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Go Behind the Scenes of Soldiers of Science

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Interview: Alan Alda and Journalist Kate Rope Unearth a Hidden History of American Medicine

'It was something that was important to the development of the health of the country...'
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  • Soldiers of Science
  • 'It was something that was important to the development of the health of the country...'

About the Creator and Performer

Alan Alda, 7-time Emmy Award–winner, played Hawkeye Pierce and wrote many of the episodes on the classic TV series M * A * S * H, and appeared in continuing roles on ER, The West Wing, 30 Rock and The Blacklist. He has starred in, written and directed many films, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. His podcast Clear + Vivid has been downloaded 11 million times. His interest in science led to his hosting the award-winning PBS series Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years, on which he interviewed hundreds of scientists. Also on PBS he hosted The Human Spark, winning the 2010 Kavli Science Journalism Award, and Brains on Trial in 2013. On Broadway, he appeared as the physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED. He is the author of the play, Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie. He has won the National Science Board’s Public Service Award, the Scientific American Lifetime Achievement Award and the American Chemical Society Award for Public Service, among others. He is on the Advisory Board of the World Science Festival and is a Visiting Professor at Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

About the Creator

Kate Rope is an award-winning freelance journalist, specializing in health and family, whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, and CNN. She is author of Strong as a Mother: How to Be Happy, Healthy and (Most Importantly) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Medications During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding.

Treva Gray: A Texas mother of two who arrives at the NIH in the winter of 1969, hoping the doctors there can cure her very sick children.
Valerie & Clark Cortinez: A six-year-old child and her younger brother brought to the NIH as a last chance to cure them of a condition that will give them heart attacks before they reach adulthood.

Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz: Nobel Prize-winning biochemist who applies to the NIH during the 1960s because of the doctor’s draft. He and Alda talk about the spirit of this program, how the sudden loss of his father nearly derailed his career, and the importance of his protein-coupled receptors to the medicines we take today.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Now America’s favorite doctor, but back then just a young kid graduating from med student willing to serve but also eager to do research and answer a president’s call to service. He takes our team on a tour of the NIH labs and talks about the work being done there today during the global pandemic.
Dr. Harold Varmus: A former head of the NIH, Varmus provides the history of the NIH and how it was shaped by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He and J. Michael Bishop won a Nobel Prize in the 1989 for their work on oncogenes and their relationship to cancer.
Dr. Richard Edelson: Known for his research in Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and breakthrough treatments for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma that led to the first FDA-approved immunotherapy for cancer. His son, Ari, grew up hearing his dad tell the story of the "yellow berets."
Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner: A major objector to the Vietnam war after seeing soldiers with guns on his college campus. Studies under the famed biochemist Earl Stadtman and discovers the virus protein, the prion, which plays a critical role in the breakout of mad cow disease. He wins a Nobel Prize in 1997.
Dr. Michael Brown: An extroverted young doctor who always wanted to be "physician scientist." He forms a partnership with Dr. Joe Goldstein and both set about trying to help Treva Gray and her children. A goal that changes their lives and careers forever.
Dr. Joe Goldstein: Brown’s friend and equally brilliant colleague who ends up at the beside of the young Valerie Cortinez and her brother. Together, he and Brown become so fascinated by the case, it eventually leads them to a startling understanding of cholesterol, which earns them a Nobel Prize. Their research paves the way for the statins that millions of us take today.

Victoria Harden: First historian of the NIH who joins in the 1990s. She notes that the NIH was a tremendous creator of science but not so great at keeping track of its own history.
Melissa Klein: A college intern at the NIH, one summer she works for Harden. It’s she who discovers the lost history of the Soldiers of Science in documents tucked away in a basement. Comparing it to the famously influence PayPal mafia of Silicon Valley, Klein concludes the innovation in health and medical treatments we’ve experienced over the last 50 years may not have happened as quickly had this group of medical doctors not been together at the NIH during the Vietnam war. But how the program also limited the medical and research careers of women and persons of color who were largely not able to take advantage of this program.
Pierre Azoulay: A professor at the MIT Sloan School of Mangement who studies biomedial innovation. He used the early research of Melissa Klein to study the long-tail impact on the doctors and the medical industry. He studied how the Soldiers of Science program continues to pay it forward and whether it’s something we could ever do again.

Highlights from Alan Alda's conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci at the 92Y about Soldiers of Science

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What listeners say about Soldiers of Science

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This was sooooo good.

I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful production. Alan Alda is a wonderful narrator, and the story was amazing. I’m grateful for the soldiers of science and for being an American. One of my favorite lines was from the doctor who was absolutely opposed to the war, who protested at the time, and expressed his gratitude to have the right to do so. Amen.

10 people found this helpful

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Very worth your time

This is the second book in the story of the history great minds coming together by the needs of their time creating what we now know as modern medicine.
It’s in times of crisis, and collegial progress is the expectation, that’s where great leaps are made.

10 people found this helpful

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Remarkably important history!

This is a very compelling story of some of the most important medical breakthroughs of our country. All because of the perfect storm created by the Vietnam War!

5 people found this helpful

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Incredible history to learn at age 55!!!

I wonder how things might have turned out differently had this been a part of our history books...seems we've done a complete 180- and it's sad...BUT HERE IS THE STORY OF WHO AMERICANS WERE AND WHO WE CAN STILL BE. As said in the last episode...we MUST "look inward" vs. a Peace Corps that does good in other countries. Let's get one who looks at areas of our own country, and does good things! Awesome podcast. I HOPE that AUDIBLE will allow other podcast programs to share this. That would be a great start!!!

5 people found this helpful

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Incredible history everyone should know!

I found this amazing 4-part podcast very informative and captivating--especially given the pandemic we are still living through as it has given me hope beyond the vaccines that we could confront future global medical challenges.. I wish those who rely on the incredible discoveries from medical science but do not choose to acknowledge how fortunate our world is to have had the National Health Institute established and funded by our government for the good of all humankind. I support not only continued funding of this invaluable research establishment, but a draft of some sort that would lead the most brilliant amongst us to find their way to serve in this selfish endeavor.

5 people found this helpful

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terrible , glorifying a killer Dr Faci.

trying to save Dr Fauci's reputation by making him a hero in a book. SAD SAD SAD. TERRIBLE

4 people found this helpful

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Too Repetitive

It would have made a much more interesting podcast if it didn't keep repeating itself every 5th sentence. I stopped listening to it it became so irritating.

3 people found this helpful

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Alan Alda performs a compelling story

I love that Alan Alda lends his voice to this compelling history of how the draft led our nations best and brightest doctors to gather at the NIH and produce some of the worlds fastest and most impactful treatments and cures for humanity.

3 people found this helpful

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Research strong

Excellent series! I work in research so this was particularly close to my heart. Fascinating!

3 people found this helpful

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I had no idea!

It was so interesting to hear about the relatively little-known chapter of history, and it was inspiring to learn of this amazing flower that grew out of the cracks of a tumultuous and divided time. A very timely take. We could learn much from the story of the Yellow Berets.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Charles Pooter
  • 12-24-20

great podcast

a fabulous and timely podcast, talking about medicine and service. A nice sky wink to Alan Alda's famous series, as well as a great chat with Anthony Fauci. I was so happy to download this podcast, even if Audible is experiencing issues in sequencing - it would have been better if the chapters were numbered, so I could cobble the correct order together.

2 people found this helpful

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  • BrianP
  • 01-28-21

Brilliant untold story of medical pioneers

This is a fascinating untold story of the huge medical advances made by a group of doctors who volunteered to do medical research instead of being drafted to Vietnam, including Dr Anthony Fauci. Millions of lives were altered for the better by their work, including my own, since one of the treatments they pioneered was the treatment for high cholesterol. Alan Alda hosts the piece very enthusiastically and respectfully.

1 person found this helpful

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  • sewcrazy
  • 01-13-21

Fantastic! I had quite a few teary moments!

Everyone if the scientists are SO humble - true greatness. The people who trusted you to help them - THANK YOU!!!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mrs. Alison Cross
  • 01-05-21

Fascinating

Always interesting to learn about 'Hidden Histories' and especially so when the effects of this group, the NIH had had such a major impact globally. Thank you for an engrossing and informative listen

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sunflower
  • 01-02-21

This ends at the america is great level....

I had hoped to encounter not only a historical but then also investigative report about research, pharma, how the system works in the US, where people pay huge sums for basic medications that around the world are cheaper, even if developed on national health service.
The NiH structure to allow collaboration in contrast to the otherwise highly rated competition would have been interesting.
I enjoyed the historical look back and learning about the beginnings and some of the truly outstanding personal.
I do not know if my expectations were wrong or of this just ended at a level that overall made this feel like a story of self elevation.

1 person found this helpful

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  • FionaStainesArt
  • 07-17-21

Amazing insight on a hidden American history.

A brilliantly informative medical history that although based in America has created a place on our planet where many of us are alive today due to the medical breakthroughs that go back to the Vietnam War. God bless them, every one of them. Amazing.

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  • Ms. C. M. Tait
  • 07-04-21

Step back in time but working for now.

This is a look back in time. But it means so much to now.
We would not be here if it was not for some of these Doctors.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Peter
  • 04-18-21

The story of the yellow berets ,the forgotten

This is a fascinating revelation regarding the young medical research graduates who to avoid the draft developed an understanding and solution to AIDs , blocked hardening arteries/ colestral and hence statins a better understanding of "T' cells and their function . Of late with the same dedicated teams of young medical graduates lead by previous yellow berets, vacinnes solution to covin-19. Four Nobel prize winners from this unsung unheralded generation .Their work resides in dusty library archives but the odd research diamond's have been developed to save millions of lives . The draft Dodgers that won many medical wars unlike the millitary and political disaster that was the long drawn out Vietnam fruitless war .

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  • Clive
  • 03-07-21

An excellent history of modern medicine

Very informative but a bit repetitive , a bit too much padding..Chapters are not numbered so guessing the order of them is trial and error.

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  • Rachet
  • 03-05-21

A very interesting and informative listen

Loved it. Makes you feel thankful to all those people involved then and now.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-30-21

Worth a listen

Really interesting and inspiring mini series. Would recommend. Great story and unique bit of history that I would have been obvious to

  • Overall
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  • david
  • 07-28-21

good from bad

Very informative the right people in the right place at the right time, did wonders for medical science. I thank them for their service

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-25-21

had to listen to for longer than 5 minutes

couldn't listen to the narrator longer than 5 minutes his voice was very irritating

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  • Lisa Robson
  • 06-26-21

Interesting

Interesting, a story that should be heard. to think of what the world would have been like without these breakthroughs.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-16-21

Alan Alda, a voice I could listen to any time

What an inspiration, thank you! I appreciate the fact I have had the chance to hear this remarkable story.
Mr Alda, you had genuine passion and respect in your voice. You gave this story more humanity than I could just reading it.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Lindy
  • 03-02-21

Great, but..

This podcast is fascinating but there is no indication of the order of the episodes.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-13-21

Topical

Story I never knew and am now telling everyone about! The interviewing is spot on and its edited so well, I never found my self distracted by anything else. It's a case of all the right people in the right place at the right time.

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  • Tex
  • 02-06-21

excellent interviews

really enjoyed Alan Alda interviewing here and the Yellow Berets who advanced medical knowledge! especially Dr. Anthony Fauci

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 02-01-21

Should be more widely spoken of

Let us hope that the team that is working now can be as innovative and compassionate.