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Public Health Behind the Scenes is a podcast featuring stories and public health perspectives on the issues that affect our lives.

The show was created and produced by:

Naya Villarreal, Program Coordinator, Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Jessica Southwell, Practice & Policy Analyst, North Carolina Institute for Public Health, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Jennie Saia, Public Communications Specialist, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Branson Moore, Web Communications Specialist, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Natalie Smith, Master of Science student, Department of Biostatistics, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Sound support provided by Ben Davis and Gillings School IIS

Visual identity created by Ross Pike


Jessica Southwell

My family and I moved to Chapel Hill from St. Paul, Minnesota a few years ago and quickly fell in love with the charm of the area. (It also helped to have family nearby in Kernersville and Leland and to be in an area with great schools and places to work.) Outside of work, you’ll find me chasing after our toddler, helping to manage our son’s soccer team, volunteering at his elementary school, walking our retired racing greyhound Trinket or exploring new places to eat or movies to see with my husband, Brian. My favorite podcasts include (of course) Serial, 99% Invisible, This American Life, Elise Gets Crafty, Song Exploder, The Longest Shortest Time and Question of the Day. My favorite radio show (which also happens to have a podcast) is The Measure of Everyday Life, airing Sunday nights at 6:30 Eastern on WNCU.



Naya Villarrealnaya-bw2

My wife and I moved from Boston, MA to North Carolina a few years ago so she could pursue her master’s degree at UNC-Chapel Hill.  We liked the area so much we decided to make Durham our permanent home. Carolina winters are much nicer than New England winters, but I will always be a Southern California girl at heart. (You can’t beat 60s and sunny in the winter.) When I’m not at work, you’ll likely find me at home playing with our two cats, working in the yard, hanging out with a bunch of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have settled in the area (Bolivia was our country of service) or exploring all the hidden gems (and not so hidden gems) for eating in Durham. My favorite podcasts include Serial (Jessica and I bonded over this one), This American Life, Men In Blazers, The Bill Simmons Podcast, Undisclosed: The State Vs. Adnan Syed and FRONTLINE: Audiocast.



jennieJennie Saia

I’m a North Carolina native on track to be a two-time UNC graduate. Professionally, I’m into telling stories that matter through writing, photography and digital media. Personally, I’m into books and playing outside with my three dogs. I live in Durham with my husband, and we spend a lot of time exploring the local food scene and picking out terrible movies to make fun of. My interest in public health stems from living abroad in rural Mexico and from a former job where I advocated for global reproductive rights. A few of my favorite podcasts are The Moth, Radiolab and – of course – Public Health Behind the Scenes.




DSC_6588Natalie Smith

I moved to Chapel Hill from West Lafayette, IN in 2015 to begin a master’s degree in biostatistics at the Gillings School. Coming from Indiana (after growing up in Pittsburgh) means I’m very excited for the winters here! I had the great fortune to meet Jessica and Naya during the first couple weeks of school and somehow stumbled into working on this podcast. When I’m not in classes or doing homework, I love to grocery shop, cook and eat, work out with yoga or soccer or explore the vibrant Chapel Hill area with friends. I listen to podcasts on my walk to and from school each day, and my favorites are Freakonomics, The Splendid Table, Good Food, Things Cooks Know, What’s The Point, This American Life and Question of the Day.


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The North Carolina Institute for Public Health puts public health in action. Our mission is to deliver training, conduct research and provide technical assistance to transform the practice of public health for all. We do this through training and education, collaborating on technical assistance, research and evaluation projects, translating research to practice, publishing and presenting scholarly practice-based work and providing opportunities for students, faculty, staff and partners to engage in practice and service together. At UNC Gillings we work collaboratively with local and regional partners and around the world to seek transformative solutions to improve global health. As part of these efforts, UNC’s Gillings Global GatewayTM promotes and advances the School’s global health activities in research, service and teaching through partnerships, internships, outreach and communications.