U of A's popular 'Surgery 101' podcasts add children's content

Kid-friendly educational series expands on medical podcasts that have generated 5.1 million downloads worldwide.

The University of Alberta's Surgery 101-the free surgery podcasts that have garnered huge followings over the past 10 years-is aiming to spark career interest much earlier with its new podcast series, Surgery ABCs.

Launched late last year, Surgery ABCs podcasts follow Surgery 101's original format-a 10- to 15-minute Q&A about a specific topic-and are aimed at educating children about body parts and getting them excited about a career in health.

"I thought we could make something for kids, and our summer student Natalie Marsden took the idea and ran with it," said Jenni Marshall, a program assistant in digital education with the U of A's Department of Surgery.

So far, 11 podcasts covering kid-friendly topics like, "Why am I ticklish?" "Why do I need to get my shots?" and "Why does my tummy rumble?" have been produced and posted on the site.

"Surgery 101 was meant to support students as study aids but also-with five million downloads-inspire some to pursue careers in the field. We don't know exactly how they're using them, but I heard one student in second-year urology rotations had an entire reading list of Surgery 101 podcasts," said Marshall.

She attributes the success of Surgery 101 to three main factors: stable funding, engaging students and open licensing.

Marshall's position, which handles administration of both programs and all editing, is funded by the Tom Williams Endowed Chair of Surgical Education, currently held by Jonathan White.

"We could not have pulled this off without a designated role because it takes time to work with submissions," said Marshall of her full-time role.

The ideas for the podcasts are brought forward by faculty members and students.

"It's a great experience for the students, and they have a lot of fun doing it while also learning a lot about teaching. Creatively, pretty much anything is allowed as long as they can write a script and communicate a clear learning objective," added Marshall, who works with the content producers to tighten the script, get the right tone and edit for flow.

The project allows anyone around the world to use the U of A-branded podcasts for free, whether for classes, seminars, presentations or workshops.

"We are not trying to make money off of these; we just want people to learn from them and be inspired," said Marshall.