Bedside Rounds is a storytelling podcast about medical history and medicine’s intersections with society and culture. Host Adam Rodman seeks to tell a few of these weird, wonderful, and intensely human stories that have made modern medicine.
info_outline 50 - I Know Nothing 10/28/2019
50 - I Know Nothing What does it mean to know something in medicine? In this episode, we’ll explore this question by developing a historical framework of medical epistemologies in a journey that involves King Nebuchadnezzar, citrus fruit, leeches, water pumps, ICD-10, Socrates, skepticism, and 1970's computer programs designed to replace doctors. This is a version of a Grand Rounds given at BIDMC on October 25, 2019.
info_outline 49 - The Ether Dome 09/30/2019
49 - The Ether Dome The world before anesthesia was brutal -- surgeons inflicted torture on largely conscious patients, hoping to finish an operation as quickly as possible. But all of that changed with the introduction of inhaled ether. This episode covers the context behind the discovery of etherization, with myths about screaming medicinal plants, a “missing recipe” of medieval general anesthesia, 19th century recreational drug use, and a controversy carved in granite.
info_outline 48 - Micrographia (FIXED AUDIO) 08/29/2019
48 - Micrographia (FIXED AUDIO) Germs are regarded today with a combination of fear and disgust. But mankind’s first introduction to the microbial world started off on a very different foot. In this episode, as part of a larger series contextualizing germ theory, we’ll talk about the discovery of animalcules and how they forever changed our conception of the natural world — and what causes disease. Plus, a new #AdamAnswers about the influence of Bayes' Theorem on medicine!
info_outline 48 - Micrographia 08/28/2019
48 - Micrographia Germs are regarded today with a combination of fear and disgust. But mankind’s first introduction to the microbial world started off on a very different foot. In this episode, as part of a larger series contextualizing germ theory, we’ll talk about the discovery of animalcules and how they forever changed our conception of the natural world -- and what causes disease. Plus, a new #AdamAnswers about the influence of Bayes Theorem on medicine!
info_outline 47 - The Criteria 06/24/2019
47 - The Criteria Can we ever know what causes a chronic disease? I’m joined again by Dr. Shoshana Herzig to finish a three-part miniseries on Bradford Hill and Doll’s attempts to prove that smoking caused lung cancer. We’ll talk about the first prospective cohort trial in history, 1960s “Fake News” from tobacco companies, public spats with the most famous statistician of the 20th century, and the development of the Bradford Hill Criteria, a guideline that gives doctors a blueprint to finally know what causes disea
info_outline 46 - Cause and Effect 05/20/2019
46 - Cause and Effect Does smoking cause lung cancer? How could you ever know? The second in a three-part series on causality, I’m joined by Dr. Shoshana Herzig to discuss how Austin Bradford Hill and Richard Doll set out to try and answer this question -- and along the way revolutionized the way we think about what causes disease. In this episode, we’ll talk about the first double-blinded randomized controlled trial, the long shadow of tuberculosis, and why epidemiology is beautiful.
info_outline 45 - The French Disease at 500 04/22/2019
45 - The French Disease at 500 In 1495, a mysterious and deadly plague struck the city of Naples. Over the next 500 years, the medical attempts to understand and treat this new disease -- syphilis -- would mold and shape medicine in surprising ways. In this episode, Tony Breu and I will perform an historical and physiological biography of syphilis, covering the development of germ theory, epic poetry, mercury saunas, intentionally infecting patients with malaria, magic bullets, and lots and lots of experiments on poor rabbits.
info_outline 44 - The Great Smog 03/25/2019
44 - The Great Smog What was behind the mysterious increase in lung cancer deaths at the turn of the 20th century? This episode looks at that early debate about environmental pollution. Along the way, we’re going to talk about toxic vapors -- and not Miasma theory, but the actual literal Great Smog of London in 1952 that killed over 10,000 people -- as well as the birth of the case-control study, Nazi attempts at tobacco control programs, and the rather prosaic beginnings of a debate that rages to this day.
info_outline 43 - The Cursed 02/18/2019
43 - The Cursed What killed Charles II of Spain, the inbred monarch whose autopsy famously showed a heart the size of a peppercorn, a head full of water, and a bloodless body? This episode addresses that medical mystery by not only delving deep into Charles’ unfortunate past, but by exploring some of the fundamental assumptions physicians have made about the nature of disease. Along the way we’ll walk about inbreeding coefficients, postmodern philosophy, and two thousand years of anatomy and autopsy.
info_outline 42 - The Lady with the Lamp 01/14/2019
42 - The Lady with the Lamp Florence Nightingale stands as one of the most important reformers of 19th century medicine -- a woman whose belief in the power of reason and statistical thinking would critically shape the both the fields of epidemiology and nursing. This episode discusses how modern nursing was born out of the horrors of war, medical theories about poisonous air, the outsize influence of the average man, the first graph in history, and how Nightingale's legacy continues to influence the 21st century.
info_outline 41 - Animal Magnetism 12/17/2018
41 - Animal Magnetism Mesmerism has had an outsize influence on medicine, despite the rapid rise and fall of its inventor Dr. Franz Mesmer and hostility from the medical establishment. This curious story covers the healing powers of magnets, secret societies in pre-Revolutionary France, fundamental questions about what makes someone alive, and one of the most fascinating medical investigations in history led by a dream team of Benjamin Franklin, Lavoisier, and Guillotine on behalf of King Louis XVI.
info_outline 40 - Phage 11/12/2018
40 - Phage Bacteriophages -- viruses that target and kill bacteria -- were one of the most promising medical treatments of the early 20th century, and were used to treat all sorts of infections, from cholera to staph, and everything in between. But by the 1950s, they had all but died out in the West. This episode tells the story of the humble phage, from its discovery in the waters of the Ganges, love trysts ending in a KGB execution, and to its 21st century resurgence to fight antibiotic resistance.
info_outline 39 - The White Plague 10/08/2018
39 - The White Plague Tuberculosis has been humanity’s oldest and greatest killer. Starting at the turn of the nineteenth century, the White Plague was decimating entire generations in the crowded and unclean cities of Europe, North America, and across the globe. But as medical science learned more about the disease, doctors and reformers developed new ways to combat it, most notably specialized tuberculosis hospitals that sought to heal their patients with fresh air, rest, and a nutritious diet.
info_outline 0 - Introduction 09/10/2018
0 - Introduction Many podcasts start with an “Episode 0”, basically a mission statement for the podcast. Well, better late than never! This episode explores why I make Bedside Rounds, my philosophy about medical history, and a little bit about who I am and my research methods. Hopefully listeners new and old alike will find it interesting!
info_outline 38 - Blood on the Tracks (PopMed #2) 09/10/2018
38 - Blood on the Tracks (PopMed #2) The first population study in history was born out of a dramatic debate involving leeches, “medical vampires,” professional rivalries, murder accusations, and, of course, bloodletting, all in the backdrop of the French Revolution. The second of a multipart series on the development of population medicine, this episode contextualizes Pierre Louis’ “numerical method,” his famous trial on bloodletting, and the birth of a new way for doctors to “know”.
info_outline 37 - Let It Bleed (PopMed #1) 08/06/2018
37 - Let It Bleed (PopMed #1) For thousands of years, bloodletting was the standard of care for any number of medical conditions, but at the turn of the nineteenth century, often acrimonious debates about the practice would lead to a new method of medical knowledge. This episode visits the controversies surrounding the death of George Washington and Benjamin Rush’s bleeding of Philadelphia during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic and asks the big question -- how do doctors truly “know” what actually helps their patients?
info_outline 36 - Filth Parties 07/05/2018
36 - Filth Parties The southern United States was hit by a dramatic epidemic of a mysterious disease called pellagra in the early twentieth century. This episode discusses the cultural and scientific sources of the outbreak -- from the cotton fields of the south, to the cow pastures of rural Germany, to the river basins of Uganda -- and the incredible lengths a young doctor named Joseph Goldberger went through to try and put an end to this plague. Plus, a new #AdamAnswers about the source of the name “internal medicine.”
info_outline The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 06/04/2018
The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sir Arthur Conan Doyle considered The Adventure of the Speckled Band to be his best Holmes story, and Adam does too. Meant to be a companion to Episode 35 (Sherlock), this is the story in its entirety. THIS IS NOT AN EPISODE! It's Adam reading for almost 50 minutes. Consider yourself forewarned!
info_outline 35 - Sherlock 06/04/2018
35 - Sherlock Why do doctors love Sherlock Holmes so much? In this episode, we’ll explore this endearing, nerdy obsession with the good detective, from Holmes’ medical origins and influences, the parallels with medical reasoning, and how the Holmes stories still influence medicine to this day. Plus a new #AdamAnswers about the origin of the white coat.
info_outline 34 - The Physical 05/04/2018
34 - The Physical The physical exam has become a ritual of the modern doctor’s appointment, with pokes, prods, and strange tools. How did this become a normal thing to do? In this episode, I’ll discuss how the physical exam went from the medieval examination of a flask of urine to basically what we have today in just a few decades in early 19th century France, and how the exam is still developing in the 21st century.
info_outline 33 - Alexis and William 04/04/2018
33 - Alexis and William Alexis St. Martin and William Beaumont have one of the strangest relationships in the history of medicine -- a young French-Canadian fur trapper with a hole in his stomach from an errant shotgun blast and the American army physician who cared for him, and then made his own career by turning Alexis into a human guinea pig. They’d revolutionize our understanding of the physiology of the stomach, put American medicine on the map, and start a conversation about human experimentation that goes on to this day.
info_outline 32 - The Humors 03/03/2018
32 - The Humors The Four Humors are probably the longest-lasting idea in the history of medicine, even though they’ve been more or less completely abandoned for the past century or so. In this episode, we’ll explore how the ancient Greek idea of disease coming from imbalances in body fluids touched every aspect of medicine for two millennia, well into the modern era. And we’ll discuss how humoral explanations likely hampered adoption of the first clinical trial in history, James Lind’s famous scurvy study.
info_outline 31 - Malariotherapy 02/02/2018
31 - Malariotherapy Malariotherapy -- infecting comatose syphilis patients with malaria to cure them of the disease -- was once the cutting edge of medicine, and earned its inventor Julius Wagner-Jauregg the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1927. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the fascinating story behind this remarkable treatment, from the murky beginnings of syphilis through its sordid sexual connotations, to the birth of modern psychiatry and Nazi experiments.
info_outline 30 - The Orphan Vaccine 01/05/2018
30 - The Orphan Vaccine Two hundred years ago, a few doctors, a matron, and 22 orphans set sail in a gutsy attempt to spread the new invention of vaccination across three continents in the world’s first attempt to eliminate smallpox. Learn about their epic journey, the Balmis-Salvany Expedition, as well as the medical context surrounding the invention of vaccination in “The Orphan Vaccine”.
info_outline 29 - Curse of the Ninth 12/13/2017
29 - Curse of the Ninth Did the famous composer Gustav Mahler work his fatal heart murmur into his final ninth symphony? To try and answer this question, I’m joined by Dr. Kevin Nordstrom of the Great Composers Podcast. We’ll delve into Mahler’s diseases, a history of heart sounds, musical theory, his obsession with mortality, and the unfortunate circumstances of his own death. Classical music and medicine, in one podcast! What more could you want?
info_outline 28 - Smallpox Blankets 11/09/2017
28 - Smallpox Blankets The story of smallpox blankets offered as gifts to indigenous peoples as a weapon of war is ubiquitous -- but is it based in truth? And did our increased medical understanding of smallpox lead to its use as a biological weapon? In this episode, we confront these questions and explore the history of biological warfare, smallpox, and medicine. Listen to all this, a new #AdamAnswers, and more in this episode of Bedside Rounds, a tiny podcast about fascinating stories in clinical medicine.
info_outline 27 - The First Opiate Epidemic 10/06/2017
27 - The First Opiate Epidemic The United States is in the midst of an epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths due to opiate painkillers. Its causes are varied, but there’s no question that physicians share a large part of the blame. Little discussed is that this is actually the second time this has happened. Almost a century ago, a remarkably similar epidemic struck the country. In this episode, called “The First Opiate Epidemic,” I discuss what happened, the parallels to today, and the lessons we can learn from our forebearers.
info_outline Summer Shorts #2 - Corrupted Blood 09/09/2017
Summer Shorts #2 - Corrupted Blood In 2005, a mysterious plague called Corrupted Blood hit the online denizens of World of Warcraft, ripping through cities and decimating player characters. After the smoke cleared, it became clear that this virtual plague shared many characteristics with real-world diseases and almost immediately attracted the attention of researchers. In this Summer Short, I go over the details of the in-game Corrupted Blood incident, and the very real-world epidemiological research that followed.
info_outline 26 - The God Squad 08/31/2017
26 - The God Squad The invention of dialysis -- essentially artificial kidneys for people with kidney failure -- revolutionized medicine. It also started a debate about medical rationing and ethics that rages to this day. Producer Cam Steele brings us a story about the God Squad, the group of lay people and doctors tasked with deciding who lived and who died in the early days of dialysis, and how it has informed every debate about medical rationing since.