just heard from Emory University's president Greg Fender's and Professor Ramah Amera about Emory's HIV research and development, laid the groundwork for their covid-19 research.
The work done at Emory in many fields of academic research also serves as a catalyst for economic growth in Atlanta and across the globe.
That's why governments, businesses and individuals depend on Emory's community of research professionals to deliver answers that produce a brighter future. So it's no surprise that Emory has been at the forefront of discovery with covid-19. Biomedical research labs at Emory shifted their expertise and resources towards fighting the pandemic in several ways.
Specialty experts like Dr. Denise Jamison, M.D., chair of gynecology and Obstetrics, develop national guidelines for pregnant women with covid-19 rheumatologist Dr. Ignacio Sands and colleagues were able to identify similar activation patterns in covid-19, but they had seen in lupus, which has possible implications for survivors with recurring lung health symptoms.
Oncologists are exploring repurposing cancer drugs to help covid-19 patients battle respiratory inflammation. This is Greg Fender's, the university's president.
One of the things that Embry's is involved in and a leader is in the Phase three trials for some of the vaccines.
And we're also one of the most diverse sites of diverse patients so that we can look at the impact of this potential vaccine on African-Americans and on poor people, on people with pre-existing health conditions. And that's been a very important part of the way we've been looking at health care and how we provide quality health care, no matter who who the individual is.
We'll explore what's next for Emory University at the end of this episode. You can find out more about Emory University's covid-19 research at Emory Dot Edu. We're back with more of your insightful listener questions, Marianna Misick at Marijana Music writes, Do you actually watch friends? This is actually a question related to my book, Talking to Strangers, which had an entire chapter on friends. And in answer to the question, of course I do.
And while we're on the subject of friends, let me tell you the following true story. Now, you need to know something about me before I start. I'm not good with faces. I usually identify people by the way they walk or how they dress.
So this is years ago. I'm in a coffee shop in Miami working away. Woman sits down next to me, leans over and says, super friendly. Hey, what's that you're reading? Is that good? And I'm working. So I kind of grunt and ignore her five minutes pass and I think, you know, she was really attractive. Five more minutes pass. And I think, you know, she looked really familiar. Five more minutes pass.
And I'm like, oh, my God, Jennifer Aniston.
By that time she was gone, my big chance at tabloid immortality and I blew it. Next, Courtney Miller at CAA, Miller asks, Is Canada better than America? A question actually thought of this a lot this past summer during all the George Floyd protests, you know how police departments all have Slogan's in Los Angeles. The LAPD motto is to protect and to serve. In New York City. It's Fidelis Ad Mortem Faithful and to Death in order. It is in my hometown in Ontario, people helping people.
Now, I don't want to read too much into the meaning of motto's, but if you live in a society struggling with persistent problems of police violence, would you be happier with a police department that thinks of itself as a quasi military force engaged in life or death struggles, or one that chooses to self identify as people helping people? Mitch at Papa Mitchy asks, Who's smarter, you are Michael Lewis. Michael is not even close. Let's put it this way.
If you said to me, would I trade Michael's literary output for my own, would I do it? And the answer is in a heartbeat. I actually think that The Blind Side is a perfect book. I would have retired after writing that and his podcast Against the Rules, which he does for Pushkin, I might add, is so good.
This is actually a great time for me to give you my grand unified theory of Michael Lewis ready. It's that virtually every one of his books is a biblical allegory. It's why they strike such a chord.
So Liar's Poker, his book about being a young, naive college grad in the heart of a hostile Wall Street bank. That's Daniel in the Lion's Den. The Blind Side is easy. A couple rescues, a young boy literally, as he is walking alone and neglected by the side of the road. That's the Good Samaritan Flash Boys, his book about a group of people trying to clean up crooked trading on Wall Street. That's Jesus and the money changers.
My father's temple is a house of prayer. You have turned it into a nest of thieves. Moneyball, which is about a group of baseball executives finding value in a group of players others have overlooked. I mean, come on, that's Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the prostitute and the outcast he drafts onto his team. Just so you know, I once ran a story by Michael Lewis and he looked at me like I was crazy. This next one is actually more of a comment and a question from Ryan S.J 900 on iTunes.
Boring to start. I tried it just didn't interest me. Scroll through the episode titles and see for yourself. It's kind of random and nothing all too interesting. Mayor, wait, isn't it's kind of random a compliment. I live for kind of random.
Ryan dude, lighten up. OK, final question from Twitter from normal guy one what show idea that didn't make the cut was most surprising. Also, what idea ended up being different than expected? Well, it was this week. Can you play that song for us?
Is it going to be to say, oh, OK, OK, well, we'll see if this happens.
She grew up playing Celgar. Will be all around town. Dream she'd see how she held on. There's a line, but I went to Nashville when I was reporting the final episode of Season three, which may be my favorite ever analysis, per praksis Elvis. It's about the one song Elvis couldn't sing. And I arranged for a session musician to do a version of Elvis's song for me, very straightforward. So this musician, Kacey Bowles, shows up, we start talking and eventually I persuaded her to sing one of her own songs.
And it's one of the most magical moments, I think, in all of revisionist history.
Dream of chasing Hollywood Sun. She knew some distant Friday night at. We had a cigarette oh, just try. They were coming your way. As as far as she could say from those words, I never thought when I started this podcast that it would be a way of making friends, but it has anyway. I've stayed in touch with Casey and she's made some new music, including a song for kids called Dare to Be Me, which is really, really lovely.
To be dad, dad to me, dad to be a man.
Stay tuned to this feed for another bonus episode because I can't quit you, Atlanta.
But for now, this is what I'd like to leave you with Casey Bowles. Dare to be me. Happy holidays.
Everyone will never come back with dancing outside the lines of pink flamingo flying in a sky full of individuality with surgical precision. No carbon copy to my blazer. My amazing with the speed of a Ferrari I'll be. No revisionist history is produced by Mia LaBelle and Lee Mengestu with Jacob Smith, Eloise Linton, Coby Gilford and on a name.
Our editor is Julia Barton, original scoring by Louis Scarra, mastering by Flon Williams special thanks to the Pushkin crew, had a famed Carly Migliore, Maya Karnig, Maggie Taylor, Eric Sandler, Jason Gambril, Emily Rustic and of course, Lafe Jacob Weisberg and special thanks to our actors.
Àngel Nation was played by Miriam, Victoria, Simmons', Ingrid James and the narrator were all played by UNTA Yakob, who actually is a short film called Love and Submission, which you should look up.
And finally, extra special thanks to Emory University Greg vendors Ramah Amera, Robert Goddard and my mysterious behind the scenes friend Dan, who made this happen.
Oh, and will someone please buy my screenplay, please? I'm Malcolm Gladwell.
Interior Doctor's Office, Emory University Hospital DE. An elderly African-American woman sits alone in Cumming's seventy six is dressed as if for church blue dress pearls. Her hair is all gray. She's reading Brown Face, Big M.. The door opens in walks Angela Nation, reviewing a clipboard in her hand. Nurse, can you tell me when the doc can get to Angela stops. She turns to face Eden and for a long, tense moment their eyes lock. They break into peals of laughter.
You must get their laugh. Not as much as you do. Eden nods her head slowly. How is Mac? He drove to the supermarket last week, in turn left out the driveway, and he's made that term for forty years. It's time to take away his keys. He's eighty four. He's eighty four. Angela says nothing. She waits for Eden to speak again. Why did you want me to come in by myself? Dr. Bennett always had us coming together.
I know Dr. Cole did. But you stuck with me now. If my comes here after my allergies will get all worked up by his glaucoma, give him drops, which will irritate his eyes, even though he's 10 years before that becomes a problem. The cardiologist will tell him to change his diet and eat things that he's hated his entire life. And I diagnose him with early stage Alzheimer's, which will turn him from a human being into a patient.
He's 84. Eden is becoming emotional and trying her best to hide it. Angela Waits, lets her regain her composure. The two of you happy. Eden nods. How are the grandkids good, Eden nods You don't need me, not you, she escorts Eden to the door, sits back down at her desk, takes out an enormous ham sandwich and a bag of potato chips, and painstakingly places the contents of the bag chip by chip between the two slices.
Then she takes out her cell phone, takes a picture of the fortified sandwich and posts it to her Instagram. This special episode of Revisionist History was sponsored by Emory University as one of the nation's leading research universities, Emory generates discoveries that improve and save lives and make the world a better place.
Since the pandemic began, federal funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health have ramped up their support.
Interesting academic research institutions such as Emory to do what they do best help solve big challenges.
In response, Emory mobilized its discovery enterprise to safely and quickly accelerate research. Emerging as a national leader in coronavirus related research in a span of months is investigators had launched 177 studies, including more than 30 clinical trials and published more than 350 peer reviewed papers on covid-19. It's simply amazing what Emory has done in a short period of time. But there's more in the works and I've gotten a peek at what's next. Emory is developing its own vaccine and studying therapeutics as preventative agents for high risk environments like nursing homes when a covid-19 vaccine is ready.
How do we ensure the most vulnerable get it?
First, public health researcher Shirvani Patel and her colleagues have developed the covid-19 Health Equity Dashboard, which shows at risk areas and the interplay between social determinants and covid-19 epidemiologic metrics.
The county level. The public facing tool creates, disseminates and ultimately synthesizes actionable information to guide localised response to the epidemic over time. Emory's covid View is a nationwide population based study using antibody and virus tests taken at home. In June, Emory researchers Aaron Seigler and Patrick Sullivan received a grant to the study, which is designed to sample everyone, whether sick or not. The surveillance data will help public health agencies better understand how the virus is spreading to the population over time.
A huge thank you to the team at Emory University for sponsoring this special episode and for taking the time to speak with me. To find out more about Emory and its research efforts, visit Emory Dot Edu.