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Listen and Learn

Benferguson72x721_2Ben Ferguson -- I admit it: I’m addicted. In addition to puzzles and really strange anthropomorphic delusions, podcasts get me through long days in the lab. And boring commutes. And working out. And reading papers. And doing puzzles and hallucinating about pipette boxes. And pretty much any other time I’m not actually having a conversation. As socially isolating as it is to be walking around all day with headphones in one’s ears, I find podcasts to be enormously useful for learning new things, keeping up with news, and generally making time pass more quickly, all while getting other things done at the same time. The applications of podcasts to science and medicine are broad and powerful (and, fortunately, growing!).

Let me just briefly say this before we get to the meat: If you are not listening to podcasts -- or worse, if you don’t know what a podcast is -- are you alive?!? There is a massive bank of knowledge at your fingertips, covering literally every area of life, that you could be tapping into.

Here’s a quick list of the most useful medical and science podcasts that I listen to (the links below redirect to iTunes’ browser; if you do not have iTunes, you may first want to download it here:

* Podcasts by Science and Nature are fantastic discussions of cutting-edge science with authors of articles appearing in these journals. Nature, in particular, also has podcasts covering many other topics corresponding to its various ancillary journals.

* Yale’s Cancer Center Answers podcast is a call-in show produced by a few medical oncologists and features various aspects of a different oncological malignancy in each episode.

* Scientific American's podcasts include a summary of articles appearing in their magazine as well as brief snippets of science in the news.

* The OR-Live podcast is a rebroadcast of various surgical procedures with live commentary from experts in the field. It’s priceless for anyone who’s interested in surgery as a career and for anyone who wonders what the OR environment is like (albeit muted and undoubtedly more politically-correct given the cameras).

* Learn Internal Medicine from MedPod101 is produced by a medical resident and covers a variety of case presentations and aspects of certain illnesses. It typically takes you through an entire patient encounter from H&P through diagnosis and treatment, although recently there has been a more in-depth foray into various issues on the topic of asthma. It’s a fairly new podcast, but it’s very helpful and looks promising.

* A physician and colleague at Johns Hopkins produce a fantastic podcast, JH Medicine Weekly Health News, covering recent medical news that is short, intelligent, and to the point.

* The bayblab podcast is an intelligent roundtable conversation about science between a bunch of graduate students at the University of Ottawa. They talk about their own recent blog posts on cool science news and also sometimes interject with interesting hypothetical discussions about related topics. (NB: This occasionally contains language that some would consider offensive, but it’s mostly good, clean fun.)

* NPR’s Radio Lab is perhaps my favorite podcast of them all and covers a wide variety of pop-sci topics. It’s a sort of hybrid of science journalism, edgy exposition, unbelievable story-telling, and This American Life. A contributor to Radio Lab, NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich, also produces an NPR podcast called, hmm… Krulwich on Science, which is shorter and covers only one topic.

Many other medical journals produce podcasts that review their recent articles, big medical news, and other timely information. These include The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, NEJM, Cell, Cancer Research, JAMA, and JNCI, among many, many others. Others are institution-specific: UCSF, ASCO, the Whitehead Institute, Cancer Research UK, and Yale all produce podcasts that cover medical and science news coming from their respective faculties. Many other media and news outlets put out science and medical podcasts as well, such as the New York Times, the Guardian, PBS, National Geographic, Wired, and the Discovery Channel (and they are generally fantastic). Links to each of these podcasts are easily found via their homepages. Shameless plug: I, too, produce a podcast, the Pritzker Podcast, for prospective and current applicants to my medical school that assists them in getting to know the school and the application process a bit better.

What do you listen to for your fill of science and medicine? Tell everyone about it in the comments.

November 28, 2007 in Ben Ferguson | Permalink


yep, we love podcasts too. thanks for those links, i'll check them out soon. ;)

Posted by: nina | Nov 29, 2007 12:27:52 AM

Awesome suggestions! Sorry I don't have any to add. :)

Posted by: | Nov 30, 2007 2:59:25 PM

I can also recommend the Quirks and Quarks podcast, from the CBC (like the BBC, only Canadian!): http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/index.html?newsandcurrent#quirks

Posted by: Jocelyn | Dec 1, 2007 6:17:17 PM

UTHSC (Tenn. not Texas) has an awesome Internal Medicine Podcast covering lectures given for their own residents:

There are quite a few more out there available in various specialties, but a lot of them have run dry. The content that is there is still relevant and informative--especially for a med student. However, there seems to have been an unfortunate trend in the last 1-1.5y or so to jump on the podcast bandwagon, but when they realized it was real work on top of an already hectic schedule, good 'casts got sidelined.

Posted by: enrico | Dec 4, 2007 9:29:39 PM

Thank you for this information. I am a patient with over 13 doctors that I see on a continued basis because of having multiple issues from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. The more I can learn about the medical field the more I feel confidant and understand all aspects of my medical care. I have had to become an overzealous advocate in my own health care and find any and all information to provide to my doctor's regarding my care. One out of every 5-10 thousand people have Ehlers Danlos but there are only three specialist in the world and very little print in text books regarding this disorder. Hundreds of thousands of people go undiagnosed because doctor don't know enough about this disorder. It has recently come to the attention to the experts at NIH that many of us also have Fibromuscular Dysplasia. As if EDS wasn't bad enough now we have a lot more learning to do.
In my many years of ER visits I have only had one doctor claim that his medical school covered collagen disorders in depth. The reason behind doing this was to keep the new doctors from assuming patients have been abused because of bruising and skin tears. I would have rather heard that his medical school covered collagen disorders to help diagnose people like me but I will get all the coverage/awareness I can get regardless.
I will pass along the information to others because it sounds like pod casts are another way people like myself that want to learn more about medicine but don't have the means to do so.
Bethany from Michigan

Posted by: Bethany | Dec 5, 2007 4:40:28 AM

I recommend "The Health Report": http://www.abc.net.au/rn/healthreport/default.htm
Originating in Australia, you will hear a different, developed country's perspective on health care, AND a perspective on health care in the United States that you are not apt to find here. Often they will interview MDs and researchers from the U.S. (usually from Stanford) who are free to air their views in a media largely removed from American corporate and pharma interests.

Posted by: Keith | Dec 5, 2007 9:14:57 AM

This info is great! Are there any other educational pod cast sites, e.g. pharmacology, history, literature, etc.?

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Posted by: Martin | Jun 6, 2008 7:38:31 AM

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Posted by: Alex | Apr 26, 2009 8:01:05 PM

I like it and the background and colors make it easy to read

Posted by: John | May 12, 2009 12:33:56 PM

I have been looking for sites like this for a long time. Thank you!d

Posted by: Marly | May 16, 2009 9:18:33 PM

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