4 H’s and 4 T’s Walk Into a Bar…”: A joke? No, an episode from a medical education podcast

Photo by Patrick Breitenbach

Medical school is jam packed with information to memorize as well as with high-stakes exams and expectations, creating a cauldron of stress and tension. Enter the mnemonic-filled Humerus Hacks podcast, part of a growing movement to make medical education more entertaining and accessible.

I recently learned about Humerus Hacks from its Australian founders and hosts Karen Freilich, MBBS, education coordinator at The Nookie Project, and Sarah Bush, MBBS, medical intern at Western Health. They started the bimonthly podcast to liven up their studies, but have continued it after graduating from medical school despite hectic intern schedules. Each 10- to 40-minute episode is filled with humor and casual conversation, which should be no surprise given episode titles like, “4 H’s and 4 T’s Walk Into a Bar…” (Which, for non-cardiologists, is a reference to potential causes of cardiac arrest.)

What inspired you to create a podcast?

Freilich: “Sarah and I have been mates since we were ten years old, and study buddies since day one of med school. We were both constantly overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information we had to learn, especially when it came to learning the tongue-twisting names of medications. We began breaking down our curriculum into funny snippets to make it easier to learn, but also more enjoyable to study.

The tables turned in our penultimate year of medicine, when I was commuting over two hours daily to placement and Sarah hurt her back and couldn’t properly sit down at a desk to study. We raked through the medical podcast world to find something aimed at our level that wouldn’t put us to sleep, and there wasn’t too much out there. And so, Humerus Hacks was born. We picked the name because it was dorky, fun and medical — just like us.”

How did you learn to make podcasts?

Bush: “As an avid podcast devourer, going through at least four hours of content a day during my commutes about town, I became interested in the sound engineering — and turn’s out its super simple! We opted for high quality microphones, although we didn’t figure out how to use them properly until episode 3 or 4. And I learnt how to edit using Audacity. And then I just give it to a podcast hosting company, and voila!”

Why do you format the episodes as conversations?

Freilich: “We wanted to create content that was funny and enjoyable to listen to. We always aim to include banter and tangents, because that’s what keeps learning interesting. Before an episode, we often write down the three most important things we want the listeners to learn that episode. If our listeners can learn those things, and be entertained at the same time, then we’ve done our job.”

You mentioned that you’ve had feedback from patients. Isn’t your podcast for medical students?

Freilich: “Doctors, nurses and other health practitioners often have jargon so deeply ingrained that it makes it hard for them to explain a health topic simply. We didn’t initially intend to incorporate patients in our listenership, and we are still surprised and quite honored that people have used our podcast as a way to further understand their condition. It’s great that Humerus Hacks can help improve access to medical education.”

What is your favorite Humerus Hacks episode?

Bush: “My favorite is definitely the murmurs rap (at time 9:20) about ejection and pansystolic murmurs, because it has helped me out in real life diagnosis. And it has the added benefit of teaching people how to beat box: start by saying boots and cats, and we’ll go from there. Also I get to rap, which is always fun and embarrassing.”

This is a reposting of my Scope blog story, courtesy of Stanford School of Medicine.

Author: Jennifer Huber

As a Ph.D. physicist and research scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, I gained extensive experience in medical imaging and technical writing. Now, I am a full-time freelance science writer, editor and science-writing instructor. I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area most of my life and I frequently enjoy the eclectic cultural, culinary and outdoor activities available in the area.

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