Smart Talk Virtual Watch Party: Focus on Career & Tech Education

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 Watch Party streams LIVE on WITF’s YouTube channel and broadcasts LIVE on WITF 89.5 & 93.3 on Thursday, February 25 beginning at 9am.

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One year ago, Smart Talk hosted the last road trip before the pandemic shut down outside productions. The topic involved Career and Technical Education, with schools and students highlighting the need for skilled workers in Pennsylvania.

The highlight of the show and conversation was how both schools and students were preparing for the future by focusing on strong academic, technical and real-world skills. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all path for high school graduates, and adults, seeking continuing education opportunities.

A year later, how has the pandemic impacted students and educators? What has changed for their plans, now that the needs of the community require certain fields as essential to the work force? And how can the Pennsylvania Department of Education and schools set the conditions for students to succeed in STEM fields?

Guests for the show (by order of appearance):

  • Judd Pittman, Special Consultant to the Secretary of Education for STEM
  • Tom Palisin, Executive Director, Manufacturers Association (York)
  • Megan L. Brightbill, D.H.Sc., HACC Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, School of Health Sciences, and Associate Professor of Dental Hygiene
  • Karen Pflugh, Ed.D., Administrative Director at Dauphin County Technical School, a member of the TechLink Consortium
  • Jeff Remington, National STEM Teacher Ambassador


Smart Talk: Shining a light on mental health and youth suicide

National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline 1-800-950-6264

It has been a stressful year — a global pandemic, COVID deaths, economic turmoil, the list goes on.

Coping with stress — especially for children and young adults, can be difficult. Over time, the impact to one’s physical and mental health can be significant. Conditions like depression and anxiety don’t get better under these circumstances; they are exacerbated and problems can seem insurmountable.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 25 percent of 18-24 year olds had seriously considered suicide compared to 11 percent in 2018.

Complete statistics for suicides in 2020 aren’t available but anecdotally, hospital emergency departments and coroners say they have seen an increase in suicide attempts. Those that suffered from underlying mental health illnesses or conditions before the pandemic at at risk now because their treatments may have been disrupted or stopped.

Wednesday’s Smart Talk focuses on suicide during the pandemic.

Appearing on the program are Perri Rosen, Ph.D., consulting Psychologist with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) in the Bureau of Children’s Behavioral Services. Joining her are Matthew Wintersteen, Ph.D., Executive Board member with Prevent Suicide PA and Christine Michaels, CEO National Alliance on Mental Illness Keystone Pennsylvania.

From Prevent Suicide PA:

What to do if you suspect someone is suicidal:
• Talk to them alone in a private setting
• Ask them if they are thinking of killing themselves or are suicidal
• Ask them if they have a plan
If the answer is yes, call your local County Crisis Team or take them to the Emergency Room RIGHT AWAY and DON’T leave them alone. If the answer is no, make an appointment for them to see a mental health professional, i.e., therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or doctor as soon as possible, and ask them how you can help them. Also, find out who is in their support system (family, friends, co-workers, etc.) and let them know to try and help. Ask them to make an agreement with you that they will not hurt themselves before they get help, or that they will contact you if they feel they are in crisis, or feeling worse.

Warning Signs
• Talking about suicide, wanting to die, kill oneself
• Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
• Talking about feeling worthless, hopeless, or having no reason to live
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Suddenly happier and calmer, especially after a period of depression or sadness
• Giving away prized possessions
• Getting affairs in order, making arrangements
• Increasing alcohol or drug use
• Preoccupation with death
• Acting anxiously or agitated; behaving recklessly.
• Sleeping too little or too much.
• Withdrawal from or changing in social connections/situations
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
• Displaying extreme mood swings.
• Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
• Recent increased agitation or irritability

Risk Factors
• Diagnosis of Depression
• Previous suicide attempt
• Family history of suicide
• Loss of job, home, money
• Death or terminal illness of a loved one
• Divorce or loss of major, significant relationship
• Loss of health, either real or imagined
• Someone close to the person has completed suicide
• Recent disappointment or rejection
• Being expelled from school/fired from job
• Sudden loss of freedom/fear of punishment
• Victim of assault or bullying
• Questioning gender

In Crisis? Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Smart Talk: The rise of telehealth to meet COVID-era challenges

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 expansion of telehealth, or remote clinical care, has increased by more than 150 percent since 2019. This is due in large part to pandemic-related policy changes, along with public necessity.

Joining Smart Talk Tuesday to break down the issues are Warren Kampf, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania Senior Vice President, Advocacy and External Affairs, along with Dr. Hal Baker, MD, WellSpan Health Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Information Officer.

Mobile applications reach people where they are

There’s an app for everything, it seems, and on average mobile users in the U.S. have at least 20 they use regularly. The majority of Americans have cell phones and nearly three-quarters of the population own a tablet or computer, so health providers are finding opportunities to reach people where they are — on their devices.

Capital Blue Cross recently launched NeuroFlow, a self-guided mobile app that focuses specifically on mental health wellness. Dr. Jennifer Chambers, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Capital Blue Cross, appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss the focus of the application.

Advocates push a plan to protect the Amazon

A bipartisan group of seven former U.S. cabinet secretaries and climate change negotiators have organized to produce a first-ever Amazon Protection Plan.

The plan is a set of policy recommendations they say will protect the Amazon, and mitigate climate change. The plan, though, comes with a big price tag.

Monica de Bolle, Ph.D., a Brazilian-born economist and professor at John Hopkins University joins Smart Talk Tuesday to outline the recommendations.

Smart Talk: Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s role is to advocate for the interests of older Pennsylvanians and because the pandemic has put this vulnerable population in its crosshairs, that job is much more complicated and important.

Aging Pennsylvanians are facing a myriad of stressors: Higher COVID risk, difficulty accessing vaccines, and social isolation have changed their landscape and lifestyle for the foreseeable future.

What can be done to improve support for older Pennsylvanians during this critical time? The Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Robert Torres will join Smart Talk Monday to discuss this, along with community based solutions.

Contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health hotline with vaccine and COVID questions: 1-877-724-3258

– Find help from your local county aging agency. Find your local area agency on aging here or by calling: 717-783-1550

– PACE Card holders can contact: 1-800-225-7223

– PA Link (Pennsylvania Link to Aging and Disability Resource Center): 1-800-753-8827

Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Pennsylvania

America’s dependence on fossil fuels is a complicated and hotly debated topic. PennFuture published their third in a series of reports looking into one of the lesser-known factors keeping the country tethered to non-renewable energy: fossil fuel subsidies.

It is estimated that Pennsylvania alone subsidized the fossil fuel industry $3.8 billion dollars in 2019. Emily Persico, report author and Policy Analyst for PennFuture, points out the difficulty collating the information because subsidies are, in part, “buried out of sight and difficult to disentangle.” Persico appears on Smart Talk Monday to analyze the complicated web of revenue and tax credits subsidizing the industry.

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.”

Women around the country are experiencing the economic impact of COVID at a rate substantially higher than men.

This is due in large part to the shortage or absence of childcare, forcing women to make a choice between working or caring for their families. Also, women are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs, which is especially problematic if they are the sole earner in the family.

This is one of the topics that will be addressed on Mentoring Monday, an annual women’s networking event that seeks to connect women.

Cate Barron, is the President of PA Media Group who own and publish The Patriot News and the digital PennLive, and she joins Smart Talk Friday to share details of the women’s networking event. Also on Smart Talk Friday is former CNN correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Sara Ganim who will deliver the keynote on the economic impact on women.

42 Today: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy

Jackie Robinson is remembered as the African-American who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947 when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson not only became a sports hero, but he used also his status as a pioneer to blaze a trail for other Black Americans in all walks of life and became a civil rights icon.

Michael G. Long has written several books on Robinson, civil rights and nonviolent protests. Long discusses his latest book on Friday’s Smart Talk, 42 Today: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy.

What is causing gas prices to rise?

Gas prices are rising. In Pennsylvania, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.87 — that’s up 19 cents from last month and 21 cents from this time last year.

What’s driving the price increases and what will prices do in the coming weeks?

Smart Talk is joined by Patrick De Haan Head of Petroleum Analysis, Fuel Insights.

Smart Talk: COVID-19 and the heart

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.”

February is Heart Health month and typically a time to investigate new treatments and approaches to heart disease. This year, however, COVID is top of mind and impacting heart health in ways few would have predicted.

The American Heart Association highlights a number of studies suggesting that some COVID-19 survivors may experience some type of heart damage, even if they didn’t have underlying heart disease and weren’t sick enough to be hospitalized for COVID. This understanding has health care experts worried about a potential increase in heart failure.

Their concern also has to do with the fact that many people have avoided going to the doctor over the past year due to COVID concerns. Their reluctance has the potential for long term health impact.

Dr. Rhondalyn McLean, MD., is a Cardiologist and the Medical Director for Heart Transplantation with Penn Medicine and she joins Smart Talk to discuss what is now known about COVID and the heart.


Smart Talk: Term limits for elected officials

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.”

Over the years, there have been many suggestions on ways to reform the state and federal governments — to make members of Congress and state legislators more responsive to their constituents.

Term limits for elected officials is often cited as one such change that could make a difference.

The organization U.S. Terms Limits has campaigned for and actually helped to enact term limits in some states.

The organization says “term limits provide fresh faces with fresh ideas to elected office. They reduce lobbyist and special interest influence and make room in Congress for the citizen legislator.”

Wednesday’s Smart Talk focuses on term limits for lawmakers.

Appearing on the program are Mike Riley, Legislative Advocate, U.S. Term Limits, Ken Quinn, Northern Regional Director, U.S. Term Limits and Republican state Representative Ryan MacKenzie serving parts of Lehigh and Berks Counties.

THE GENE Screening Event Explores the Genetic Revolution

Join WITF-TV for a free documentary screening and panel discussion around THE GENE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY, Wednesday, February 17 at 7pm. Powerful personal stories and breakthroughs reveal the historical search for the human genome and the promise of modern research.

Based on Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s best-seller on how genes impact heredity, disease and behavior and presented by Ken Burns. An event panelist, James Broach, Ph.D., Director, Penn State Institute for Personalized Medicine, joins Smart Talk to discuss how the evolution of gene science has revolutionized medicine.

Smart Talk: COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force to tackle distribution challenges

The Wolf administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Health are in the spotlight for what has been called a “frustrating” vaccine rollout. The system put in place to find and deliver vaccines to eligible populations is considered patchwork, at best.

One administration response to the criticism is to create a COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force with the Pennsylvania Legislature. The goal of the task force is to improve communications based on what the lawmakers are seeing and hearing in their communities about vaccine issues. Then, circle back to the administration with solutions and recommendations.

Republican state Senator Ryan Aument of Lancaster County is assigned to the Joint Task Force and he joins Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss the plan.

Democrats demanding accountability

The Pennsylvania Democratic legislative caucus is renewing calls for Republican accountability for members involved in January’s Capital Hill riot. The Caucus’ position is that Republican leadership in the Pennsylvania legislature made no move to condemn or discipline their members who participated or elevated election fraud rhetoric.

Democratic state Representative Jordan Harris of Philadelphia County appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to detail what the Caucus expects as a response.

Healthcare affordability in Pennsylvania top concern during COVID-19 pandemic

A new state-wide poll conducted to gauge the affordability of healthcare in Pennsylvania found that more than half of respondents struggled to afford healthcare in the past year. Paying for future treatment is a big worry for most, as well.

Antoinette Kraus, founding director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) will join Smart Talk Tuesday to release the survey’s findings.



Smart Talk: President’s Day and a look at the personal side of America’s highest office

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.”

President’s Day is a federal holiday that falls on the third Monday in February. Originally, the day was marked in recognition of the first President’s birthday, but was eventually generalized as a day to honor and celebrate all U.S. presidents.

For Smart Talk, it is an opportunity to look back at the men who have held our nation’s highest office — talk about the good and the bad, along with some stories that have been lost to history.

To share his perspective, Smart Talk is joined by Matthew Pinsker, Ph.D., Professor of History and Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History at Dickinson College.

To offer a closer look into the personal side of the presidency, along with some little known facts, is Dr. Larry Cook, DC, an historian and lifelong collector of presidential memorabilia.


Smart Talk: Middle Creek Wildlife Area’s annual Snow Goose Migration

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 during the cold winter months in central Pennsylvania something wonderful happens on a lake located in Lancaster and Lebanon County. Migrating birds numbering in the thousands stop-over at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management area on their way north to spring breeding grounds in the Arctic.

There are many factors determining the number and types of birds that make this stop, including snow and ice cover on the lake and grounds. When conditions are good, flocks of snow geese and tundra swans gather in huge numbers, creating a spectacle that draws nature lovers from around the region.

Joe Monfort is the Environmental Education and Outreach coordinator at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and he joins Smart Talk Friday to provide an update on the annual migrations. (webcam here)

The big bird count is underway

The Great Backyard Bird Count begins Friday and runs through Monday, February 15. This is an annual event that asks for the public’s help to create a snapshot of bird activity in their area.

People are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes, or longer, on one or more days of the four-day event. Then, to report their sightings online at Anyone can join the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere you might be.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the importance of the counts are Keith Russell, Urban Conservation Program Manager and Kelly McGinley, Network Engagement Manager, both with Audubon Pennsylvania.