How can you build a close network of BIPOC healthcare professionals, while also helping tens of thousands of students navigate their journey into medicine? With a podcast!
Dr. Steven Bradley is a board-certified anesthesiologist and medical ethicist in the Navy. In under two years, Dr. Bradley launched and grew his show, “The Black Doctors Podcast” to 75K downloads, built a network of hundreds of diverse practitioners in medicine, and created a thriving platform to spotlight minority voices and leaders in the field of medicine.
For current doctors and students of medicine, Dr. Bradley’s podcast is a wealth of knowledge for discovering the unheard stories and needed insights for building a successful career in medicine as a BIPOC professional.
In his podcast, you can discover the journey of a practitioner in every specialty of medicine imaginable–physicians, dentists, neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, pediatricians, veterinarians and beyond.
On top of the podcast and his medicine practice, Dr. Bradley attends to his creative life, family life, and more with grace.
Stream the full episode here, to learn about Dr. Bradley’s podcasting journey to building a top 20% show in under 2 years, as well his expert insights on the challenges facing American healthcare today.
Below, we’ve pasted some of the top questions and answers from the podcast, transcribed using Sounder’s free episode transcription tool.
1. Getting to 75K downloads in two years is no easy feat for a new podcaster. If you were to zoom in on three factors that were key in helping you accomplish this, what would you say that they were?
The growth has been incredible. It’s been overwhelming and honestly surprising. I remember that first episode, I released it and in that first week or two, fifty people listened to the episode. I was like, “Who are these fifty people that found this podcast?” I had shared it on social media, but I was not expecting that robust of a response.
I am fortunate to have a really good network. The podcast is called “The Black Doctors Podcast” and it’s about diversity and healthcare. So within that space it’s a very small community of Black physicians, dentists, and healthcare practitioners; and I think within that community, I was able to gather support from other fellow clinicians that I had on the show.
I learned a lot preparing for the podcast about how maybe the folks with the biggest social media followings may not be the guests that have the most receptive audience for their episode, and it’s definitely been true.
I’ve had some surprises and it goes to show that social media doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s some folks out there that, you know, off of the Internet, have a fantastic community. By sharing those stories, it brings that community into the podcasting space.
So, first of all the credit goes to the incredible guests that I’ve been able to highlight and their incredible stories.
Second I would say it’s the social media aspect. I learned using different apps, how to make marketing graphics that were consistent. You can look at the beginning of the podcast and see how they’ve changed over time, and hopefully gotten better over time. I try to post consistently on social media so that people can see what the podcast is up to.
The third thing that’s happened really is through Sounder, and the marketing tools that Sounder provides. I was very impressed when I switched over to the program, not to sound like a commercial, but the initial host I was with didn’t have a lot of tools that I could use. Sounder has nice kind of all-in-one features, where I can make graphics, videos and I can add hashtags to help with syndication and search engine optimization for the podcast. I think those three things have definitely been helpful.
2. You’ve talked a lot about imposter syndrome in separate episodes. How did you overcome that and lean in towards your creative inspiration?
Yeah, so that anxiety and that imposter syndrome, it’s so prevalent in the medical field. It’s prevalent, any time you get in front of a lot of people, which is exactly what podcasting is.
In the beginning I was super nervous and worried about how I would be perceived. Around that time, I found some online course that was going to teach me how to be super rich, but it didn’t work out. But one of the slogans from the course was, and I think it came from someone’s book, “Done is better than perfect.” A lot of times we get so worked up on putting out something that is absolutely perfect and flawless, when in actuality you just need to start creating—whether it’s on social media, whether it’s podcasting, you know, do a little research and just, you know, crank a project out.
Over time, I found it inspiring. I can go back and look at some of my initial episodes and see that the sound has improved, the quality has improved, and so that continues to motivate me for the future.
I also initially was concerned with building a following. I thought that was the ultimate marker of success. Over time, I saw that change as well—that I wasn’t necessarily getting whatever nebulous numbers that I thought I should be getting, and trying to figure out where I fell with regards to the podcast ranking boards.
But, what really stuck out was the occasional comments that I would receive. The feedback from medical students and pre-medical students that said they really appreciated the podcast, and that they learned different things from different episodes. Some episodes that I thought would be huge maybe weren’t so much, and then other episodes—I just could never predict which episode and what piece of content would speak to which listener.
So about halfway through, I kind of stopped caring, if you will; and I just figured, I’m going to put this out there and the right people will see it, the right people will hear it, and eventually that transitioned over to my social media. I was working on this nicely curated feed and a kind of influencer-light [approach], if you will. Then I just stopped caring and you’ll see a bunch of random music videos of me just practicing; mostly because, again, I can go back a year ago and see how I progressed. So, it’s almost more for me than for the people that are following.
3. What made you decide to start “The Black Doctor’s Podcast”?
So that comes down to another black physician podcaster, Dr. Nii Darko, and he’s the host of the “DOCS Outside the Box,” podcast. It’s been around for several years, several years before I started podcasting, and he was posting on social media one day, “Why every physician should have a podcast.” And I said, well, “That’s a ridiculous statement to say, that’s pretty strange.” But I guess that worked, because I would go in and scroll through his posts and learn about podcasting.
He talked about building a platform for yourself, and having control over your audience and the message that you want to see—that you want to send out. I also was really thinking about ways that I could impact the healthcare community at large and increase the diversity that we see around us. I was weighing the difference between more posts on social media and other mediums. I thought that podcasting would accomplish all those things and it provides something with staying power; that years down the road, people can look up an episode about a neurosurgeon and figure out what it takes for her to get there.
And those are the two things that led me into podcasting, or got me to think about it at least, and I spent the next couple of months really planning. As I said before, I’m not much of a planner, except, you know, every now and then. So I was able to sit down and kind of develop a plan for how I wanted to build and launch this, and fortunately it worked out.
4. From a bird’s eye view, what do you feel are the biggest issues facing ethics and medicine in America?
As the last couple of years have shown, there’s a lot of misinformation and it’s difficult to know who is, or is not, a reliable source. As a physician, or those of us that have studied medicine for a while, perhaps we’re indoctrinated, but we’re used to the primary research on topics. We have courses on that throughout medical school, and determining what is the best method of practice.
I’ve realized over the last couple of years that when presenting that research to the general public, a lot of it can be lost in translation. A lot of it could be misconstrued or distorted. And for members of the general public, why would they know any different, or how should they know who they should or shouldn’t listen to?
So, misinformation is huge and the impetus is on us as clinicians to be able to break down this very complex information in a way that our patients can understand it. A lot has happened to that physician-patient relationship, where ideally you have a primary care physician that you trust, that you can go to with these concerns and have those conversations.
The second thing that’s really huge is healthcare disparities. They’ve been with us from the beginning of the establishment of healthcare in the United States. Looking back at the history, there’s so much bad that was done. When you brought over enslaved Africans, they were used as props and used to study and build our medical practice, experimented on along the way. It’s developed this culture of mistrust and healthcare and is actually quite reasonable.
If an organization has harmed you or your family members in the past, why would you trust it today? So that history, you know. We’ve fortunately come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. Health care disparities are still very prevalent, as we saw with the pandemic, with the different rates of death and disease and different communities.
Over the last probably fifty years or so, as we’ve started to diversify the healthcare workforce, among many other aspects. As we diversify the healthcare workforce, we now have physicians that are concerned, can treat, and can look at the disparities that occur and the populations from which they originate. So we can now look at and see that African Americans and Hispanic patients have worse healthcare outcomes. We can ask the question, “Well, why?”
Before perhaps people didn’t care as much because of the demographics of the physician workforce, but as we diversify we can now start to ask those questions. We can start to advocate to get research money and funding to look at these healthcare disparities, and look at different issues that are leading to these disparate outcomes. One of the big focuses now is looking at the social determinants of health.
Whereas before we might say, “Okay, well, black people have worse healthcare because they eat poorly, or it’s an intrinsic factor of their genetics, or something that that’s inherently wrong with them.” Now, we can look at it and say, “These social determinants of health are the overall structure and framework in which we live as a community.” It brings into it components of housing and security, redlining, the way housing is situated in our major cities—that exposes young minority children to worse air quality as they’re growing up in these inner cities. Or the job insecurities and food insecurities that they have, because they don’t have access to healthy food. Therefore, there’s higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure.
The education system and their ability to navigate that to join the healthcare workforce, can even lead to more balancing in these healthcare outcomes.
So, looking at the bigger picture of what’s going on has enabled us to hopefully start to make some progress. I think this year there was a ten percent increase in the number of Black students and Hispanic students admitted to medical school. So, again that’s some reassuring numbers, but there’s still a long way to go.
The third thing, I think, in regards to the ethics and situation of healthcare in the country, is just that we’re losing that sense of community and that we’re so fragmented based upon ethnic or racial lines or politics. It’s hard when we’re all speaking different languages and, you know, languages in terms of politics or social ideologies; and we’re unable to look past that and see the humanity in each other, and then just love each other and take care of our neighbors.
5. What’s coming down the line for Steven, do you have any type of point on the horizon?
I am working on it. So, right now the biggest things are bringing on more hosts. It was a solo show with me doing editing and me doing the interviewing. My wife helped out with some of the intro music, music that I recorded as well. I’ve been able to bring on a couple additional hosts, one is Dr. Stewart. He’s a general surgery resident physician, so he’s able to relate to physicians that are still in training and add that perspective to the show. I’ve worked on a couple other people, reached out, to help diversify the perspectives that are portrayed.
So, I’m looking for a woman physician as well to be a host to get that perspective, because it’s so crucial to hear what other women go through in the field. As much as you know, I’ve had a hard time. You know, things are always disproportionately worse with regards to discrimination and other things that they encounter. So, I really want to focus on broadening the perspectives that are being portrayed.
I also want to focus more on organizing the structure of the show, and maybe having some themes in different months, and continue to improve the quality of the show over time.
The other thing I’m working on is trying to coordinate how best to do some giveaways, because medical students, pre-medical students, are broke and struggling for the most part. I just want to be able to give back to people that are at such a critical time.
Thank you for listening!
Learn more about Steven Bradley’s work and check out “The Black Doctor’s Podcast!”
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