Popular pediatric gastroenterology podcast offers education, information and connection

Bowel Sounds podcast continues to provide clinical and academic pearls, as well as career advice and connection with the pediatric GI medical community.

30 January 2023

Like many podcast fans, Jason Silverman used to think about starting his own podcast. But unlike those other fans, this pediatric gastroenterologist and associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry actually did it. He and his colleagues were successful in creating a podcast that informs, educates and connects the pediatric gastrointestinal (GI) community. 

It all began when  Silverman was approached by his fellow North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition (NASPGHAN) technology committee member Peter Lu with an idea for a podcast. Silverman, who had already been thinking about creating a podcast within the field, was very interested. Lu had also been discussing the idea with another of their pediatric GI colleagues, Jennifer Lee, and with the three of them on board, they made the idea a reality. Bowel Sounds: the Pediatric GI Podcast launched as a monthly podcast at the October 2019 NASPGHAN annual meeting, eventually expanding to biweekly when their colleague Temara Hajjat joined as a host in late 2020.

Listening to Bowel Sounds, you might notice how much fun the hosts seem to be having. According to Silverman, that’s quite intentional. “We wanted to have conversations that were fun and interesting,” he says. “These are real conversations with our guests.”

The core audience for Bowel Sounds is pediatric gastroenterologists, hepatologists, nutrition specialists and people training in those fields. However, Silverman points out that the topics covered are diverse, including celiac-disease management, early-life nutrition and its impact on childhood development and the transition from fellow to faculty. While the hosts primarily choose topics based on the interests of the core audience, the information is also useful for many people across different medical subspecialties and fields — pediatric residents, medical students, nurse practitioners — and even patients and their families could find specific episodes helpful. 

While Bowel Sounds provides a wealth of medical information to listeners, it covers non-medical topics as well. “We also ask our guests about the mentorship they've received over their careers, how they got interested in their field, how they made decisions in terms of their career, and any advice they have for our listeners,” says Silverman. He notes that many of their guests are big names in the pediatric gastroenterology field, who may be intimidating to listeners who have read their papers or seen them speaking at conferences. “They happen to listen to that same person on the podcast and hear them laughing and joking and talking about the mistakes they've made and who helped them, and it makes these people a lot more approachable,” explains Silverman. “I think that's another really important element of each episode.” 

Creating a biweekly podcast is a lot of work, even with multiple hosts, but the team’s efforts are paying off. At the October 2022 NASPGHAN annual meeting — the first in person in three years — the team members were approached by dozens of trainees saying how much they appreciated the podcast. For some, it’s their primary means of studying for some topics, especially when the hosts include links to the research they’ve discussed. Program directors have also informed them their trainees often consider the podcast a part of their curriculum. “We've had people tell us that it [the podcast] helped them pass their board exam in the U.S. for pediatric GI,” Silverman says. “We got a lot of very gratifying feedback that learners are using the information we're putting out there and they appreciate it.” 

Bowel Sounds has even spun off a Twitter chat for pediatric GI, organized by a GI fellow and other members of the NASPGHAN technology committee, including Bowel Sounds co-host  Hajjat. These Twitter chats, which began last year, tie into topics covered on podcast episodes, and take place during the week of the episode’s release. The organizers recruit either that episode’s guest or someone working in a similar field to run the discussion. 

Given how helpful Bowel Sounds is for faculty and learners alike, its popularity isn’t surprising.  

Silverman shares that the podcast has been downloaded an impressive 150,000 times in 123 countries on six continents. “We keep hoping somebody will download our podcast in Antarctica, but it hasn't happened yet,” he says. Even if it doesn’t, Silverman is happy that Bowel Sounds is helping create connections in their specialist community. “Getting to know the leaders and experts to the point where an audience member could listen to an episode and then feel comfortable walking up to that guest and let them know how much they appreciated their episode of the podcast can really level the playing field,” he says.  

You can listen to Bowel Sounds, the Pediatric GI Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.
New episodes are released every other Monday. 

You can join the Bowel Sounds Twitter chats at #PedsGIChat (and follow @PedsGIChat).