Top of page
Skip to main content
Main content

Maryn McKennaSenior Fellow in Health Narrative and Communication

Biography

Maryn McKenna is an independent journalist specializing in public health, global health and food policy. She is a contributor to WIRED and writes for The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, National Geographic, Mother Jones, Newsweek, NPR, Smithsonian, Scientific American, Slate, The Atlantic, Nature, and The Guardian, among other publications. She is the author of BIG CHICKEN: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats, which received the 2018 Science in Society Award and was named a best book of 2017 by Amazon, Smithsonian, Science News, Wired, Civil Eats, and other publications, as well as the award-winning books Superbug and Beating Back the Devil.

She appears in the 2019 documentary Resistance Fighters, which won top prizes at the Vancouver and Paris film festivals, and the 2014 U.S. documentary Resistance. Her 2015 TED Talk, "What do we do when antibiotics don't work any more?" has been viewed 1.9 million times and translated into 34 languages. She has received the 2019 AAAS-Kavli Gold Award for magazine writing, the 2019 John P. McGovern Award for Excellence in Biomedical Communication, the 2014 Leadership Award of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, and the 2013 Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences

Ms. McKenna is a Senior Fellow in the Center for the Study of Human Health, where she teaches classes in writing and podcasting, gives workshops in narrative strategy and storytelling, and presents the Author Q&A Series of interviews with prominent authors of new health-related books. She is interested in how narrative technique can enhance science communication, and in how the way we choose to tell stories about health can impart knowledge and inspire compassion.

Education

  • BA, Georgetown University 
  • MS, Northwestern University 
  • Post-graduate academic-year fellowships: University of Michigan, MIT 

Expertise

  • Public health
  • Global health
  • Emerging infections
  • Antibiotic discovery and development
  • Food policy
  • Storytelling
  • Narrative
  • Science communication

Selected Recent Publications

  • “The Pandemic Can’t End While Wealthy Nations Hoard Shots,” WIRED, March 2021
  • “Vaccines Are Here. We Have to Talk About Side Effects,” WIRED, December 2020
  • “Winning Trust for a Vaccine Means Confronting Medical Racism,” WIRED, November 2020
  • “In the US, 50 States Could Mean 50 Vaccine Rollout Strategies,” WIRED, October 2020
  • “Coffee Rust is Going to Ruin Your Morning,” The Atlantic, September 2020
  • “In the Fight against Infectious Disease, Social Changes Are the New Medicine,” Scientific American, September 2020
  • “The antibiotic paradox: why companies can’t afford to create life-saving drugs,” Nature, August 2020
  • “Racing the clock to stop drug-resistant superbugs,” The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, August 2020
  • “The Virus Hunters,” Smithsonian, July 2020
  • “The Plague Years: How the rise of right-wing nationalism is jeopardizing the world's health,” The New Republic, April 2019

Recent Appearances and Lectures

May 2021
  • Workshop: Telling a Story About Your Science, NSF Center for Selective C–H Functionalization (CCHF), Department of Chemistry, Emory University
  • Course guest lecture: Epidemiology for Journalists, McGill School of Population and Global Health
April 2021
  • Panel convener and moderator: “Facing the ‘infodemic:’ How journalists covering COVID-19 can fight mis/disinformation,” International Symposium on Online Journalism
  • Emory CSHH Author Q&A Series with Chelsea Ward
March 2021
  • Course guest lecture: Health Security, Emerging Infections, and Outbreak Response, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
  • MOOC designer and chief instructor: Covering the Covid-19 vaccines: What journalists need to know, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin, UNESCO, WHO, UNDP
  • Emory CSHH Author Q&A Series with Perri Klass MD, NYU
  • Webinar convener and moderator: “Vaccine Real Talk,” Atlanta Science Festival 2021, co-sponsored with Emory University
  • Conference keynote speaker: ComSciCon Atlanta 2021, ComSciCon and Emory University
  • Course guest lecture: Pandemics and Plagues, NYU Arts & Science Department of English
  • Course guest lecture: Chemical Breakthroughs in the Age of Social Media, Emory University Department of Chemistry
  • Course guest lecture: Food, Health and Society, Emory University Department of Anthropology and Center for the Study of Human Health
February 2021
  • Conference speaker: “Anticipating Challenges in Reporting Changing Science and Potential Events,” Reporting on COVID-19 Vaccines at the Intersection of Science and Politics, conference, National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering
  • Speaker: “Changing Course,” WorldOregon 2021 International Speaker Series
  • Gadget Lab podcast, WIRED
  • The Open Mind podcast, PBS
January 2021
  • Webinar designer and moderator: Covering the Covid-19 Vaccines: What journalists need to know, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas, Knight Foundation, UNESCO, WHO, UNDP 
  • Webinar speaker: “Is there a Fix for Media Malpractice Covering Vaccine News?,” Earth Institute, Columbia University
December 2020
  • Science Friday, NPR
November 2020
  • Newstalk IRE radio, Dublin
  • Course guest lecture: Plagues and People, Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma 
  • Webinar speaker: Journalism Summit on Infectious Diseases, Association of Health Care Journalists webinar, interviewing Francis Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health
  • Emory CSHH Author Q&A Series with Emory Willingham, PhD
  • Wisconsin Public Radio, WPR
October 2020
  • Speaker: International Conference on Clinical Metagenomics
  • Emory CSHH Author Q&A Series with Emily Anthes
September 2020
  • Speaker: “Public Notice: Disease Detectives, Media and the Transformation of Poultry”,” InFORM 2020 conference, Association of Public Health Laboratories
  • The Big Story, podcast
  • Webinar speaker: Preventing the Next Pandemic, Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, McMaster University
  • Speaker: National STD Prevention Conference 2020
  • Emory CSHH Author Q&A Series with Debora MacKenzie
July 2020
  • Webinar speaker: “Pursuing ‘Infodemic’ Immunity,” Sustain What, Columbia University Earth Institute
  • Webinar moderator and speaker: "The Learning Curve: Public health experts on lessons from Covid-19 response in Asia and the US," The East West Center, Honolulu, HI
June 2020
  • Georgia Now podcast
  • BYU radio
May 2020
  • MOOC designer and chief instructor: Journalism in a pandemic: Covering Covid-19 now and in the future, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin, UNESCO, WHO, UNDP
April 2020
  • Webinar speaker: "Science Communication in the Time of Coronavirus," Duke University Initiative for Science and Society
March 2020
  • Webinar speaker: “Meat, antibiotics, and the power of consumer pressure,” Food Literacy for All, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
February 2020
  • Plenary speaker: "The Second Antibiotic Era," AAAS 2020, American Association for the Advancement of Science
January 2020
  • Speaker: “The global threat of antibiotic resistance,” i3, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico