Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen


Back in 2017, I received a message from one of the automated bots I’ve deployed to the web to look for information for me to consume. As I was working on my doctoral dissertation on homicides in Baltimore, one bot reported that a firebombing had occurred in Baltimore, killing two teens.

The main suspect in that firebombing (and a shooting at the same location a few days before that) was Mr. Antonio Wright, a 27 year-old Black man. After being named “Baltimore’s Public Enemy Number One,” Mr. Wright turned himself in to the authorities. Throughout his arrest and trial, he continued to assert that he was innocent.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Wright was found not guilty on all counts. Because of his background and this incident, Mr. Wright was advised by his lawyer to move out of the area, start anew somewhere else:

“Wright lived not far from where the firebombing occurred, and even closer to where he was found shot Friday. Brown said he and others had urged Wright to move away from the area after his acquittal. Some of Wright’s friends had been fatally shot in the area. But recently, Brown said he spoke to one of Wright’s friends, who told him Wright still frequented the neighborhood. “He had a lot of potential. He really did. But he couldn’t remove himself from the hood. And that’s not unusual,” Brown said. “That’s the life he chose.””

Indeed, the life he chose exposed him to violence, placed him in violent situations, had him arrested and charged for a violent crime, and, ultimately, ended his life

“Baltimore police said a man was found unresponsive and suffering from gunshot wounds just after 11 a.m. in the 1200 block of Bond St., in the Oliver neighborhood of East Baltimore. He was later pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Brown said that man was Wright. He said he had spoken to Wright’s mother on Friday afternoon. Wright’s family could not immediately be reached.”

The Parent Ren, Part VIII: A Man Raising a Woman

When I think of how hard it must have been for my mother to raise me, I think of the one time we went to the state fair in Juarez. There was a band playing some very loud music, and there were a lot of people dancing and having a good time. Mom and I rode some of the rides…

The Villains You’ll Encounter

I’ve been in the presence of supervillains only a handful of times in my life. The latest was a few weeks ago when antivaxxers descended on a talk by a well-known pediatrician and vaccine developer. Their leader cannot be described in any other way than as being a supervillain. He’s good with words. He’s charming. And he certainly seems to…

Epidemiology for Non-Epidemiologists?

Epidemiology is the basis for much of the work that goes into public health. From the research that gives us the evidence we need to conduct good public health policy, to the work that is done investigating outbreaks, we use epidemiology to help us understand what we are seeing. It’s a scientific branch (or a branch of medicine) that helps…

The technology you’ll use and abuse

Someone on the radio was saying the other day that we humans are not biologically ready for all the technology that we’ve developed in the last couple of hundred years. They said that this is especially true of technologies like the internet, where a ton of information is available at our fingertips, but our brains are nowhere near ready to…

Pharmaceutical Companies Are Evil, Except When They’re Not

Before I begin, I need to clarify something that, sadly, needs to be clarified. When I write “pharmaceutical companies,” I don’t mean all pharmaceutical companies. Just like when I write “people,” I don’t mean all people. In the following paragraphs, I’m trying to reason through the actions (and words) of pharmaceutical companies and the systems in place to encourage some…