Blog | Thursday, August 22, 2019

Thoughts after a year of podcasting


Twelve months of podcasts, two per month, are now available at Annals on Call. During those 12 months, I have learned a lot from my guests and learned a great deal about podcasting and interviewing.

Many have asked me to tell them the story of the podcast. How did it come about? How long does it take to podcast? How do I pick guests and topic? So here is my story.

A couple of years ago Christine Laine, MD, MPH, FACP, the excellent editor of Annals of Internal Medicine, asked me if I would do something “social media” for Annals. We talked about blogs and podcasts. For the next year, we decided to design a podcast.

Over the past four to five years I had become a podcast devotee. Listening to various podcasts, I understand the various styles. Here are my three categories. Some podcasts resemble magazine articles. Good examples are Malcolm Gladwell's “Revisionist History,” Adam Grant's “Work Life,” Adam Rodman's “Bedside Rounds” and “CoreIM.” These are heavily produced and scripted. Next are the bar discussions. In these a group discusses a topic, sometimes with questions. The Curbsiders and Freely Filtered have this vibe. Finally, we have the interview – usually a 1 on 1 conversation about a topic.

While I like all three types (forgive me if I omitted an important type), I personally thought I was best suited to the interview style. Back in 2008, Annals had a deputy editor who interviewed authors about their articles. I was the guest on one of these interviews in 2009, “Sore throat.”

Rather than try to duplicate those interviews which came out concurrently with the present issue, we decided to pick articles both new and old from Annals. This podcast format allows me to consider a variety of Annals articles and topics. Sometimes an article catches my eye and I consider that it would make an interesting podcast. A great example is ”Relationship of Interleukin-1? Blockade With Incident Gout and Serum Uric Acid Levels: Exploratory Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial,” which stimulated this podcast, “Understanding Gout Pathophysiology.”

Sometimes I find a topic that intrigues me, and then I look for an appropriate article. A great example is diagnostic error. I wanted to interview Dr. Hardeep Singh, so I searched the Annals for an appropriate article. Lo and behold I found a 1957 article that led to ”Reducing Diagnostic Error.”

Often I peruse the In the Clinic section and find a topic that I find worth discussing. Thus far, a variety of strategies have helped me find many great topics to discuss.

The podcast has developed in ways that I could not have predicted. Many authors, when discussing their novels, mentioned that the story often goes in directions that they did not expect. So too does a podcast. My selection process has matured and hopefully improved my topic selection.

Recording and producing each podcast is somewhat time-consuming. I spend a couple of hours each week reading Annals, looking for appropriate topics. I focus on topics that I find interesting, either because I want to better understand the topic (think the gout pathophysiology podcast), or because I find that learners often have some difficulty with the topic (think diuretic resistance and acute kidney injury).

Once I have picked an article, I need a discussant. I vary these with people that I know, colleagues at my institution and authors (sometimes a discussant fits more than one of these categories). So I email or call a person to see if they are willing to spend some time discussing the article(s).

Once we pick a date, I reread the article and develop an outline of the topics that I think we should cover. I share this outline with the caveat that the discussion sometimes raises more questions. This process usually takes another hour or so, although I am not counting thinking time, as I often ruminate over a topic for several days prior to developing the outline.

The day of recording, we spend less than an hour talking. My philosophy is to provide the listeners the conversation, mostly unedited. I do not use excerpts to make my own points, but rather to allow the conversation to go where it takes us.

I then spend around two hours listening to the recording (I use Skype and Call Recorder), doing minor editing, pick out excerpts (teasers) to put in the intro, and developing my intro and outro (Bob's Pearls). I use Audacity for these tasks.

Finally the great staff at Annals (I must give a shout out to Patrick Whelan, Thomas McCabe and Bernie Turner) add the music and sound effects. They released the podcast to all the podcast providers and publish the links on the Annals website. Dr. Laine provides valuable feedback and input. She also writes the questions that allow listeners to gain both CME and MOC credits if they are ACP members.

Thus I estimate five to six hours spent per episode.

When I started I had great hopes that we could create a worthwhile podcast. After a year, I am encouraged with many great comments from listeners and colleagues. I now recommend specific episodes to my students, interns and residents.

I have a new, greater appreciation for the power of podcasts in medical education. We aspired to create something both entertaining and educational. I think we exceed my original expectations. I am so grateful to Christine for giving me this wonderful opportunity. The guest experts have graciously donated some time to have these discussions teaching me and many listeners.

So I plan to continue indefinitely. I hope the podcast helps listeners understand the wealth of Annals' articles. And if you listen, thanks so much. I will try to make every episode worth your time.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, MACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and the former Regional Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He still makes inpatient rounds regularly at the Birmingham VA and Huntsville Hospital. His current titles are Professor-Emeritus and Chair-Emeritus of the ACP Board of Regents. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.