The Optimized Doctor



What’s not to love about podcasts? Advice, comedy, news, and drama delivered directly to your brain. Unlike blogs or articles, you need no effort to enjoy them. Indeed, you can be actively engaged elsewhere: running, cycling, commuting, or simply loafing. The detail and richness of the sound also creates an intimate connection with the host in a way other mediums cannot. It feels like they are talking only to you.

Yet, there is a problem with podcasts: There are too many of them. If I listened continuously to the episodes in my queue it would take 6 months. I suppose I could see patients and listen at the same time. (Yes, I have a problem.) I also own far more books than I’ll ever read. Aspirational, I call it.

Woman jogging and listening music. Martinan/Thinkstock

If, like me, you’re unable to dedicate your life to consuming podcasts, you might appreciate a few recommendations. Here’s a charcuterie board of tasty bits, carefully curated to avoid political allergies and Dunning-Kruger references.

1. Physicians Practice. It’s one of the oldest podcasts running and addresses a wide range of issues affecting health care professionals and the industry at large. Episodes are short (typically under 10 minutes) and address a range of issues relevant to both young and seasoned physicians With scores of podcasts from which to choose, I suggest just selecting one and jumping in. With episode titles such as “The Patient Empathy Problem Physicians Must Face” and “EHRs Not Designed with Real People in Mind, Expert Opines,” it’s easy to do.

2. UpToDate. If you’re looking for straight clinical talk buttressed with scientific evidence, then download UpToDate. Episodes typically feature interviews with one or two respected physician leaders who share their clinical findings. You can select episode topics based upon clinical specialty or simply start listening. Here is a sampling of topics: sentinel lymph node metastasis in melanoma; dexamethasone and acute pharyngitis pain in adults; management of anticoagulation for patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. UpToDate states that it is entirely funded by user subscriptions and does not accept advertising or funding unrelated to subscriptions.

3. Bedside Rounds. The tagline for the podcast Bedside Rounds is “Because medicine is awesome.” This is not meant to be ironic. Creator and host, Adam Rodman, MD, a global health hospitalist who divides his time between Boston (at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) and Botswana, is that eager kid in the classroom who sits in the front row just because he’s so excited to be there. Unlike UpToDate, which focuses on current advances in clinical medicine, Bedside Rounds explores both the science and art of medicine through captivating stories heavily rooted in the history of medicine. Instead of brushing the dust off of your old medical books, tune in to Bedside Rounds to hear stories such as “Bone Portraits,” which explores the history of radiation, and “Curse of the Ninth,” which explores whether or not composer Gustav Mahler, worked his heart murmur into his famous Ninth Symphony.

4. The Adventures of Memento Mori. Creator and host, D.S. Moss, has created a podcast about death, or, to be more upbeat, the quest for the meaning of life. A screenwriter/producer, Mr. Moss deep dives into all things death. But it’s not as depressing as it sounds. “Memento mori,” he explains, is Latin for being mindful that you will die. As a result, Mr. Moss has created his podcast with the goal of encouraging listeners to live a more engaged, mindful, and meaningful life. We can apply many of these lessons to our own professional and personal lives and perhaps learn some ways to help our patients cope with terminal illness and mortality. Topics range from the emotional (“Thoughts in Passing,” which features several hospice patients) to the technological (“Digital Afterlife,” which explores what our digital legacies say about us), to the scientific (“The Science of Immortality,” which explores venture capital’s movement in the science of living forever).


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