Faculty in Conversation: Perri Klass and Dan Fagin
April 29, 2021
Fellow alumni and Professor Perri Klass discussed her new book A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future with Professor Dan Fagin.
This event was moderated by Sylvan Solloway (CAS and STEINHARDT alumna), Director of Career Services at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
Perri Klass, Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at NYU, Co-Director of NYU Florence
Perri Klass is Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University and Co-Director of NYU Florence. She attended Harvard Medical School and completed her residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, Boston.
She writes the weekly column, “The Checkup,” for the New York Times Science Section. She has written extensively about medicine, children, literacy, and knitting. Her new book, A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future, is an account of how victories over infant and child mortality have changed the world. She began writing about medicine and about medical training when she was a medical student; her accounts were collected in her two books, A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student, and Baby Doctor: A Pediatrician’s Training, which were originally published in 1987 and 1992, and were reissued as classics of the genre in updated editions in 2010. Her most recent book of medical journalism is Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters to a Young Doctor. Her medical journalism has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New England Journal of Medicine, and Harvard Medicine. Her other nonfiction includes Every Mother is a Daughter: the Neverending Quest for Success, Inner Peace, and a Really Clean Kitchen, which she coauthored with her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, and Quirky Kids: Understanding and Supporting Your Child With Developmental Differences, which she coauthored with Eileen Costello, M.D., and which will come out in a new edition from the American Academy of Pediatrics in early 2021.
Perri is the National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read, a national program which promotes early literacy through pediatric primary care, with guidance about reading aloud for parents and children’s books provided at routine well child visits. She ran the National Center from its inception through 2006, during which time the program grew from a single site to a national program with thousands of sites serving millions of children; the program now reaches 4.8 million children a year, 80% of whom are growing up in poverty. Through her work with Reach Out and Read, Perri has been able to integrate her commitment to the health care of young children with her love of the written word. In an essay on the program, she wrote, "When I think about children growing up in homes without books, I have the same visceral reaction as I have when I think of children in homes without milk or food or heat: It cannot be, it must not be. It stunts them and deprives them before they've had a fair chance."
She has received numerous awards for her work as a pediatrician and educator including the 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics Education Award, which recognizes her educational contributions that have had a broad and positive impact on the health and well-being of children; the 2006 Women’s National Book Association Award; and the 2011 Alvarez Award from the American Medical Writers Association. In 2016 the American Academy of Pediatrics honored her with The Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award, citing the impact that she has made through her writing, service as an educator, and leadership in promoting early literacy through Reach Out and Read.
Dan Fagin, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, science journalism professor at NYU
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who writes frequently about environmental science, Dan Fagin is also a science journalism professor at New York University. His bestselling book, Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer for General Nonfiction, as well as the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, the National Academies Science Book Award and the Society of Environmental Journalists’ Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, among other honors. A rave review in the New York Times described Toms River as “great journalism” and “a new classic of science reporting.” Dan’s recent publications include The New York Times, Scientific American, Nature and Slate. His new book project is about monarch butterflies and the future of biodiversity in the Anthropocene.
Before joining the NYU faculty in 2005, Dan was the environmental writer at Newsday for 15 years, during which time he was twice a principal member of reporting teams that were Pulitzer finalists. He has also won both of the best-known science journalism prizes in the United States: the Science Journalism Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Science in Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers.
At NYU, Dan is a Professor of Journalism (full) at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and the director of the masters-level Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP), one of the oldest and best-regarded science journalism training programs in the world, with more than 400 graduates since its founding in 1982. He is also the founder and director of the Science Communication Workshops at NYU, four-week short courses in which more than 800 science Ph.D. students, post-docs, medical students and professors at NYU have learned the basics of communicating scientific research effectively to the lay public.