“…and physicians, we’re not good at doing this for ourselves, you have to give yourself some grace. Right? Like, ‘You’re being hard on yourself. You’re a good person, you’re working hard, you deserve the best.’” -Dr. Bradley Block
In today’s episode, Jen has a conversation with the host of the Physician’s Guide to Doctoring Podcast, Dr. Bradley Block, to talk about the ins and outs of physician podcasting. Have you ever thought about starting your own podcast or just wondered about the inner workings? In this episode, Jen asks Brad about his start at podcasting, what motivated him to do that, and the guest who most inspired him. They discuss whether podcasting is a viable side gig. If you’re a healthcare provider thinking about joining the podcast world, this is the episode for you!
Bradley Block, MD, is an otolaryngologist – head and neck surgeon on Long Island, New York, where he lives with his wife and three young sons. He is a partner at ENT and Allergy Associates and he created the Physician’s Guide to Doctoring Podcast. It is a scintillating and engaging podcast, where he interviews physician and non-physician experts to help teach us what we should have been learning while we were busy memorizing the Kreb’s Cycle. It is a practical guide for practicing physicians, physicians-in-training and all allied health professionals. Topics range from personal finance to politics to improving interactions with patients to what every doctor should know about different specialties. You can find him at PhysiciansGuidetoDoctoring.com and on Twitter and rarely on Instagram @physiciansguide. You can’t find him on TikTok, Snapchat, Etsy or on Pinterest and you probably never will.
Dr. Block attended medical school at SUNY Buffalo, graduating with research honors, and went on to ENT residency at Georgetown University Medical Center. He enjoys surfing (yes, there is surfing on Long Island), skiing (there is no skiing on Long Island), smoking meat, exercising, throwing his sons across the pool and finding any excuse to quote an 80s movie.
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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran
Please enjoy the full transcript below
Dr. Bradley: And physicians we’re not good at doing this for ourselves. You have to give yourself some grace. Like you’re being hard on yourself, you’re a good person, you’re working hard, you deserve the best.
Jen: Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Dr. Jen Barna, and I’m so excited to bring to you my guest today, Dr. Bradley Block. Dr. Block is an otolaryngologist on Long Island, New York where he lives with his wife and three young sons. He’s a partner at ENT and allergy associates and he created the Physician’s Guide to Doctoring Podcast. It’s an engaging podcast where he interviews physician and non-physician experts to help teach us what we should have been learning while we were busy memorizing the Krebs cycle, and I highly recommend the podcast. Dr. Bradley Block, welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.
Dr. Bradley: It’s great to be here. I’m a fan of your podcast as well. So, I’ve been looking forward to this.
Jen: Thank you. Me, too. I’m so excited to talk with you. I want to hear about the story behind the podcast. I want to hear about you about what led you into podcasting and the backstory really behind the Physician’s Guide to Doctoring.
Dr. Bradley: I was a rabid consumer of podcasts, because when I first finished residency, I moved into Manhattan, but my practice was on Long Island. So, I had a big commute. And having just finished residency, where every minute was precious, all this time sitting in the car, listening to music was like wasted. I have to be doing something productive. I was consuming audiobooks, podcasts. What I discovered is, when I was seeing patients, some of my partners were able to see quite a few more patients per day than I was where I would run behind seeing three patients an hour, they were able to see five. So, I got curious about what communication skills I could acquire to improve my efficiency. It wouldn’t just help me like blow through the visit faster, but so the patient also gets good care. I don’t want to just give them the perception of good care, I want to give them good care. I need to make my communication more efficient. So, there’s got to be a podcast out there.
I didn’t even know it was called social engineering, communication, look that stuff up, you can find anything. But what I did find was communications for executives, communications for dating, communications for lawyers, marketing, sales, nothing for physicians. The only thing that I remember was, during my clinical skills when I was a medical student, sit down and talk to your patient, and it’ll feel for them like the visit has been longer than if you were standing the whole time. That was it. But there has to be more out there. As example, actually the episode that I put out a week or two ago, I mean, I know that we’re recording this in the future, but was with a professional interrogator. And he teaches business communication and sales communication based on his experience with being interrogator where it’s really important to acquire and keep trust. We spun that into physicians. So, there’s all this information out there in non-physician communicators that we could really apply. But I can’t just call people up and say, “I’ve got some questions for you.” But if I had a platform, like podcasting, then I can call people up.
A great example of this was a couple of weeks or months into my podcast journey, there was an article in The Huffington Post, and they’re always these articles about how doctors don’t know how to talk to patients about their weight. We’re terrible at it, we make them feel badly about themselves and alienate them, and it’s really traumatizing for them. And worse when someone in the street just says something horrible to them, because we’re an authority figure. So, even if we’re trying to do what’s in their best interest, there’s a way to go about it. And then there’s every other way. What I did is I saw this article, and I called up one of the psychologists who was quoted, and I said, “If we’re doing it so wrong, can you teach us how to do it correctly? Can you teach us how to do it?” Well, I love podcasts, I’d love to be on it. Here I was nobody, no audience, a few episodes with my friends, which by the way, as it turns out, as physicians, a lot of our friends are experts in their field. Like it didn’t take me long to get some experts on my podcast because like my brother has a PhD in health policy, and is now a professor at New York Medical College and worked on the Affordable Care Act. So, you know him. And then my friends who I went to medical school with are now like program directors, and so it wasn’t hard to find experts, so I developed the show and then I started reaching out to strangers.
Now I have an established show with episodes and I can start reaching out to people, and it was a great example of that this information is out there, how do I get it for myself, and then put it in a medium that other people can benefit from as well?
Jen: Well, I relate to your story on multiple levels, for sure, because I was listening to podcasts for years as well. Whenever I would switch over to try to find something about physicians, everything was just very clinical and dry, and I couldn’t find the actual real-life kind of discussions, which I think your podcast addresses, which is why I like so much. And what we tried to do on DocWorking as well, and similarly, I had thought multiple times, like, “Wow, if you had your own podcasts, you could talk to people just about anything, you can bring people on and ask them questions and learn so much.” So, it is really fun opportunity. Now you’re a practicing ENT surgeon, are you practicing full time and podcasting on the side? How do you balance the two?
Dr. Bradley: As I’ve heard on your podcast, it’s not balance.
Jen: Integration, right? [chuckles]
Dr. Bradley: Integration, yes. I’ve tried to integrate it. At different points in my life, it has integrated differently. For instance, at one point I was taking every other Thursday afternoon off, and that was the time that I had. But at the time, I was also working evenings. Now I’m not seeing patients in the evening. So, then my evenings I get home from work, put the kids to bed, and then once the kids are in bed, it’s my time to podcast, so it’s just my evenings.
Jen: And how many podcasts are you producing a week?
Dr. Bradley: One episode a week.
Dr. Bradley: Just one episode a week. At this point, I’ve been doing it for over three years of about almost 150 episodes.
Jen: So, first of all, I’m curious about you. And I feel like I’ve got a sense from what you’ve said so far about what led you into podcasting. I’m also curious about the process of podcasting itself, and what that has been like for you. Whether that was, first of all, as you expected it to be, and now that you’ve been doing it for three years, I mean, that puts you in the very seasoned among podcasters, especially physician podcasters. I’m very curious to hear what you’ve learned over that time, and how it may be the same or different from what you expected.
Dr. Bradley: When I first started, the thing that really kept me from starting was the editing process, which I still haven’t done, and never will do. I’m a firm believer in outsourcing. One of my wife’s best friends is a professional voiceover artist. She offered to do it. I was going to be doing episodes just every other week, and then I ended up enjoying it so much, and getting so many opportunities for interviews, that I just did it every week, and it ultimately became too much to ask. So, then I found a place to outsource to, which was barebones. Plus, if you’re interested in starting podcasting, there are plenty of bare bones, places that will throw your interview through some type of an algorithm to get rid of a lot of the ums and splice the audio together to include your intro and your outro and whatever, for not that much money. And as a physician, I would definitely recommend doing that if you’re considering it because your time physicianing is much more valuable than your time editing. So, if it means seeing two more patients, do that instead of editing podcasts.
When I got started, what really got me over that initial hump was that I had someone to do it for me. And so I didn’t have to learn how to do it or anything. And then I don’t really recall what my expectations were going and other than that it would be an opportunity for me to get in touch with people that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I will say though, I have expected my podcast to be more popular than it is. I appreciate you saying that it’s popular, but I look at the number of downloads and it is discouraging, and it shouldn’t be. It should be about enjoying the process, not the outcome. But I’m a human being and not getting the downloads. Although my podcast has been cited on a couple of like review lists as “physician podcasts to listen to,” which I really appreciate and should be enough. But still, it is a little disappointing when you don’t see your numbers increasing. At the beginning, they were increasing, they’ve plateaued now, which is discouraging. So, that was something that was unexpected.
We’re physicians. Aside from in medicals, we’re used to being at the top and the best and it’s just another podcaster. What makes me different from other podcasters is I’ve just been doing it longer than, I guess, the [unintelligible 00:09:37] podcaster, the senior podcaster. Yeah, that was unexpected. I guess also the networking. I’m part of this community, a lot of us know each other. Like I know who a lot of them are, and we’ve had each other on our shows, and I’m not going any meetings yet, but at some point when we do start going to more meetings, I’m sure there’s going to be opportunity to actually meet a lot of these people in real life and have a drink and go out to dinner and hang out. And it’s like, we’re friends. It’s this other tribe that I’m a part of, which is great.
Jen: Yeah, that is a great part of it. That’s something that I didn’t think of until we were in it. And then I was surprised at how small of a tribe it is, actually. So, that is a really cool part of it. Similarly with physician coaches, which I’m not one, but I get the benefits of being associated with them. So, I’ve met some really amazing people because of that, and same thing for DocWorking. I do relate to what you mean, and I think that within the circles of physicians who listen to podcasts, I think that your podcast is definitely up there. And it is interesting, when you start podcasting and looking at numbers and looking at what it takes to be among the top podcasts, the numbers are not that high, I suppose, relative to what you might expect. I find it fascinating. It’s an interesting pastime, and a great way to learn new things and meet interesting people.
Dr. Bradley: Yeah, you can have any question answered, especially with my podcast is ultimately anything that applies to physicians, and you can spin almost anything to apply to physicians. There are 800,000 practicing physicians, something like that, if I want to be one of the 400,000 physicians who are in real estate investing, because it seems like everybody’s in real estate, I can have someone on my show and just ask them, because there are a lot of physicians interested in that. So, now I get to just ask questions tailored to me about real estate investing.
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Jen: Speaking of bringing people on, can you think of a favorite, for example, or something that really struck you that you may be often think of, or someone that you invited on that maybe was someone that you were especially excited to speak–?
Dr. Bradley: Yeah, my whale was BJ Fogg. He’s a behavioral scientist, is what he calls himself out of Stanford. He wrote this book called Tiny Habits. A lot of his research has been quoted in other habit books. Duhigg and James Clear are two authors that wrote books on habits and use a lot of his research that ultimately he wrote his own book on habits called Tiny Habits. And the reason what it is because we have all this advice for patients. Move more, eat less, eat more vegetables, whatever. But how do you execute that? How do you give them the tools to actually make it happen? He’s got this formula for making it happen. But he normally does podcasts that are like hundreds of thousands of downloads per episode. And I emailed him, and he emailed me back saying, “Physicians are an audience that I think need to hear my story, my research, my findings, I’d love to.” And there he was, he was on my show. We divided into two episodes, because he was on for like an hour and a half answering all of my questions. It was one of my better received episodes, and it was great.
Jen: Then has it changed your habits?
Dr. Bradley: Interestingly, no.
Jen: [laughs] Not yet.
Dr. Bradley: No, but what I do talk to my patients about things, it’s helped me frame it in a way that I think is more useful, that gives them a more useful way to think about it. Just to give a brief summary, when I’m talking to people about those things, moving more, eating better, I tell them, “You have to do it in a way that you want to do it. It can’t be in a prescriptive way, like you have to do it a certain amount, it has to be exercised, it has to be in the gym. Like if you want to do more physical activity, you have to think, what physical activity do I enjoy doing? Am I going to look forward to? Am I going to want to do? Then you make that into a habit. You find a way to work that into your day. But if it’s not something that you’re going to look forward to, it’s not going to happen because willpower is finite.
It’s the same thing with eating. You got to think of like, what do I actually enjoy eating that I can eat a lot of? Great. Now find some time to prep that once a week, so that it’s easily accessible, and you’re more likely to eat those things. But if it’s about denying yourself and forcing yourself, it’s not going to work. The other thing that I do that I’ve learned from podcasting, and I don’t know if it was from a specific person was whenever I have someone in that situation, I always tell them, and physicians, we’re not good at doing this for ourselves is you have to give yourself some grace. You’re being hard on yourself. Like you’re a good person, you’re working hard, you deserve the best. I think we could say that more to our patients, and it wouldn’t be hurtful to them because they need to work harder at these things to, “No, no, they need to hear that from us sometimes that they’re working hard. They deserve good things.” Sorry, that’s a bit of a tangent. But some of those visits end up being my even though it’s peripherally related to otolaryngology, those visits often become my favorite visits, the ones that I take home with me.
Jen: Yeah, it sounds like you incorporate some coaching into your patient visits.
Dr. Bradley: I guess it’s coaching, but I think it’s good patient care?
Jen: Absolutely. I think it makes a huge difference. Physicians, as human beings need to hear it as well. I’m curious, too, with your podcasts, are there certain overarching topics that you’re really interested in? Are there areas that you’re looking forward to moving into in the near future?
Dr. Bradley: Excellent question. There are two different paths that I’m working on right now, because I eventually want to put together a talk, or a webinar or something about the perfect outpatient visit. And so I’d like to take little highlights from a lot of my different episodes, and incorporate them into from stem to stern, from making the appointment, to leaving the office, and all of the things that happened to the patient in between, and especially in the exam room, what would the ideal visit look like? If the patient does this, you say that. When you’re examining the patient, make sure you do this. When you introduce yourself to the patient, make sure you do this. At the end of the visit, make sure you do this. If the patient complains of something, like there are all these little things that, I think, I could incorporate into a talk to create the perfect outpatient visit, and I haven’t done it yet. But that’s my big plan for putting together a lot of the stuff that I’ve learned. So, that’s the soft skills. So that’s what I like to focus on a lot with my episode, is just the soft skills in the exam room.
Jen: That all sounds very interesting. First of all, I think your idea about the ideal visit from start to finish would be fantastic as a book as well, if I was a resident, I would love to have seen that or a medical student really, as well. But I think all of the insights that you’ll have will be valuable to someone at any point in their career, because essentially, it’s like research that you’ve done by talking with all these experts over the past few years. So, that’s a cool idea. And I’m just curious in case some of our audience is interested in possibly starting their own podcast. So, has your experience been that it’s really just for your own edification and you’re completely satisfied with that? The reason I ask is because one thing that I’m really interested in talking about is financial independence, and I know you’ve had a lot of guests are related to topics on financial independence, and physicians getting into a good position of stability to give them more choices. With that in mind, you commonly hear people talking about creating multiple streams of income and starting a side gig and I’m curious whether podcasting is a good sidekick?
Dr. Bradley: No, not at all. It is a terrible side gig. There is no money to be made in podcasting. I am completely-
Jen: Shocking fact.
Dr. Bradley: -in the red for podcasting. My time is much better spent stopping nosebleeds, removing earwax and taken out of tonsils. As physicians, your time is probably best spent physicianing, not doing anything else because you trained for a very long time in order to command a significant income doing that thing. But in terms of multiple streams of income as a hedge against the future, that means that that needs to be a significant income. And podcasting is not. It is not. I have some advertisers on my show from the Doctor Podcast Network, that’s actually no longer doing what it once was in terms of advertising, and maybe I’m going to be joining up with another podcaster soon to do something similar to that. But it’s more for the podcasting to pay for itself, then to actually make income off of it. For me, it’s made me a better doctor, and it’s made me a better person.
In terms of driving income, I am popular in my area, as a physician. I think part of that is because of the skills that I’ve learned from podcasting, and then incorporated into my practice. Now, for everyone else, you can just listen to my episodes and not have to do it yourself, which will be a lot easier. But that’s the way that it’s helped me. It’s helped me to be a better doctor, and I think my patients in the area have recognized that. I don’t want to sound arrogant with this. But I think it’s made me more of someone that they would want to see and send their friends and family to. So, it’s had these other benefits that do lead to more income, but the podcasting itself. Maybe this webinar, or maybe I will write that book, who knows if I’ll even get to it? But the podcasting needs to be it, you need to be podcasting, because you enjoy podcasting, or in a situation like yours, where it’s not the podcast itself, but it’s related to the whole DocWorking brand.
Jen: Yeah, in our case, I think we really are trying to give people something that they can use, and walk away from and understand who we are, and that’s really what we’re doing. Also, just enjoy talking with these amazing people. So, it’s just fun, but I agree with you. It’s not something that you can, at least as far as I can tell, it’s not something that is a profitable venture. If you can get it to pay for itself, then I would consider that a victory.
Dr. Bradley: Yeah, exactly. It’s not going to be a reasonable stream of income for a very long time, if ever.
Jen: Right. What do you do outside of that? You, Bradley Block, as the person–
Dr. Bradley: [laughs]
Jen: [laughs] So, you’re a dad, and I’m guessing, between full time work as an ENT physician, and being a dad and being a podcaster, there probably isn’t any time left for other things. Podcasting is your hobby.
Dr. Bradley: Yeah, that’s my thing. The podcasting is my thing. I have three boys range from two, just turning two to five and a half, and with one in the middle there. When my wife gets the kids in the middle of the night, so I get the kids in the morning. So, I generally wake up at 6:00 in the morning, when the first one wakes up. And then that gets my wife a little bit of extra sleep, she gets up at 7:30, takes over, I leave for work, go to work, see patients, come home. By that time, the kids have been fed, but then I do the rest of the bedtime routine. I generally, then again, relieve my wife, put the kids to bed. And then after bed is when I, whatever CME responsibilities, maybe podcasting, or maybe I get to spend some time with my wife. [crosstalk]
If I’ve taken care of all my responsibilities, then I get to hang out with my wife, if I’ve really earned it. Although one thing with the podcast that she’s very good at, is she helps me to come up with questions. I’ll generally listen to other podcasts or read some things about the person I’m going to be interviewing. It’s another way for us to spend quality time, actually is coming up with questions for the podcast.
Jen: Terrific. Does she have any interest in podcasting herself?
Dr. Bradley: No, she’s a big Instagrammer.
Jen: Oh, really?
Dr. Bradley: Yeah.
Jen: [crosstalk] -on Instagram.
Dr. Bradley: I don’t know if she’s going to want me saying this, but she’s got three different Instagram things. One of them is @blockfarmandtable because our last name is Block, and she has a garden that she Instagrams about and she makes sourdough bread that she Instagrams about, and then the other one is @therealkidsmenu, because we serve our kids, sometimes chicken fingers and French fries, but often we feed them real food, there shouldn’t be a kid’s menu, there should just be the menu. And that’s where @therealkidsmenu is often a lot of good food.
Jen: I love that.
Dr. Bradley: Yeah. [crosstalk] -for the boys.
Jen: Great idea. I really see the need for that, for sure. I felt the same way when my kids were little. Mine are older now. They’re young adults.
Dr. Bradley: They’re making food themselves at this point.
Jen: Yes, they’re cooking for us for a number of years now. Yeah, that’s a lot of fun.
Dr. Bradley: You would ask me about my hobbies, and I never actually said anything about what I do in my spare time. I’m hoping to get back to surfing soon. I just bought a stand-up paddleboard, that when we go to the beach, I put one boy out on the front and we’ll paddle around in the bay. We live on Long Island, so we go to the North Shore where it’s flat on the sound, and they’ll hang out at the beach and I’ll take one at a time and paddle around. I eventually want to take that paddleboard to the south shore where there are waves and get into paddle surfing which I’ve done a couple of times. So, that’s my big goal. And then I just do exercise, and if you want to follow me on Peloton on, The ENT That Rides, which is a game of thrones reference for the mountain that rides.
Jen: Fantastic. Well, it’s so much fun to talk with you. And I’m definitely excited about digging in further on your podcast and seeing what you’ve got coming up in the future. So, hopefully, our listeners will check it out, and we appreciate you telling us about and telling us about yourself.
Dr. Bradley: If I can just plug it really quick. It’s the Physician’s Guide to Doctoring. So, you can find it on all podcasting platforms, or just go to physiciansguidetodoctoring.com, and you’ll have links to a bunch of platforms there. Thank you so much for having me. It was a lot of fun. I love your show. I love what you’re doing with the physician coaching, and thank you for doing it because mentorship used to be a really integral part of being a physician, like the apprenticeship didn’t stop when you became an attending. You still had mentors, and I think that’s not happening so much. We need coaches to help us out and give us direction help us find our way.
Jen: Absolutely. Well, I’m looking forward to talking with you further about that. I really appreciate you coming on to the podcast. Dr. Bradley Block, ENT surgeon, podcaster of the Physician’s Guide to Doctoring. Please check it out. Thanks for coming on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.
Amanda: Hi, this is Amanda Taran. I’m the producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe, and thank you for listening.