Surgery podcasts get app treatment

(Edmonton) A University of Alberta podcast series that went viral in its first year is taking the next step: from podcast to app for tablets and smartphones.  

The Surgery 101 series burst on to the scene last year, racking up more than 100,000 downloads within its first year of operation. The podcasts were meant as learning tools for University of Alberta medical students, giving them the need-to-know basics of specific surgeries, but were soon downloaded by curious listeners from 100 countries worldwide. The series, started by Jonathan White in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, now receives an average of 1,000 to 2,000 downloads a day—and the creators are approaching 500,000 downloads total.

“It’s popular because it’s made by real surgeons who know what medical students need,” said White. “We also keep it really tight. We don’t let someone ramble on for 45 minutes—and if they do we’re going to edit it down.”

Recent podcasts, which average about 20 minutes long, include a series all about cancer surgery, featuring two episodes in which real patients talk about their experiences.

Fourth-year student Alyzee Sibtain says she finds the series a handy study tool. She first listened to a podcast when she started her general surgery rotation in third year and most recently used one to help with her sub-specialty surgical rotation.

“I thought it was clear and concise and really told you what you needed to know,” said Sibtain. “I also really liked that there are surgical podcasts but there are also other things like ‘breaking bad news’ and ‘dealing with difficult patients.’”

Sibtain is doing her residency in radiology but thinks this will be a helpful tool throughout her career to help her understand what surgeons and patients will need from her.

And now, with an app, students like Sibtain, physicians, patients and anyone interested, won’t have to download the newest podcast, which is posted every Friday. It will just be right there on their tablet or smartphone.

“Currently what we’re doing is a bit clunky,” said White. “Go to iTunes, subscribe, then update your phone, then move the podcast from your iTunes to your phone. You’ve got to remember to keep it updated and if you miss a couple of weeks, iTunes will automatically stop downloading new episodes.

“[This app] sits on your phone like any other application. Episodes are sitting there waiting for you inside the app so you don’t have to download or search them.”

The Surgery 101 app launched April 10. It will cost $0.99 for the latest 10 episodes; $4.99 gets buyers a one-year subscription. The app also provides notes from the podcast to make it easier for students to use as a study aid. All proceeds from sales of the app, which is the first developed in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, go to the Tom Williams Endowed Chair for Surgical Education.

“That’s part of the reason I’m hoping people will pay the $0.99 or $4.99, because they actually want to support this and keep it moving,” said White.

Related links

Get the Surgery 101 app

Listen to the podcasts