Maryn McKenna is an independent journalist and author who specializes in public health, global health and food policy. She is a contributor at National Geographic, where she also helped launch the award-winning food site The Plate, and a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. She is one of the stars of the 2014 documentary Resistance, and her 2015 TED Talk, "What do we do when antibiotics don't work any more?", has been viewed 1.5 million times and translated into 30 languages.
She writes for national and international magazines and news sites, including The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, WIRED, Scientific American, Slate, SELF, The Atlantic, Nature, Modern Farmer, the Guardian, and China Newsweek. Her work has also appeared in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, More, Health, RageMag.fr, MSNBC.com, CNBC.com, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Boston Magazine, Chicago Magazine, the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and Georgia Trend, among other publications. Her work has been anthologized in The Best Science Writing Online (2012), The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2014), and The Dirt: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Food and Farming (2016). During the Ebola epidemic of 2014, she created the Tumblr Today in Ebolanoia, which began as a lark but has since been cited in medical and biodefense literature for documenting public overreaction to disease threats.
She received the 2014 Leadership Award from the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and the 2013 Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences. Her piece for Modern Farmer on the beyond-organic farm White Oak Pastures received a first-place award from the Association of Food Journalists, and her essay for Medium, "Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future," was a finalist for a James Beard Foundation Media Award and has been republished in Russian, Norwegian and French. The National Geographic food site to which she contributes, The Plate, was part of the National Geographic Society's year-long "Future of Food" project and shared the 2015 AH Boerma Award from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Her new book BIG CHICKEN, on the history of antibiotic use in agriculture, will be published Sept. 12, 2017 by National Geographic Books/Penguin Random House. She is the author most recently of SUPERBUG (Free Press/Simon & Schuster 2010), on the international epidemic of drug-resistant staph in hospitals, families and farms, which won the 2013 June Roth Memorial Book Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the 2011 Science in Society Award given by the National Association of Science Writers. Her previous book is BEATING BACK THE DEVIL: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (Free Press/S&S 2004), the first history of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, for which she embedded with the corps for a year. BEATING BACK THE DEVIL was named one of the Top Science Books of 2004 by Amazon.com and an "Outstanding Academic Title" by the American Library Association.
As a newspaper reporter, she worked for 10 years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she was the only US journalist assigned to full-time coverage of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She reported from the Indian Ocean tsunami and from Hurricane Katrina, as well as from Southeast Asia, India, Africa and the Arctic, and embedded with CDC teams on Capitol Hill during the 2001 anthrax attacks and with a World Health Organization polio-eradication team in India.
Previously, she worked for the Boston Herald, where stories she co-wrote on illnesses among veterans of the first Persian Gulf War led to the first Congressional hearings on Gulf War Syndrome, and at the Cincinnati Enquirer, where her stories on the association between local cancer clusters and contamination escaping a federal nuclear weapons plant contributed to a successful nuclear-harm lawsuit by residents. She was also previously a staff member at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy of the University of Minnesota.
In 2013-14, she was the inaugural Project Fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT. She also has been an Ochberg Fellow of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University; a Media Fellow with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation; and a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. She has also served short fellowships at Harvard Medical School and the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families at the University of Maryland. In 2006, she was an inaugural Health Journalism Fellow of the East-West Center in Honolulu and is now an Associate of the Center and teaches other journalists in its programs in Asia. She has been a journalist in residence at the University of Florida, University of Wisconsin, Texas A&M University, and the University of Georgia, and faculty at the Santa Fe Science Writing Seminar.
She is a cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, has a master’s degree with highest honors from Northwestern University, and is the recipient of numerous journalism awards.