Episode 9: I Just Don’t Understand! Increasing Your Health Literacy

Do you sometimes feel confused by what your doctor says or have difficulty understanding the directions on a prescription label? You are not only. Approximately 77 million people have basic or below basic health literacy (https://health.gov) and even the podcast interviewee herself, Dr. Ashwini admits, “As a physician, [I am health literate] maybe most of the time”. To explain complex concepts to her patients she draws images on the examination table paper and urges others to use visuals to increase comprehension. Given the gap between the health information we receive and our ability to understand and apply it to our own health care, Dr. Ashwini suggests that we “Ask what you don’t understand…it’s your right to know”. She addresses added challenges to health literacy due to language barriers and the growing job market for medical interpreters.

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Episode 8: The Anomalous, Chronic Patient & His Autoimmune Journey

When Michael is told, “We don’t know what to do with you because most people don’t live that long,” he realizes he’s lucky to be alive and he’s become an anomalous patient in the healthcare system. After 11 surgeries, losing 42 lbs. in eight days, multiple medical diagnoses (e.g., Crohn’s disease) and 31 years with a partial digestive system, his motto is “My body still works…with what it has”. Michael details the various procedures and treatments he endured including a memorable “shitty” night in the hospital and how he has become more comfortable talking about his body and its functions. His primary learnings: ask questions—even the embarrassing ones, educate and advocate for yourself, and embrace what’s happening to your body. His advice to others? “You have to find something positive in the midst of something that isn’t positive” and “Surround yourself with people who will love you and accept you for who you are.”

Michael’s blog: https://thewritingprofessor55.com/

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Episode 7: Forgetting Parents

There are more than 49 million U.S. residents 65 years or older and many live with undiagnosed medical conditions, leaving children and other family members with added responsibilities and questions. This can be especially difficult when a parent lives far away. Dr. Kevin McNeill recounts the overlooked signs of his mother’s undiagnosed dementia and how his father compensated for his mother’s memory loss. He provides insights as his mother’s caregiver and as a family medicine physician. Kevin suggests how to watch for warning signs, encourage parents to get tested, and involve other clinicians (e.g., social workers) and community members. He concludes with tips for addressing financial concerns (e.g., elder lawyer) and the importance of knowing your parent’s health insurance plan.

We would love to hear your feedback!  Please drop us a line at nicoledefenbaugh.com/blog or on our facebook page @healthstoriespodcast

Episode 6: Integrating the Whole Person

Registered Nurse and Reiki Master, Katrina Fritz, joins the podcast series to share her personal and professional experiences receiving and treating others with complimentary/integrative medicine (e.g., Reiki) and new approaches to patient-centered care (i.e., Flinders Chronic Condition Management). Katrina shares the powerful impact Reiki had when her brother-in-law died tragically and how she incorporates complimentary medicine in her clinical care with patients and fellow colleagues. She ends the interview with suggestions for how we might find a practitioner and how important it is to “trust your gut…and trust in yourself” with your health care.


Episode 5: When Pain Takes Over

Dr. Mattheus-Kairys recounts her years of chronic back pain due to a herniated disc, complications from surgery, and a spinal leak that occurred during her residency program. Throughout the next few years, Dr. Mattheus-Kairys discovers how to live with the pain and attempts a new activity that leads to a surprising friendship. For those living with chronic pain she offers several suggestions (e.g., listening to your body and also ignoring it, awareness of your limitations, adaptions to your daily practices) and provides an interesting historical perspective explaining why some clinicians lack empathy toward a patient’s pain. As a chronic pain patient herself, Dr. Mattheus-Kairys shares how her experiences have influenced the way she treats patients and informs us of the myriad of available tools and treatments beyond prescription narcotics.


Episode 4: Cannabis, Cancer & Care

“When the end of life is near, you still have a lot of life…”, recalls Dr. Gretchen in this podcast. Dr. Gretchen remembers the phone call she received, as her father’s caregiver, that he was going into hospice and how it [hospice] was an “amazing gift the healthcare system could have given to me…”. With a terminal diagnosis they chose to focus on quality of life and living—advice she suggests for her patients and their families. Dr. Gretchen describes her father’s choice to use medical cannabis for his pain and how it gave him control over his condition. She hopes to inspire listeners to not let a terminal diagnosis get in the way of living life, to walk each day in gratitude, and live in the present. At the end of the podcast she offers advice and steps to take when faced with hospice and a terminal diagnosis and reminds us to have a conversation with a loved one about your end-of-life wishes.

For more related podcasts, check out the “On Death” podcast by Eugene Kim.


Episode 3: The Unsuspecting Addict

During what appears to be a routine physical exam, Dr. D hears the story of how a patient’s decade-long addiction began with a single dose of Percocet (narcotic medication to treat pain) given to her in the hospital—the result of an error in the medical system and an all-too-common story about how addiction begins. Dr. D reflects on her preconceptions toward the patient and the importance of “switching gears” during the visit to encourage the patient to share her/his story. The message Dr. D relays to her fellow physicians, “Be aware of the power we hold in prescription pads” and offers tips for how to care for patients, including those who don’t realize they have an addiction. Dr. D ends with insights for those facing addiction and how loved ones might approach doctors for an intervention.

Episode 2: The Accidental Patient – Part 2

Dr. Burke returns to the podcast to continue his story of “life after the accident” and what it was like being a chronic patient traveling through The Shire. He recounts his experiences seeing six specialists, including a psychologist who offered perspective and addressed the emotional stress Dr. Burke was feeling. The importance of vulnerability as a patient and having your PCP (primary care provider) help coordinate your care is mentioned along with the  responsibility we all have to take care of ourselves.

Episode 1: The Accidental Patient – Part I

In this podcast interview, Dr. Burke shares what happened when he became a patient at the hospital where he works due to a tractor-trailer accident. He reveals why doctors in the ER often ask patients the same questions and the importance of having trust in clinicians. Dr. Burke details how being a patient impacted the way he provides care, reminds caregivers why self care is important to avoid Caregiver/Physician Syndrome, and why he has a primary care provider (PCP) for the first time in his life.


Health Stories Podcast

In my podcast entitled “Health Stories” we invite you to listen in on the real-life stories of clinicians and patients. In these interviews, our guests reflect on their experiences and share with all of us their insights and suggestions for how to navigate our complex U.S. healthcare system.