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Bringing nonphysicians into the fold

Through podcasts, one hospitalist wants to make medicine more accessible

January 2017

MARK SHAPIRO, MD—who is the medical director of a hospitalist program in northern California—is thriving with a new house, a new job and a new baby.

He’s also carving out time for what’s been a passion for two years: hosting a podcast on iTunes called “Explore the Space.” He has produced 50 half-hour episodes of one-on-one interviews that range from safety guru Peter Pronovost, MD, and New England Journal editor Jeffrey Drazen, MD, to extreme-marathoner Karl Meltzer, digital health journalist Christina Farr, ZDoggMD (twice), ex-Navy SEAL Jocko Willink on leadership, and Josh Minuto, MD, an infectious disease specialist talking about infectious threats and popular culture (zombies).

The podcast’s name is not a nod to Californian new-ageism, but to Christopher Walken’s exhortation to Will Farrell in SNL’s “More Cowbell” skit. The goal, according to each episode opener, is to explore the gulf in health care between practitioners and civilians.

Health care doesn’t always feel welcoming. 

~ Mark Shapiro, MD

While many interviews are with medical and scientific heavy-hitters, a lot of guests are not doctors—and his listeners are an even mix of physicians and non-MDs.

“That’s very intentional,” Dr. Shapiro explains. “Even in physician episodes, we don’t go deep into medical science.” He wants doctors to be able to tune in while they’re working out or driving home. “And we don’t want someone to say, ‘I don’t understand what they’re talking about, so we’re turning it off.’ It’s designed for everyone.”

The mix of guests springs from his own far-ranging interests. A third-generation physician, he majored in history at UCLA and wrote a sports column for several years for the Daily Bruin, opting for medical school after working in homeless shelters.

While he follows several sports podcasts, “I was always looking in the medical category of iTunes and not finding much engaging,” he says. (He does recommend The Doctor Paradox and ED ECMO. Dr. Shapiro records and produces each episode in his home office, relying on Skype and open-source editing software (Audacity). Friends of his who have their own podcasts helped him steer clear of possible pitfalls.

Their advice? “Make sure you have the highest quality sound,” says Dr. Shapiro, who is trying to line up Vivek Murthy, MD, the current surgeon general, for a future episode. Podcasts are available at www.explorethespaceshow.com.

Published in the January 2017 issue of Today’s Hospitalist
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