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Elevating Underrepresented Voices and Viewpoints in Medicine

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Elevating Underrepresented Voices and Viewpoints in Medicine

Nov 27, 2023

How do today's health care leaders inspire and empower the next generation? It can happen in the classroom—but it can also happen online, through podcasting, videos, and other multimedia content. Marina Capella, MD, Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at University of Utah, is the producer and co-host of "The Future Minority Doctor Podcast." She joins Tonya Bailey, PhD, Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, to talk about increasing equity for tomorrow's doctors while elevating underrepresented voices and viewpoints in medicine.   

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Using podcasts to elevate underrepresented voices and viewpoints in medicine—welcome to conversations between colleagues with at AAMC Learn Serve Lead. We're exploring the innovative ideas that are shaping the landscape of academic medicine.

And in this episode, we get the opportunity to listen to a conversation between Dr. Tonya Bailey, Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, and Dr. Marina Capella, Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at University of Utah Health. And she's also the producer and one of the hosts of the podcast called "The Future Minority Doctor Podcast."

And I'm Scot Singpiel. I'm the manager of for University of Utah Health and have produced podcasts for over 10 years, including a diverse medical student podcast called "Bundle of Hers."

So, Dr. Bailey, let's start this conversation between colleagues. I'm excited about this. As somebody who's looking to start a podcast, tell us about that podcast you want to start.

Dr. Bailey: So, I am elated that I get to be in your presence today, Dr. Marina, because I'm really interested in furthering an idea I have called EquaT. It's a play on words about equity that really highlights the lived experiences of medical students, physicians, faculty, staff, and even the communities in which they serve.

And so EquaT would bring a podcast experience to our institution that will allow those voices to be elevated, share those stories, and I believe through a cup of tea, of sipping on EquaT, we can learn, grow, be better, and then thrive. How can you help me?

Dr. Capella: First of all, I love that idea. That sounds fantastic, and a podcast that I would like to listen to and I would have loved to have available to me as a premed.

Dr. Bailey: You're our first subscriber, right?

Dr. Capella: Yes, I will be. Absolutely. So, two years ago, a little bit after the start of the COVID pandemic . . . actually, I guess it was longer than that. Closer to three years ago, a friend of mine from medical school and I started chatting online, saying, "Hey, it's terrible what's going on. The pandemic is really highlighting some of the racial inequities in health care in our country. Is there anything we can do about it?" And we had the idea to start a podcast to help inspire and empower underrepresented minority students and first-generation students to become physicians.

Dr. Bailey: I love it.

Dr. Capella: Both of us came from first generation . . . Well, both of us came from immigrant families. We were first generation in our families to go to college, to go to medical school, to navigate the complexity of that whole long path and process.

Dr. Bailey: Yes.

Dr. Capella: So, we thought, "We've learned a lot through our own paths, and we can share those experiences and that knowledge, that wisdom, to help others who are starting on their path to stay motivated and to learn how to navigate those unique challenges."

Dr. Bailey: I love that. As a first-generation college student as well, I believe the more we can have breadcrumbs left, the better we can make the great sandwich. My analogy.

So talk to me about . . . You did it in the midst of a pandemic, right? And I believe the gift of the pandemic was creativity. And clearly, you and your colleagues did just that. What would be some great advice for me starting off to elevate the minority voice? Again, students, faculty, staff, community. And what would you share with me that you learned first off? Like, "Definitely don't do this, Dr. Bailey."

Dr. Capella: I think really just start. When we first started, there was a lot of hesitancy. "I don't like how I sound. I've never done a podcast. How do I figure this out? How do we gain an audience? How many people are actually listening?" Don't get bogged down in those details. Just start.

And of course, our first few episodes were a little more awkward, a little more hesitant. And as we have continued, it's become more natural. We've gotten better. Our episodes, the quality and content is getting better and better. So just start.

Those conversations are so important, and highlighting those voices that you talked about is so important, because one thing that I sort of believe is that you can't be what you can't see. And a lot of our underrepresented minorities in society are just not seeing people like them in the medical profession, and so they're just not seeing that as a possibility for them in their future.

And so by having a podcast, maybe some video content . . . YouTube is now very popular. People look things up on YouTube all the time. So we have a podcast, but we also have our content that we're uploading to YouTube so that it's video as well as audio.

Dr. Bailey: Oh, I love that idea.

Dr. Capella: Younger generations, they watch those videos all the time.

Dr. Bailey: They want to see visual. Visual and representation matters, and so the entire topic or focus that you have is relevant. And then to add the video content or the ability for people to see online, that's a jewel that I'm taking, and I'm sure every listener is taking away too. And the first step is to just start. I love that.

So my second question is what have been some of the rewards that you have seen because of the elevated voices or bringing attention to those that typically aren't at the table or on the menu?

Dr. Capella: We occasionally get feedback through our social media or through our email, just little comments from people. And I know that there are a lot more that are listening and having these same sentiments, but they don't always reach out and tell us.

A high school senior reached out one time on Instagram and said, “Thank you so much for sharing your stories. I want to go into medicine, but I just don't know how to do it. And I've never seen someone that looks like me as a role model. Now I see you two and I see this possibility.”

Dr. Bailey: I've got to pause you right there, because I think for those that might be listening, we have to be real, that there are underrepresented groups of students that really want to go into medicine but don't think that they can.

Dr. Capella: Exactly.

Dr. Bailey: So your podcast is an admissions dream. You're able to use this, or at least the admissions, if they're smart enough, pay attention, to use this as an opportunity not just for recruitment, but for really exposing populations of individuals that are absent in medicine to know you can.

And to see someone that is at that level where they are only hoping, dreaming, or maybe even self-doubting that they can do that makes a difference in all the world. So I want to thank you for that, and providing that exposure.

With that level of exposure and having those voices elevated, I'd like to talk a little bit just about those lived experiences. So, describe if you can, I know there are many, but what's been one of the most memorable lived experiences that you've highlighted on your show?

Dr. Capella: We are very honest and very vulnerable on our show.

Dr. Bailey: I love that.

Dr. Capella: And I think if you're going to start a podcast, please facilitate that, because it's important. I mean, on some of our first few episodes, one of them is my co-host, Dr. Zulma, sharing her story and then one of them is me sharing my story of my journey into and through the field of medicine. And we're honest. I talk about how I failed some of my pre-med classes and I had to just take them over again. But I didn't give up. I didn't let that be the door that closed and sent me in another direction.

And we're very vulnerable about mental health challenges and open about them. We talk a lot about the challenges of medical school. Just because you get into medical school doesn't mean your challenges are over. There are still a lot of challenges to go. And so we're very open, very honest.

We talk about burnout. We have a whole episode on burnout, because we don't want to just encourage people to go into the field of medicine just to do it. We want them to go in eyes wide open, knowing the challenges, but also being equipped with tools to face those challenges and having role models of people who faced those same challenges, whether it be mental health challenges, physical challenges, mindset challenges, failing classes, all of that. If they see someone who's been through that, they can see how they can get through that same challenge themselves.

Dr. Bailey: So well said. A couple of things you said that I just want to pull back and give some attention on. And that is the transparency and being real, because as you mentioned before, our newcomers, our young people, are really looking for people that they can be relatable to, right? And to know that they see me and I see them.

I like to say sometimes that falling is a part of walking. As a mother of eight, I've had to train a lot of my kids, like, "It's okay. You can get back up." But to hear someone say, "You know what? I failed my first couple of exams," or, "I didn't get everything right," that says to someone else, "I can do it too. Even when I'm falling, it's a part of walking."

And so I think the transparency piece I'm taking away from that, and I'm hoping our listeners are looking at that too. Whether you're thinking about starting a podcast or just having some real dialogue about your lived experience in this area, in the academic medical education field, it's important, so talk about that.

Secondly, you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned mental health, because I don't feel like we're talking about it enough. And as someone who has recently lost a physician in my life to suicide, I feel as if sometimes we're not normalizing conversations around our health and normalizing these lived experiences to say, "This is where you can get help from."

Coming into medical school is a challenge, right? What are the support systems there? How can we make sure that folks know that you're not in this journey alone?

Can you talk about, in the episode that you mentioned on mental health, what's one thing . . . I feel like this is kind of an educational piece too when you're talking about doing a podcast. How are you informing your listeners on important matters of health, including mental health?

Dr. Capella: We have one episode that was completely devoted to just understanding anxiety and depression and what to do about it. And we had a colleague who's a psychiatrist on the show to just kind of answer some questions about what it is, how to recognize it, how to seek out help if you recognize those problems within yourself. But we also have another episode on self-care, on realistic self-care.

Dr. Bailey: What does that look like?

Dr. Capella: That's not just going to massages that you can't afford. It's prioritizing sleep. It's recognizing your limitations. It's asking for help. All of those things.

Dr. Bailey: That's good.

Dr. Capella: And self-compassion is a huge part of that. I feel like medicine tends to draw this population of students who are perfectionistic, and it can reach the level of toxic perfectionism, and that can really feed into some of those mental health challenges.

I definitely was guilty of perfectionism. I'm a recovering perfectionist.

Dr. Bailey: Same.

Dr. Capella: So helping them to recognize those things that might be going on and helping them to develop good habits early, like please don't drink 10 cups of coffee a day to get through it. That's going to affect your sleep, that's going to affect your mental health, all of those things.

So, yeah, we have a couple of episodes, and we'll continue to have episodes that reiterate those points.

Dr. Bailey: So what fuels your episode topics, given that you're talking about future minority doctors and underrepresented future cultural-sensitive, cultural-responsive doctors? So what fuels that? Do you do a poll and ask for feedback, or kind of have some listening sessions to get topics? How do you choose?

Dr. Capella: We do ask people for ideas. We rarely get them, but we mostly have a three-pronged approach.

So our goal is a third of our episodes are interviews with minority physicians of different specialties and at different stages, from medical school through residency and as attendings.

The second one is academic success topics. So how to succeed in organic chemistry, how to develop your test-taking skills and study skills, things like that.

And then the third major topic is really psychology and mindset, because it's not just about scoring well on exams and figuring out how to study or apply. It's not just about navigating the application process. You have to have that mindset of success, the self-compassion, the self-care, to really not just succeed, but thrive as a physician.

And those things aren't just things that you need in order to get into and through medical school and training. They're things that you need to continue to thrive as a physician and to avoid burnout as a physician.

Dr. Bailey: About the podcast for those that are starting, or perhaps those that have one and they're just trying to figure out why we're not getting enough traction or views or how we can take it to the next level, what would you say to how you scale up a podcast that focuses on maybe diverse voices or whatever you're talking about? How would a person going into this scale things up?

Dr. Capella: Well, let me preface it by saying we have not perfected this. We are still working on it.

Dr. Bailey: Outstanding and improving. I got it.

Dr. Capella: Yeah. Two of us that are just volunteering our time and have full-time careers. But that being said, we have learned some lessons, and we know which direction we need to go toward to enhance the success of our own podcast.

Enlist younger people. They understand social media very well, and there's so much content on social media nowadays, especially video content, that is gaining attention. You're already doing the work, recording the podcasts and the videos. If you have clips from those podcasts and videos that you're able to put on social media, that's more likely to gain a wider audience, especially among young people who you're trying to inspire.

Dr. Bailey: I love that. And so that kind of leads me to my final question maybe. And thank you so very much. This has been so informing, and I hope the listeners are gaining as much as I am from this.

Dr. Capella: Thanks.

Dr. Bailey: So, let's say it is 10 years from now, and you have this moment of reflection. What would you have liked to leave? What would be the mark that you would want to leave in this realm of podcasts and not the stain? What do you hope to leave behind?

Dr. Capella: Our goal from the inception of the podcast, and now the nonprofit that has risen up from this podcast, is to inspire and empower the next generation of . . . I use the word underrepresented minorities, but the hope is that they will not be underrepresented minorities in the future, right?

But our goal is really, again, to inspire and empower young people to enter the medical profession, regardless of the family they grew up in, their background, their socioeconomic status, their class, the challenges that they face in life, and really helping them to see what is possible, that they can empower their communities, they can give back to their communities, they can make the world a better place by pursuing this path if they feel called to it.

Dr. Bailey: Absolutely. I love that your idea of change through elevated voices is all a part of your podcast, and I wish you the very best in this quest. And I thank you for the download, for the empowerment, for all the tools and nuggets, and for being my first subscriber.

Dr. Capella: You're very welcome. Thank you for this conversation.

Dr. Bailey: Thank you. This has been fabulous.