EP Interview

Podcasting in Medicine: Interview with Robert H. Pass, MD

Interview by Jodie Elrod

Interview by Jodie Elrod

In this article, EP Lab Digest speaks with Dr. Robert Pass about creating his “Pediheart: Pediatric Cardiology Today” podcast on iTunes. Dr. Pass is the director of the pediatric catheterization and electrophysiology laboratories as well as associate division chief of pediatric cardiology at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. 

Tell us about your role at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.

I came to Montefiore after 10 years at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, where I was director of the pediatric electrophysiology service. In my present role, I oversee the cath and EP labs. I am both an electrophysiologist and interventional cardiologist, which is somewhat unusual in the world of pediatric cardiology. The main goals in our cath lab are to provide the safest and most family-friendly experience to patients, while also trying to push forward the science of both electrophysiology and interventional catheterization. It is also our goal to train the next generation, and I am proud that there are more than 10 pediatric electrophysiologists in some of the finest programs in the world who got their start working with me. I hope there are more to come! I certainly have gained more from working with them than they did from me. 

How did the “Pediheart: Pediatric Cardiology Today” podcasts come about?

In the past few years, I have increasingly listened to podcasts on various topics, with medical, financial, and general interest topics being my favorites. However, I noticed a true lack of information in the pediatric cardiology field in this format. With over 20 years’ experience practicing in the pediatric EP and cath fields, I decided to create the podcast earlier this year. My goal is to provide cardiovascular experts with a way to keep abreast of the latest research in our field, in a rapid-fire and digestible manner.  

What are some of the topics you have covered so far? How do you choose topics?

We have reviewed almost every area of cardiovascular science, including non-invasive imaging, neurodevelopmental outcomes, adult congenital heart disease, cardiac transplantation, cardiac critical care, interventional catheterization, electrophysiology, fetal medicine, the role of artificial intelligence in medicine, and of course, cardiovascular surgery. I try to rotate the topics and choose papers that will be of interest to the largest number of listeners while reviewing all of the various aspects of the field. 

How do you produce the podcasts? What time commitment and preparation is required? 

I mostly produce the podcasts at home, and rarely, some of it at the end of the day while at the hospital. The listeners can sometimes tell by the sound of ambulances in the background! I try to finish an episode by the middle of every week, so that I can start the process of determining what will be in the following week’s episode. On a weekly basis, I probably spend between 4 and 6 hours on a podcast. 

Who is the intended audience for the podcasts?

The intended audience is anyone who works in the care of children and adults with congenital heart problems. This can include the social workers who care for these patients, to physicians (cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists), anesthesiologists, residents and fellows, and medical students. It has been gratifying to hear from so many cardiology fellows throughout the country and world about their positive thoughts on the podcast. I think the podcasts provide them with a relatively easy way to keep up with the literature during what is a very busy period of their lives. 

Does each podcast follow a similar structure or format? Is there an average length for your podcasts?

The podcasts are all approximately 30-50 minutes in duration. The format follows a similar weekly format, where I review 1-2 recent articles and try to interview at least one expert on the topic of the paper being reviewed (often one of the authors). I also provide my own commentary based upon my experience in the field. At the end, I usually include a brief snippet of opera, which is one of my great loves outside of medicine. 

What podcast has been the most successful or enjoyable thus far?

Judging by the number of downloads so far, the most popular episode was our discussion with noted pediatric CICU expert Dr. Anthony Rossi of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, as he reviewed postoperative care of very complex infants and how his approach has evolved over the past 25 years. This has been downloaded over 1300 times thus far. I am thrilled that Tony’s episode has been so popular — he was one of the people who inspired me to become a pediatric cardiologist when I was a visiting medical student to his center in 1990. The other episode that I am very proud of is the one I had with Dr. Edward Walsh, the director of the arrhythmia service at Boston Children’s Hospital. Like Tony, Ed is a great mentor to me, and his discussion on sudden death and ventricular tachycardia in tetralogy of Fallot took a very complex topic and narrowed it down into something that would be of value for anyone caring for patients with this congenital defect, including electrophysiologists. He is a master clinician and teacher, and it was a privilege to be able to share his smarts with the listeners of the podcast. 

What feedback have you received about the podcasts? How many downloads have you received?

In general, the feedback from the podcast has been wonderful. I have many reviews on iTunes, and people have been very kind reaching out to me via email (pediheart@gmail.com) with suggestions on topics, their likes and dislikes about the podcast, etc. I have also received great feedback from cardiovascular specialists, and many have shared that they look forward to Fridays when I release the podcast. That makes the work I put into the recordings worthwhile. The feedback has also been instrumental to improving the show. At this time (early September, 2018), there have been over 33,000 downloads worldwide, and we are seeing roughly 1000 downloads a week. I am quite pleased that it has been downloaded in at least 50 different countries throughout the world. Given that the field of pediatric cardiology and adult congenital is still relatively small, I am proud of the large listenership thus far. 

How effective do you find podcasts as a teaching tool?

I have learned so much from hearing experts speak on various topics in different podcasts. It is a unique way to impart some knowledge at a time that is often wasted, such as driving to work or sitting in traffic.

What are some of your favorite podcasts, both medical and non-medical?

I have a number of favorite podcasts. Personal finance is something that I find profoundly critical, and yet there is very little formal education for physicians on this topic. Therefore, I enjoy listening to podcasts about this important topic, and there are many outstanding podcasts in this arena. I enjoy listening to “Sound Investing” by Paul Merriman, “Better Off” by Jill Schlesinger, “The Dough Roller” by Rob Berger, and “The Investors Podcast” by Stig Brodersen and Preston Pysh. In my view, the best podcast in the medicine and ‘general/nonpediatric’ cardiology category is the “JACC Podcast” by Dr. Valentin Fuster. This podcast was one of the inspirations for me to create my own podcast. His presentations are very well considered, and his lengthy experience and knowledge inform all of his commentary. There are many important ‘pearls’ one gains in listening to this master of adult cardiology. For general listening, I enjoy the NY Times’ Modern Love or “The Tim Ferriss Show”. 

What’s next for you?

My goals remain the same as they were at the start of my career. First, I wish to help as many patients as I can. Second, I wish to push the envelope as much as I can in clinical congenital cardiology research. Finally, I wish to educate and hopefully inspire the next generation. I am very proud of the cardiologists whose careers I have influenced in terms of career decisions. I am hopeful that the work I am doing on this podcast will continue to broaden the educational aims of my career and help everyone learn a bit more about cardiology. 

Any final thoughts?

Yes, I would like to add that one final goal I have with this podcast is spotlighting the wonderful work that is done by so many different investigators in our field. The world of entertainment has many awards shows that we enjoy watching (e.g., the Oscars, Emmy Award, Tony Award, etc.), but there are few (if any) such awards for the medical professionals who are working daily to improve the lives of our patients and their families. To me, this is sad, given the massive tangible impact these individuals have on the lives of patients. If this podcast can shine a bit of light and highlight the works of these wonderful investigators, and if hearing about the work being done may inspire someone to consider furthering the research I am describing, then the podcast would be, in my view, a wonderful and ‘double’ success.

Disclosure: The author has no conflicts of interest to report regarding the content herein.