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An Introduction to Medical Podcasts (Part 1)

This post is for two types of people: those who already own an iPod or other digital music player, are familiar with podcasts, and are interested in listening to new medical podcasts... and those who don't yet have an iPod and want a quick introduction to podcasts -- which, in my opinion, is a major reason to get one.

(Of course, you don't actually need an iPod to listen to podcasts -- but it certainly makes the morning commute easier. You can also listen to podcasts directly on iTunes, which can be downloaded for free here. More information below.)

Briefly, podcasts are digital media files -- similar to radio programs -- downloaded automatically from "feeds" set up by "content providers." (A longer introduction on Wikipedia is here.) The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, many major medical journals, and countless other individuals and organizations offer podcasts on a wide variety of topics, and all these podcasts can be easily subscribed to and automatically downloaded to your computer and iPod through iTunes. Since iTunes (Apple's digital media software) is available for both PC and Mac, and since the 1 gigabyte iPod shuffle is becoming less expensive ever year, listening to podcasts is now relatively easy. (While there are other digital music players and ways of listening to podcasts, the iPod and iTunes are unquestionably the simplest and most user friendly.)

Once you've downloaded iTunes, clicking on "iTunes Store" followed by "Podcasts" in the left sidebar will take you to the main podcast directory. (Even though podcasts are found in the iTunes "Store," the overwhelming majority are free.)

The world of podcasts on iTunes is divided into categories: Arts, Business, Education, etc. Choose "Science & Medicine." (This category is further subcategorized into Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Medicine.) Like most things Mac, iTunes presents possibilities in an intuitive way, and the next window of medical podcasts is divided into "New and Notable," "Featured," and "Top [Most Popular] Podcasts."

Look around to see what's available. I'll recommend some of my favorite medical podcasts next week.
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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.