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Running Toward the Fire

OnCall team
Creative Commons
Ann Bernatitus was a nurse for the US Navy, stationed at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, 1942. The original oil is by Albert Murray.

Applications to nursing schools spiked during the pandemic from those who wanted to help. They chose to be nurses at a time when the risk to their own health was never greater. Why are some people willing to run toward the fire when others are running away from it?

Most of us fall somewhere on a spectrum of altruistic behavior. We might adopt a stray pet, donate a liter of blood, or check on an older neighbor. Others pursue a career based on helping others, and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, some choose to donate their kidney to a stranger or rush into traffic to save a stranger's life.

We talk to two nurses, a kidney donor, and a psychologist about nursing and the nature of altruism.


  • Kelly Chevalier - Interim director of emergency services at Trinity Health of New England/St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center 
  • Tracy Gordon Fox - A former journalist for the Hartford Courant; she’s currently a staff nurse on the general surgery floor at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center
  • Lauren Herschel - An anonymous kidney donor who lives in Calgary, Alberta
  • Abigail Marsh - A professor of psychology and a neuroscientist in the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at Georgetown University; she directs their Lab on Social & Affective Neuroscience, and she’s the author of The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Psychopaths, Altruists, and Everyone In Between 

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show.

This show originally aire on January 28, 2021. 

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