A new UCLA-produced podcast is giving listeners new ways to think about the sometimes unexpected ways that health and wellness influence and affect everyday life. It even offers a unique peek into the backgrounds and outside interests of the UCLA experts being interviewed about their work.
Hosted by Dr. Wendelin Slusser, the LiveWell podcast, in its first two episodes, presented interviews with UCLA faculty on topics as varied as why we crave baked goods instead of fruits and veggies when we’re stressed out, and the evolutionary benefit of music.
In the third episode, which went online today, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, a UCLA distinguished professor of health policy and management, talks about the most critical public health crises facing our planet.
Slusser is associate vice provost for the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center at UCLA, which was envisioned and is supported by philanthropists Jane and Terry Semel. Slusser and Meagan Wang, a graduate student researcher at the Semel HCI who manages the podcast, spoke about how they hope the episodes will inspire listeners and reveal some of the hidden expertise on UCLA’s campus.
Apart from the broader goals of the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative, what are your specific objectives for the LiveWell podcast?
Wendy Slusser: To create engagement in health and well-being, celebrate the great minds and the work being done on our campus, inspire people to think about health in different ways, and educate our listeners on the many ways that health and well-being are intertwined with our daily lives.
For example, Dr. Bob Bilder, who I interviewed for our first episode, is a neuroscientist who does research on creativity, and he happens to also be a musician; he’s super interested in the origins of music. He has this incredible knowledge about the relationship between music and the brain, and it’s not even something he writes about. So I love to be able to amplify that hidden expertise and expose other people to this person who’s so knowledgeable about something that is outside of his work in the academic setting.
The subject matter would appeal to just about anyone with an interest in health and wellness. But who are your most important audiences?
Meagan Wang: Our initial audience is students, staff and faculty here at UCLA. But the chance to open our doors, as a public university, and make the content accessible to the public — to greater Los Angeles, but also outside of Los Angeles and even internationally — is really the long-term goal.
Why did you decide to add a podcast to the other mediums you’re using to get the word out about these topics?
Wang: Because it’s such a popular and accessible way for people — especially students — to receive the material. Anyone can listen while they’re on their commute or on their way to class. Also, the format allows for conversations to unfold naturally, so when the discussion deviates from the notes we’ve prepared in advance, we get insights we couldn’t have captured in written form.
And it will end up creating this timeless library of recorded interviews, which we think will be valuable.
What about the podcast makes it a distinctly UCLA production?
Slusser: It reflects the transformation UCLA is taking on in looking at health much more holistically. We’re not just focusing on diseases or defining “health” as the absence of disease and infirmity, but rather as social, physical and emotional well-being, a definition the World Health Organization proposed way back in 1948.
So this is an opportunity to share stories from thinkers and doers on our campus who can expose everyone to that philosophy.
How are you choosing your guests? Are you interviewing only UCLA faculty members or will you talk with others on and off campus?
Slusser: For upcoming episodes that we haven’t posted yet, I’ve already interviewed students and staff, too. We started by reaching out to people who we were already familiar with — some through their connections with the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative. But we’re very open to suggestions and to interviewing other people with connections to UCLA, including alumni and emeriti. And, depending on the subject matter, we’re open to speaking with non-UCLA experts from around the world who are on campus for meetings or events.
Finally, I have to ask: Have you heard from Blue Apron or ZipRecruiter about sponsorships yet?
Slusser: No! But maybe those are the calls I’ve been getting that I haven’t answered.