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Yale Internal Medicine Presents: Primary Care Pearls Podcast

July 11, 2022
by Abigail Davis

Primary Care Pearls (PCP), an educational podcast led by patient stories, launches today, July 11, 2022. The first episode is now available on all major listening platforms, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Season one dives into five primary care topics: opioid use disorder, hypertension, diabetes, metabolic health, and nutrition. Each series oscillates between patient and faculty interviews to provide listeners with a holistic understanding of medical issues centered around the patient experience.

This project was created in collaboration with faculty, residents and students at the Yale Department of Internal Medicine and Yale School of Medicine, led by faculty advisor Katie Gielissen, MD, MHS, assistant professor of medicine (general medicine) and pediatrics (general pediatrics), and producer and co-host Joshua Onyango, MD, MEd, one of the chief residents of the Yale Primary Care Internal Medicine program.

Gielissen is one of the four editors of the Yale Office-Based Medicine (YOBM), an ambulatory residency curriculum that is distributed at over 300 programs across the country. According to Gielissen, some YOBM subscribers had reached out indicating that they were interested in new ways for learners to interact with the material, so when Onyango came to her hoping to start an educational podcast, she was immediately enthusiastic about the idea.

Onyango said he is inspired by the power of podcasts, which can allow listeners to conveniently join in on conversations with experts. “A lot of the medical education podcasts out there, however, are really focused on the providers,” said Onyango. “So I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to take this idea of ‘patient-centered care’ and bring that into the medical education experience and make a true case-based podcast?”

“The way patients experience medicine is not always the way we think about it as physicians,” added Gielissen. “They experience it from an emotional standpoint. How does this impact me and my family? How did I feel when the doctor said XYZ? And as a healthcare provider, when you put that patient experience at the center of your decision making, it really changes the way you practice medicine.”

Lisa Sanders, MD, FACP, associate professor of medicine (general medicine), director of the Internal Medicine Residency Writers’ Workshop, and author of the popular Diagnosis column for the New York Times Magazine, offers her media expertise to the PCP team as a production consultant for the podcast. “Storytelling is the real essence of medicine. We use stories to speak to each other and to speak to our patients. That is one of our oldest and most reliable tools, and bringing those stories to the media through a podcast is a great way to access a much broader audience,” said Sanders.

According to Onyango, “The impact we hope to have, particularly for physicians and young trainees, is to pass on lessons about primary care topics that are very, very practical. They’ll be able to listen to an episode and then implement those lessons the very next day. But the other important part is reminding them of the unique power of the patient’s story. It’s one thing to know all of this medical information, but contextualizing it based on the person in front of you is so significant to the art of medicine.”

In addition to targeting residents and medical students, the PCP team hopes to reach a wider public audience; episodes are approachable even for listeners without prior medical knowledge. The metabolic health series, for example, contains important lessons for physicians and patients alike. Jorge Moreno, MD, assistant professor of medicine, participated in the metabolic health episodes as the faculty expert on obesity medicine after recommending one of his patients to share about their weight loss journey on the podcast.

“I think the patient does a great job of explaining what made him feel comfortable and uncomfortable in his interactions with the healthcare system,” said Moreno. “That’s very important, especially in obesity medicine. Patients with obesity suffer a lot of stigma and bias from the medical field and the public, so many patients that are listening will be able to relate to this patient story.”

“I’m hoping that as patients listen to these stories, they will be able to find camaraderie in their experiences,” added Onyango. “Someone who might be going through an opioid use disorder or having a really rough time with their diabetes will be able to hear from another patient with similar experience and be able to find that empathetic connection there.”

The patient and faculty interviews are facilitated by co-hosts Nate Wood, MD, instructor of medicine (general medicine) and general internal medicine medical education fellow, and Maisie Orsillo, DO, current third year resident in the Yale Primary Care Internal Medicine Program. As young healthcare providers, Wood and Orsillo offer valuable insight on the importance of highlighting patient perspectives in medical education curriculum.

Wood, who graduated from residency in June 2022, said, “In medical school, you are so overwhelmed with the amount of information that you have to take in, and it’s exclusively medical information. That’s a very important knowledge base, but once you get to be a resident and beyond, you realize it’s one small part. The bigger picture is gathering as much information as you can about your patients, and taking all of that into account when developing your treatment plans. I think if I had realized that earlier, it would have been beneficial for me and my mental wellness during training, and it would have been better for my patients. That is what I am hoping trainees can take away from this podcast.”

“It’s been so valuable to talk to patients about what it’s like to process a diagnosis, or to manage a medical condition day-to-day,” said Orsillo, who is a current primary care resident. “It’s easy to get into the detailed clinical aspects of medicine, but to actually sit down with patients and learn how to take their perspectives into account has been eye-opening.”

Helen Cai, a medical student interested in primary care, joined the PCP team as a patient interviewer and production assistant. “I am learning in such an effective way,” she said. “I am engaging with faculty who are experts in their field, and with patients who have these really personal stories. Being able to anchor that information to a specific person or a specific experience so early in my career is so impactful as I’m early in my own education.”

Faculty advisor Gielissen, whose work primarily focuses on education scholarship, said that sharing her passion for education with the trainees involved in the podcast has been incredibly rewarding. She oversees the collaborative process between students, residents, and faculty as they develop the curriculum and learning objectives for each episode. “The most gratifying part of this project has been working with the residents and students. I love seeing their ideas, and they are so creative and thoughtful. The greatest joy of my job is mentoring people as they work on projects together as a team,” she said.

Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or at the PC Pearls team website. Follow them on Instagram or on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: Production for season 2 is underway. Yale faculty, trainees, and students interested in participating can reach out to the PC Pearls team via email.

Submitted by Julie Parry on July 11, 2022