Smart Talk: Prioritizing vaccine distribution

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy in mid-September. Once the Food and Drug Administration approves the emergency use authorizations for the vaccines entering that phase of their trial, then the distribution phase of the strategy will begin.

In anticipation of this, the Pennsylvania Department of Health released the state’s distribution plan which is organized in three phases. The expectation is that in phase one there will be limited supply of the vaccine, so the state has prioritized who should receive it first.

Zach Shamberg is the President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association and he appears on Smart Talk Monday to offer perspective on vaccinating long-term care workers and residents in nursing homes, assisted living and personal care homes.

Pennsylvania has now confirmed the General Election results, officially securing the state’s 20 electoral votes for President-Elect Joe Biden

This election was certainly one for the record books, given the uncertainties of the global pandemic and nation-wide use of mail-in ballots. Pennsylvania counties can now take a moment consider how lessons from this election can improve future elections

Lisa Schaefer is the Executive Director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) and she, along with Forrest Lehman, Director of Elections and Registration, Lycoming County, join Smart Talk to discuss how counties can partner and develop meaningful improvements for future elections.

Smart Talk: Celebrating Thanksgiving

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

Tomorrow, Americans at home and abroad will celebrate Thanksgiving, the annual national holiday featuring a traditional meal and gatherings of families and friends (during non-pandemic times).

Most Americans learned in school that the meal and holiday is modeled on a harvest feast shared between the Pilgrims and local Indians who helped them survive after arriving in the “New World.”

Pennsylvania has a unique tie to the Thanksgiving story. According to historical record, the first official Thanksgiving was celebrated in the United States in York, Pennsylvania, after the Continental Congress retreated there from Philadelphia. The event was not a meal, per se, but a moment to reflect and give thanks on successes achieved during the fight for independence. It did, however, set a precedent for the federal government’s recognition of a Thanksgiving holiday.

While that history is accepted as fact, the Thanksgiving traditions American’s observe today probably bear little resemblance to the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621. Foods are of course different and the meaning behind the national holiday has also developed over time and through regional influences.

Joining Smart Talk to share detail behind the first official Thanksgiving is Christine Cooper, Manager of Public Programs with the York County History Center.

Smart Talk is also joined by William Woys Weaver, Ph.D., culinary historian, author, ethnographer and heirloom foods preservationist who will offer anecdotes on how regional celebrations developed into what we enjoy today.

Smart Talk: Eye health from birth through adult

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

Human beings have five basic senses: touch, taste, hearing, smell, and sight.

Arguably the most valued of the senses is the sense of sight. The eye is the main organ of the visual system; a complex process that involves a reaction with light and allows for the perception of images.

At birth, an infant’s vision is still developing during the first few months of life. As we age, our vision and eyes can change, as well as becoming susceptible to disease and age-related disorders.

Maintaining eye health from birth to maturity requires an understanding of the factors that can impact the sense of sight.

Joining Smart Talk to focus attention on this topic is a panel of Penn State Eye Center experts Dr. Ajay Soni, M.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Pediatrics, Dr. Marianne Boltz, O.D., Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, an Optometrist and past President of the Pennsylvania Optometric Association, Dr. Ingrid Scott, M.D., M.P.H., Jack and Nancy Turner Professor of Ophthalmology and Professor of Public Health Sciences, and Dr. Gargi Vora, M.D., Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Corneal disease and infection specialist.


Smart Talk: Childhood vaccine rates dropped during the first half of pandemic; JFK JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

As the global community holds a collective breath in anticipation of a coronavirus vaccine, healthcare professionals are calling attention to another alarming trend.

An analysis of medical claims for childhood immunizations revealed that nearly 17,000 vaccine doses were missed during the first nine months of 2020. These vaccines are for preventable diseases like the measles, whooping cough and polio.

The drop in immunizations is causing concern among healthcare professionals because some the missed vaccines are for highly contagious diseases.

Dr. Jennifer Chambers, M.D., is the Chief Medical Officer with Capital Blue Cross and she joins Smart Talk on Monday to share their analysis.

Pulitzer Prize winner on his new book about Kennedy

Also on the Monday’s program we’re joined by Pulitzer Prize winning author Fredrik Logevall to discuss his new book JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century 1917-1956.

The book is a meticulous and fascinating story of John F. Kennedy’s life before he became president.

Smart Talk: The Extraordinary Give live broadcast events

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

Each year, the Lancaster County Community Foundation hosts The Extraordinary Give, the nation’s largest per capita one-day online fundraiser that benefits over 500 non-profit organizations.

Every dollar donated online is “stretched” by more than $500,000 from the Lancaster County Community Foundation (LCCF), along with sponsors Rodgers & Associates, the High Foundation, and other supporters. Last year’s event broke a record by raising over 10 million dollars for area non-profit organizations.

Because of the Pandemic, this year’s event will be a little different. On Friday, November 20, Lancaster will be the epicenter of the Lancaster County Community Foundation’s Extraordinary Give, while Smart Talk will host two special LIVE Virtual Watch Parties & Broadcasts at 9am and 7pm.

Listeners can now watch (and listen) as host Scott LaMar highlights the biggest per capita giving day in the nation!

The broadcasts will stream LIVE online at and broadcast LIVE on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. Register to attend one or both of the LIVE Virtual Smart Talk Watch Parties.

Appearing on the program to discuss the one-day fundraising campaign are Sam Bressi, CEO Lancaster County Community Foundation, and Tracy Cutler, Executive Vice President, Lancaster County Community Foundation.

Smart Talk will also host several area non-profits who will talk about their organizations and the impact of the fundraising event. Appearing during the 9am broadcast are Meals on Wheels Lancaster County, Mental Health America of Lancaster County, and Conservation Foundation of Lancaster County. Joining us for the 7pm broadcast are Hands Across the Street, LancasterHistory, and Mom’s House of Lancaster.

If you would like to donate visit to choose from these and over 500 organizations.

Smart Talk: School districts face tough coronavirus decisions

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 6,339 positives cases of COVID in the 24 hours ending at midnight Wednesday. Daily statewide records have been recorded often over the past two weeks.

These increasing number of positive cases is having a substantial impact in many areas of our daily lives, including at schools.

With more people testing positive and getting sick, schools and their administrators have had to make tough decisions on whether to hold in-person classes for their students, have a hybrid combination of in-person and virtual or go all on line.

On Thursday’s Smart Talk, we’ll study how those decisions are made with guests Chambersburg Area School District Superintendent Dion Betts and Chris Lilienthal, Assistant Director of Communications, Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Pennsylvania’s plan to spend stimulus money denied by the Federal Government

Also on the program, the federal government says Pennsylvania cannot use $300 million intended for COVID relief in a plan to offset school property taxes.

Spotlight PA reporter Ed Mahon joins us with details and discuss the looming budget deadline.



Smart Talk: Diane Rehm discusses physician aided end-of-life

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

Diane Rehm hosted one of the nation’s most popular radio talk shows up until her retirement in 2016. It was a program that was heard here on WITF every day.

Two years before her retirement, Rehm’s husband John died when he refused sustenance, because he didn’t want to live with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease.

Since then, Diane Rehm has been one of the most outspoken advocates for the terminally ill being legally able to end their lives with the aid of a physician or right-to-die.

Her new book, When My Time Comes – Conversations About Whether Those Who Are Dying Should Have the Right to Determine When Life Should End includes dozens of conversations about the issue.

On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, we speak with Diane Rehm about the book and right-to-die.

Smart Talk: State of children in Pa.

In Pennsylvania, investigations show there are more cases of child neglect than of abuse; almost 25,000 kids are in foster care and about a third are hard-to-place older teenagers; 128,000 children aren’t covered by health insurance, and most of them live in rural areas.

African-American, Hispanic and mixed-race children face even tougher challenges.

Those are all findings of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children 2020 State of Child Welfare and State of Child Healthcare reports.

Tuesday’s Smart Talk digs deeper into the issues facing many Pennsylvania children and families.

Our guests include Kari King, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Pennsylvania Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman.

For Pennsylvanians looking for insurance options, refer to to discern the details among programs and find one that works for you.

Smart Talk: Viral immunity; is the immune system the key to the COVID puzzle?

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

The fall COVID-19 surge has arrived as predicted, and healthcare experts have learned a lot about the virus since the pandemic began. Outbreaks can happen anywhere and COVID-19 can sicken and kill anyone.

It has also been determined that certain pre-existing medical conditions can put a person at higher risk. But other factors for how sick you could become are often more difficult to quantify because that may be determined by your own immune response.

How does a person’s unique immune response protect them from or make them more susceptible to the Coronavirus? Appearing on Smart Talk Monday to discuss immunity and COVID-19 is Dr. Anita McElroy, MD, Ph.D., Center for Vaccine Research, University of Pittsburgh.

FDA Commissioner Hahn on Smart Talk — The race to develop a coronavirus vaccine is happening at an unprecedented speed

The U.S. Government initiated a public-private partnership called Operation Warp Speed to accelerate, manufacture and distribute vaccines faster than any other time in history.

It is an unprecedented strategy that has been called one of the “most ambitious scientific endeavors in modern U.S. history.”

How will we know that a fast-tracked vaccine is safe? Appearing on Smart Talk Monday to detail the rigorous vaccine process is FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

Vaccines raise hope of strong economic recovery

Pfizer reported last week that their early testing data is showing more than a 90% effective rate in the vaccine trial.

This big news was met with a stock market surge and great enthusiasm by industry followers and global leaders, all betting on a vaccine distribution before 2021. A second COVID-19 vaccine made news today. The biotech company Moderna, Inc., reports their experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing disease, according to a data analysis of its clinical trial.

The news is encouraging and is positive for U.S. economic growth in the short run. Gus Faucher is the Chief Economist with PNC Financial Services Group and he appears on Smart Talk to share insights for a U.S. recovery.

Smart Talk: Quantum Computing; the race is on!

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

The world is on the precipice of major discoveries in quantum computing and it is nothing short of a game changer. The development of this technology will change the world in many ways: how we do business, medical research, managing and safeguarding data, exploring space and even understanding and predicting climate change.

Quantum computing involves an entirely new area of physics and it is so important that many cannot predict how dramatically these developments will change our lives.

Google announced last year that they achieved quantum supremacy in an article published in the scientific journal Nature. Google says that its 54-qubit Sycamore processor performed a calculation in 200-seconds that would have taken the world’s most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years.

Investing in this rapidly developing field involves big industry players and nation states. The race is on and it has been compared to the space-race in the 1960’s.

Appearing on Smart Talk to help distill this very complicated topic is Terrill L. Frantz, Ph.D., Ed.D., Associate Professor at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Experiences on the gridiron set the stage for new Paterno novel

On Friday’s Smart Talk — former Penn State assistant football coach, son of legendary coach Joe Paterno and member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, Jay Paterno has written a novel about a major college football coach under pressure to win.

The book is called Hot Seat — A Year Inside College Football’s Pressure Cooker.

Some of the fictional stories come from real life experiences Paterno witnessed or was aware of.

We’ll also talk with Paterno about Penn State and the coronavirus. The number of cases has increased significantly since students returned to school.