This week on the podcast we have Ian Drummond, host of The Undifferentiated Medical Student podcast. Ian’s show is all about choosing a medical specialty as a student and planning a career in medicine. He has used the focus of the show to educate both himself and others about the various specialties available to medical students today.
[podcast_motor_player url=”https://episodes.seriouslysimplepodcasting.com/PodcastMotorShow/028-How-Podcasting-Can-Help-You-Choose-a-Career-Path-with-Ian-Drummond.mp3″ title=”028: How Podcasting Can Help You Choose a Career Path with Ian Drummond”]
Listen in as we discuss how Ian has used podcasting to navigate his own career path and help listeners at the same time.
Topics Discussed in this Episode:
- Podcasting as a way to solve your own problems and grow your career
- Booking guests through referrals
- Long-term planning and evolving a podcast as part of a passive income stream
- Logistical issues and using an online scheduler
- Strategies for ratings and reviews in iTunes
Craig: This week on the podcast, we have Ian Drummond from the Undifferentiated Medical Student podcast. Ian, how you doin’?
Ian: I’m doing okay, Craig. Thanks for having me.
Craig: No, no it’s my pleasure. Ian and I connected a couple of weeks ago and I really dig what you’re doing with the podcast. We talked on the phone for a bit but for folks who aren’t familiar with you and your show, can you share who you are and why you’re podcasting a bit?
Ian: My name’s Ian. I’m a medical student. The podcast that I run is the Undifferentiated Medical Student. It’s about choosing a medical specialty and planning a career in medicine. Craig, I’m not sure how much you wanted me to talk about it now but the reason I’m doing this podcast about these topics is that they’re hard to do. That is choosing a medical specialty and planning a career and I could go into that if you’d like.
Craig: I think it’s really interesting. We often find people talking from the other side of that spectrum. Our last episode was also in the career space a bit but for someone helping job seekers find jobs and so I think you are particularly unique from everything I know. You’re coming into the job market and you’re still several years away in the U.S. that the medical training is 10 years in total depending on what kind of specialties and subspecialties you get into. You’re getting into a really well-educated space and you’re educating yourself in a really unique way. I’d love to hear why and how you decided to take this route.
Ian: Craig, you nailed it with the educating yourself bit. I am running this podcast because I am basically solving my own problem. I have other reasons for doing the podcast like exploring business and whatever that means but I have a problem and it’s a problem that many medical student shares, I don’t know what career path I want to take.
This is very daunting. Doctors work very hard, were very passionate people. It’s tragic sometimes that you get trapped in a career path that you actually didn’t want to take necessarily or there may have been another option that you would have liked more but you just weren’t aware of that option just because in medical school, you’re studying all the time. One assignment turns into the next, turns into applying into residency, turns into residency, turns into fellowship, turns into being done with your training.
Now you finally get to wake up and realize, “Oh my God, I made a mistake. I should have done something different. I should have turned a few degrees at the very beginning and I would have been somewhere completely different now.” That’s why I’m making this podcast.
Let me just tell you a little bit more about the podcast and why this is a problem. Medical students have problems choosing a medical specialty and planning a career in medicine mainly for two reasons. There are many reasons but I have experienced two.
One, there are so many medical specialties out there. There’s a website called the Charism Medicine website, which is run by an association, which is our main educational body in North America, the Association of American Medical Colleges. On their website, this Charism Medicine website, they list 120 specialties and subspecialties. There is just simply not enough time to explore that in all four years of medical school, let alone the one clinical year, clinical meaning just time spent in the hospital to explore all of them. It’s a ludicrous.
We talk about allowing patients to make informed decisions about the care that they want to receive. I’d say that medical students, by and large do not make informed decisions about what career path they want to take. I’m using this podcast as a means of solving this problem for myself. The way that I’m actually going about it is to interview one physician from each of these 120 specialties and subspecialties. To record these conversations is a way of scaling this mentorship so that any medical student can listen as a fly on the wall.
Craig: It’s a great concept. I remember when I first started college, in our orientation class the week before college started they said, “Okay, time to break up into your schools.” The school I went to had the engineering school, the liberal art school, the music school and all these. “Within each school, go pick your major, right now.” Two weeks before of our freshman year. I was like, “What the heck.” What you’re being asked to do is that times 10. It’s not just you know you want to be a physician, what kind of physician what do you want to do everyday? You’re going to spend 4 or 5 or 8 years or 10 years learning this and doing this one very, very specific thing everyday.
Educating yourself but also you’re doing a very kind thing for a lot of other medical students that they’re able to share in this knowledge with you as you build this book of interviews with all these specialists. That’s fantastic.
Ian: I really hope so. Thank you.
Craig: My previous life was in the medical world kind of associated. I know that physicians are tough crowd to get ahold of. How was that process? For me, as a podcaster getting in touch with other podcasters is probably about as easy as it gets in terms of gear and timing and Skype and understanding all these things. How was all of that worked with you? You’re 50 episodes in at this point, how’s that worked?
Ian: Most podcasters, most of my guests come from referrals from past guests. It obviously is very helpful to have an in with the colleague, more so with physicians. Getting a 15-minute interview or chat with them is one thing but then ask me for two hours. Cold calling, it’s getting a little easier just because the podcast is a little more popular now so people can see it, it has some visibility so they know that I’m being serious about it. But by and large, asking for the amount of time that I do from my guests, it’s referrals that get me there.
Craig: That’s great. Is that part of your standard process? You have your first or second person on? After that you follow-up with them, do you ask for that referral to someone else in their department or another department right after you’re done with the episode or after it goes live, how does that work best for you?
Ian: I don’t know what politically, is the best way to do it, but I do it immediately after the podcast. I think that’s great way to do it. My interviews are interviews but throughout the course of that interview, I really feel that I connect with my guests and to some extent, I befriend them. I would say that we are not friends but we’re beyond just mere acquaintances and so I just very frankly say, “Now that you understand what it’s like to be a guest on the Undifferentiated Medical Student, if you know anyone else who’d be a good fit for the show I would love an email introduction and I would take it from there.”
I make their life a little bit easier and say, “This is what I’m looking for and I actually have a list of the specialties that I’m looking for online.” I’m not asking them to do all of the thinking. I direct them and I try to make it easier. I provide email templates that explain what the podcast is so it’s easier for them to reach out to their colleagues about the podcast on my behalf.
Craig: Got you. Technically, in terms of recording an episode with these folks, I know hospitals have firewalls and all these crazy IT security things typically, have you found it difficult technically to interview people in terms of gear?
Ian: I have and I haven’t. The firewall thing is a real issue. Not all hospitals have a firewall but there have been a number of interviews where I could not Skype with them because their firewall wouldn’t let them. Many physicians have a Skype business account and that works but so they can’t use their personal account but they can use their Skype business account or they just use their personal computer and then sign on to the Wifi at the hospital, they can do it that way. It really hasn’t been hard to sidestep. You just have to know it’s coming and make sure you allot time for it.
Craig: Got you, that makes sense. A little bit of preparation on both sides, like you’re saying, goes a long way. I can just imagine the first couple probably had some surprises for you, though.
Ian: The time’s ticking and they only give you so much.
Craig: They’re not afraid to walk out the door on you.
Ian: They are not.
Craig: Stepping back a little bit to the bigger picture strategic plan for this. You’re a medical student, you’re going to interview these 120 something attending physicians, do you feel like this is going to give you a real competitive advantage when it comes time to interview for those specialties?
Ian: I really hope it does, Craig. But the reality is I’m still a medical student, I haven’t gone through the process yet so I don’t really know the answer to that question. But I imagine in some cases, it will be very helpful. In the other cases, it might actually hurt me. I think at the very least that undertaking this project, one I’m doing it for selfish reasons, I’m doing it for me. I just want to say that upfront. But two, taking an initiative on a project and seeing it through the completion might be viewed favorably by the missions committee.
But I think that some specialties and medicine in general is a field that demands complete dedication. If there’s anything that screams ambivalence about a career path, it’s a medical student who has had to interview all 120 specialties to make a decision.
Some residencies in particular, some of the surgical specialties might say, “Well, why haven’t you been doing research in orthopedic surgery since day one? We have 500 other people that have applied to our residencies who have lined up their entire lives to apply to residencies. All things being equal, I’m going to pick that person and not you who’s making a podcast.”
But ultimately that’s okay with me. I have other reasons for making this podcast, which I mentioned. This has been a mechanism for me to explore the business side of things: founding a company, setting up a website and technical skills like that, and really just in a creative side of things which I’m also really enjoying.
Craig: That’s cool. What’s been the biggest surprise for you so far? You’re far enough into seeing a lot of things at this point.
Ian: I’m not totally sure where you’re going with that question but one thing that is not necessarily podcasting specific that has surprised me is how willing physicians have been to jump on board with me in this project, people that I basically haven’t met.
In one case a guy that I hadn’t even interview but he understood my mission statement and why I was doing this, to help medical students work through career planning that he was just like, “Ian, have you thought about doing this? Have you thought about doing that? You should interview this person, this person, this person. We need you to present it the double AMC. We need you to write this report and get this idea out there.” It was amazing how much they ran the project with me.
I guess the lesson there for me anyway, was that by showing and doing some of the leg work for a project and showing people what it is that you’re trying to do, it makes it easier for other people to jump on board that project with you.
Craig: Got you. That’s exciting. The unanticipated upside is always so nice in a project like this. You set out to interview all these 120 something people but then it sounds like other opportunities might be presenting themselves as you go just by the people you’re connecting with.
Ian: Definitely, I intuit more and more that something is going to happen. I’m going to meet someone, I’m going to be introduced to a different idea that I had just never considered and it’ll take me somewhere I had never anticipated and that’s very exciting.
Craig: Longer term, when you get through all of your specialty interviews, what do you think the longer term plan is for the show? Do you think it can continue in perpetuity?
Ian: I hope so. It would really hurt my feelings if I had to let this podcast slowly die out just because I went to residency. I am more and more thinking about the long-term plan and the 10-year plan is something that I’ve been thinking about.
I just read Zero to One by Peter Thiel and he said that one of the mental differentiators between companies that might have good ideas and companies with ideas that last are ones who have a 10-year plan. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a 10-year plan yet but I definitely can see myself continuing to podcast in the residency about new topics that interest me as a resident. Maybe even bringing on other people who are excited about podcasting and maybe I could branch off into even more and different podcasts.
Craig: That’s a really valuable lesson. We had somebody on the show recently who has done 250 episodes.
Craig: We talked a bit about how he’s adjusted course as he went but always stayed true to himself and his subject and his audience. I think that what you’re talking about is thinking forward a little bit with that and say, “Obviously, I’m going to live in the world of medicine but how can I serve the people that I’m starting out serving?” But also evolve the podcast with your career. And to serve the people that are following along the path with you.
The nice thing about medicine is there’s always going to be a new set of people coming in facing the same challenges that you have right now, right?
Ian: Definitely, yes.
Craig: Interesting. How much do you anticipate the content in your episodes changing or being relevant over time? 10 years from now, is this all pretty evergreen content or could it change dramatically?
Ian: I think it could change dramatically. My interview and the other part of the answer that I think some of it is evergreen. My interview takes three parts. The first part of the interview is I basically ask the guest to give us subjective information about their specialty: daily routines, types of patients, outcomes for these patients, what do they wish they had known, what is the most exciting, what is the most mundane, how does the practice of their specialty changed based on setting; private versus academic, nationally versus internationally stuff like that.
That might change. One of those questions I ask is, “What is the future of your specialty?” They make predictions. I think that information will change with technology, with infrastructure changes to the healthcare system.
Part two is, “You chose your specialty. Now tell us how you decided the specialty was right for you and how was it very personal algorithm that they crunch and all sorts of personal factors get weight into that family life: financial compensation, intellectual curiosity, technical rigor and things like that.
Third part of the interview is, “Now, give us long-term career advice irrespective of the specialty that you went into.” That’s where they start talking about things like efficiency, time management, and finding mentors and how to do that.
Parts two and three are a little more evergreen. Part one, things might change and need to be updated.
Craig: Interesting. I just kind of go and back to the thought of a 10-year plan. I think a lot of evergreen content is really good for a show that will stick around along, but some being timely is also really important otherwise it gets real general.
The healthcare economic space, not to get too in the weeds is definitely changing a lot right now. Is that something that has been a touching point on a lot of your episodes?
Ian: Not really. I don’t know much about this specifics and economics of healthcare. One topic that comes up is medicine as a business. How healthcare providers can feel as though they’re a slave to these ever increasingly big medical healthcare delivery systems. That economics and other type of economics of medicine, maybe not in particular but this idea that medicine is a business comes up all the time. I don’t know if I answered your question.
Craig: I’m laughing to myself because I worked on the industry side before so we always pretended we knew a lot about what hospitals were going through and so we could sell them our really expensive stuff. That’s getting beside the point.
I asked the question because we find a lot of people in the podcasting world are doing it as a bridge or intermediary between entertainment and business. Yours is also but definitely leans a bit more straight to the business side of things. At PodcastMotor, we tend to have more of our customers on the business side of things too.
The question really is, as a business tool, what potential do you think building this podcast and your name recognition and things like that offer you outside of the direct benefit of knowing which medical specialty that you’ll go into and maybe it having an effect on you getting accepted into that residency program?
Ian: Definitely. I’m going to answer the first part. Beyond choosing a medical specialty and beyond getting into residency, from the very beginning, one idea I had in the back of my mind with this podcast is to set up a passive income stream that is making me money while I sleep.
I don’t want this to sound totally greedy but part of the issue now that you brought up the business side of the medicine and how physicians can really seem to be slave to the system. They spend so much time learning about medicine to perfect their craft and then they know nothing about the business mechanisms in the system in which they operate. I see them suffer, there’s much angst around this.
This idea of setting up a passive income stream somehow that might allow me to practice medicine the way I want to practice it. That could be working part time so that I can really have more control over my schedule but not have to be beholden into the pay check. There is definitely that in the back of my mind as I entered this, making the podcast.
Craig: That’s fantastic. You touched on a little bit with the potential upside and downside of the podcast when you start applying to these residencies. For everyone who doesn’t know, you do apply to a residency, it’s more like a job interview than going to college. You go and you interview in person of these places at the hospitals or wherever you’re going.
Ian: Yeah, they’ll walk you around, they try to court you.
Craig: It is more of like a job interview than applying to college. I surely think his is a strong intangible on your side to have in your quiver as you’re going to those interviews.
Ian: I totally hope so.
Craig: Interesting. Maybe on the nuts and bolts side of podcasting, what’s something that you’ve learned that you think other people could benefit from that maybe you didn’t anticipate ahead of time about podcasting specifically and the technical side of things?
Ian: The technical side of things for sure as we talked about interviewing anybody and requesting that time is going to be a logistical issue for everybody. But for physicians, it’s particularly difficult. From the moment I am putting contact with the physician, it’s about six weeks sometimes longer, sometimes I have to explain to them what a podcast is.
And two, it’s about four to six weeks to convince them that this is a good idea, that they actually want to do it and then for them to find time in their schedule. Lowering the logistical barriers through scheduling is something that I try to work on very hard with.
A tool that I’ve discovered and many podcasters have discovered this, I discovered it from other podcasters is using an online scheduler. A calendar that has all of your availabilities online so that the person that you’re interviewing can look at your availabilities, compare them next to his availabilities and then they can book an interview directly through your online calendar has been amazing for me. Especially when I’m working with super busy physicians, the online schedule that I use is ScheduleOnce, there are a million out there but I use ScheduleOnce and I love it. But I know that there are many out there that do the exact same thing.
Craig: I use Calendly for mine and they all serve essentially the same purpose. I agree it takes all of the back and forth BS of, “What about Thursday at 3:00?” “Is that Eastern time or Pacific?”
Ian: Then it’s, “Friday afternoon” and then, “I’ll get back to you until Tuesday morning.”
Craig: I do it manually sometimes. In groups it’s difficult. I have another podcast with a co-host and we try to book a guest, we have to do it manually because you can’t coordinate three people’s schedules with most of these tools. Every time I do it I’m like, “Oh my God, thank heavens I only have to do this for a three-person call and not every time I want to book a podcast.” I do a lot of these, I do at least once a week and it saves me so much time. It’s a great tool.
Ian: It looks professional. First of all, it’s probably not hard to look professional from a technological standpoint with doctors because they live on the rocks. All they do is spend time in the hospital. But so many times they’ll email me back and say, “Oh, this is so cool.” And I’ll be like, “That’s right.”
Craig: A lot of them are dorky, I found too, so that’s a big upside down.
Ian: Another thing that I’ve learned about podcasting in particular, obviously, were planning the ratings and reviews games with our podcasts. It helps in the iTunes algorithm to rank you and it’s very difficult sometimes to get ratings and reviews.
Craig, I’m sure you know that in your podcast you have a call to action, “Hey, go check out my website.” Or “Sign up from my newsletter.” Or “Leave us a rating review on iTunes.” I don’t know what your follow through rate is on that but mine’s not very good. In fact, I don’t know if it’s ever worked. Maybe from the email list but almost never certainly for the ratings and reviews. But people are now starting to reach out to me for this and that to say thank you, which feels amazing. Some people have suggestions.
But if anybody reaches out to me and they say, “I love the show. I love what you’re doing, thanks for doing it.” That’s when I take the opportunity to say, “Hey, thanks for reaching out to me. Really appreciate the kind words. Would you mind leaving a rating and review on iTunes?” Then I provide a link for how to do it. I find that I get people to leave ratings and reviews very easily when I do that. If you’re looking for some R&Rs, that’s a great way to think about it.
Craig: That’s fantastic. Especially when you’re just starting, it’s gorilla warfare: family, friends, your next door neighbor because nobody cares. iTunes doesn’t care who leaves the rating and review. There’s definitely an element to the discoverability in their algorithm that if you have a couple, it weighs a lot more than zero.
The other thing that we found is that it’s trending with Twitter, that if you get 2 more every week, it’s not that big a deal but if you get 2, 2 and then 20, it’s a huge deal, that changed over time. Not being consistent is really important for what we’ve seen. If you can weight it a little bit, that tends to be helpful.
Ian: My understanding is that iTunes has five things that they look in their algorithm. One is downloads, one is downloads over the last 28 or 24 or 48 hours, one is subscribers, one is new subscribers over the last 24 or 48 hours, the fifth one is Ratings and Reviews. There is definitely a temporal component there if you get a lot over a short period of time, iTunes notices.
Craig: That’s great. Ian, can you share with folks where they can reach out to you and learn more about your show?
Ian: Definitely. For all the med students out there, definitely hit me up on www.undifferentiatedmedicalstudent.com. On Twitter at @iatroblast. Then my personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Craig: Awesome. Ian Drummond, thanks so much for your time.
Ian: Craig, thanks for inviting me.