The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

The Humanities in Medicine? With Dave Etler of The Short Coat Podcast

Dave Etler discusses the role of the humanities & social sciences in a medical education, & the role that physicians can play in politics. Dave Etler is the Founder, Producer, and Host of The Short Coat Podcast.

  • [01:03] How Dave Began Podcasting
  • [04:54] Lessons That Dave Has Learned From Podcasting
  • [06:46] The Role of the Humanities in a Medical Education
  • [12:40] Paternalistic Medicine Versus Partner-Based Medicine
  • [16:21] Systems of Power in Medicine
  • [20:39] The Importance of Maintaining Interests Outside Medicine
  • [24:06] Physician Involvement in Public Discourse and Politics

Erkeda DeRouen chats with Dave Etler, the Founder, Producer and Host of The Short Coat podcast which looks at different aspects of a medical student’s experience. They discuss the role of the humanities and the social sciences in a medical school education, and the role that physicians can play in politics.

The Short Coat Podcast

Dave worked as a clerk at the Carver College of Medicine for many years. After gaining some experience, he proposed doing a podcast about medical students to his supervisor. Since then, he has enjoyed talking to medical students who he calls “creative”, “funny” and with “a stirring desire to do good.” He has also been pleasantly overwhelmed by the various types of jobs that someone in a medical profession can have — for example, becoming a medical journalist, teacher, serving your community, or simply becoming a specialist with lots of money.

The Role of the Humanities in a Medical Education

Dave describes some of the writing and literature classes at the humanities department of Carver College. These classes help medical students to write professional CVs, and personal statements, but also help medical students to develop good personal writing skills. Overall, he says that the humanities detail the stories that we tell ourselves, and help medical students to understand the dynamics and cultural context behind the people that physicians treat.

One major reason that medical students should study the humanities is that indigenous, black and other people of color need a reason to trust doctors. For example, studies show that women of color have worse childbirth outcomes. Doctors need to understand why this is so, and take steps to mitigate it. Relatedly, doctors often take a paternalistic approach to treating their patients, speaking the language of “compliance” versus “noncompliance.” Instead, doctors need to understand why a patient does not comply with a given suggestion. For example, perhaps a patient is too poor to access fresh fruits and vegetables. An education in the humanities exposes doctors to this mindset.

Historically, physicians avoid involvement in public discourse and politics. However, with politicians making healthcare decisions, Dave hopes that physicians will step up and use their humanities skills to engage in public discourse and social justice, and to argue for the wellbeing of patients and healthcare providers.

Systems of Power in Medicine

Even within medicine, there are systems of power. Dave talks about something called the “chair hierarchy.” When in a room with physicians and medical students, you often find the attendings sitting at the table, while the residents and medical students would not. These hierarchies can impact the kind of training or feedback that you get or give. With a humanities education, you learn how to better navigate these hierarchies — respecting the hierarchies that make sense (for example, the legal obligation of attendings versus nurses) and work against those that do not.

Check out Dave Etler’s LinkedIn and Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Also check out The Short Coat podcast.

Erkeda DeRouen

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen is a graduate of Hampton University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, followed by completing medical school at the Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed residency at The University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Program. After that, she worked at an underserved community health center, and currently is an Associate Medical Director of a telemedicine company. She recently became one of the first 1,000 lifestyle medicine certified physicians in the world! Her areas of interest include: health equity and eliminating health disparities, service of underserved populations, HIV management, transgender care, mentorship, and lifestyle medicine.

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