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"Petrie Dish" Highlights For Radio/Podcast Category | 2021 Scripps Howard Awards


The following is a selection of three "Petrie Dish" episodes for your consideration in the radio/podcast category. Please click on the bolded links to listen to audio and to see the full online presentation for each story.

'Why Can't I Breathe?' How Systemic Racism Makes COVID-19 Worse For Communities Of Color | July 14, 2020

COVID-19 has exposed all Americans to increased risk, even while doing the most mundane things: shopping at the grocery store, going to work, and taking walks. But it’s also exposed how communities of color are largely defenseless in the fight against an enemy that does not discriminate, but rather reveals to us our own discrimination.

This program explores the complex challenges faced by three different communities during the pandemic and how residents of color are coping with disparities in resources and healthcare.

The first segment features a resource-poor community in deep South Texas, where residents struggle to pay for health insurance. This leads to morbidities that make the predominantly Latino population more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The second segment takes us to the Navajo Nation. Journalist Pauly Denetclaw guides us through her home of McKinley County — which, at one point in the pandemic — led the nation in the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita early in the pandemic. She describes the virus' impact on the community and gives examples on how the lack of resources (everything from water to wi-fi) makes them more vulnerable.

Executive producer Fernanda Camarena reached out to a community of Indigenous reporters for this show and was connected with Pauly, who started collecting tape and reported this story exclusively for “Petrie Dish.”

Lucy Huang, a freelance health and science journalist, took on the topic of racial bias in healthcare through the lens of living history in New York City. She starts with the removed statue of Dr. James Marion Sims in Central Park. Sims, the inventor of the vaginal speculum, was hailed as a Father of Modern Gynecology for more than a century — but developed his treatments by experimenting on enslaved Black women without anesthesia.

Author and Columbia University bioethics professor Harriet A. Washington points to studies showing how racial stereotypes unconsciously come into play for both the patient and provider. Washington, herself a Black woman, explains the misleading notion that “Black people don't feel pain as much as whites do.”

These assumptions lead to real consequences, especially in the early days of the pandemic. Home health nurse Mia Mungin and her sister Zoe, both Black women, contracted COVID-19 before tests became readily available. After tense exchanges with 9-1-1 paramedics and transfers to three different hospitals, Zoe died on April 27, 2020. Mia believes that she wasn’t treated on time because first responders thought she was panicking instead of showing critical symptoms.

'It's Nonstop' — Texas Reaches 1 Million COVID-19 Cases And 20,000 Deaths | July 14, 2020 | November 16, 2020

In November 2020, Texas became the first state in the country to confirm 1 million coronavirus cases. Surges in El Paso, Amarillo and Lubbock pushed the total case count over the grim milestone. At this point, the state had already seen about 20,000 deaths. How did Texas get here, and what lies ahead?

Overwhelmed And Understaffed: Rural Hospitals Struggle With Texas' Worst COVID-19 Surge | December 21, 2020

As 2020 drew to a close, Texas hospitals struggled under the weight of the state's worst COVID-19 surge yet. In December, the state saw consecutive single-day records for the first, second and third most confirmed daily cases. Rural parts of Texas were hit especially hard. "Petrie Dish" takes us to meet healthcare workers in these communities.


1) Click here to read a letter of support from UT Health San Antonio's Cindy Sickora

2) Click here to read a letter of support from NPR's Bruce Auster

3) Click here to read a letter of support from The Texas Newsroom's Mark Memmott

4) The audiogram below exhibits the "Petrie Dish" podcast's presence on Texas Public Radio's social media platforms and the station's inventive use of audio and visuals to enhance the insight captured in interviews.