Inspiring doctors - podcast

Most doctors speak to the public in individual consultations every day. But communicating about medicine to a wider audience is a different skill set altogether.

In this series, Martin McKee, a professor of public health and the 2022-23 president of the BMA, talks to doctors and others related to medicine who have successfully taken their medical knowledge to the public in creative ways.

How to listen

You can find these episodes on the following apps, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Martin McKee's guests on this series are Hannah Barham-Brown, Nick Black, Rachel Clarke, Ian Fussell, Ben Goldacre, Trish Greenhalgh, Phil Hammond, Richard Horton, Jason Leitch, Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, Steve McGann and Heidi Thomas, Dominic Pimenta, Alice Roberts, Guddi Singh, and lan Williams.

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Episode 0 - Extraordinary communicators

In this introduction to the podcast, Martin talks about the importance of communicating medicine well, and the inspiring figures that led him to make it.


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Episode 1 - Rachel Clarke

In this episode, Martin talks to Rachel Clarke, who started her career as a journalist before retraining as a palliative care doctor, and has written multiple books about her experiences in medicine. They discuss her unusual career path, the similarities between medicine and journalism, and how the loss of her father changed her perspective - as well as her activism, the nature of politics, and the charity she recently co-founded in support of Ukraine.

Trigger warning: discussions of death and bereavement.


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Episode 2 - Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed

In this episode, Martin speaks with Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, also known as SalihaCooks, a gastroenterologist who won Masterchef in 2017, and has since been using her platform and best selling books to educate on healthy eating. They talk about her time on Masterchef, the art of writing science for a lay audience, the relationships between food and medicine, and her opinions on turmeric lattes.


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Episode 3 – Phil Hammond

In this episode, Martin talks to Phil Hammond. A GP, broadcaster and lecturer in medical communication, Phil appeared on numerous TV and radio comedy programmes and is a regular at the Edinburgh fringe. He has authored several books, and writes the Medicine Balls column in Private Eye. They discuss comedy, a family secret, the Bristol heart surgery scandal and its consequences, the importance of protecting whistle blowers, and the balance of doing satire without forgetting kindness.

Trigger warning for strong language, mention of suicide and infant death.


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Episode 4 - Ian Williams

In this episode, Martin talks to Ian Williams – a GP and cartoonist who established the field of Graphic Medicine. Following the success of his graphic novels The Bad Doctor and The Lady Doctor, he is working on his third, The Sick Doctor. He also wrote a weekly comic strip Sick Notes in The Guardian in the mid-2010s. They talk about the Medical Humanities movement, mental health, the work involved in drawing cartoons and animation, and writing a graphic novel about general practice, OCD, cycling and heavy metal.


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Episode 5 - Jason Leitch

In this episode, Martin talks to Jason Leitch – a dentist and the National Clinical Director for Scotland. He was widely praised for his public briefings during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for his ability to translate complex scientific information to the public. He tells Martin about working within the Scottish government, doing radio show phone-ins, the unsung heroes of the public service, the challenges of cancelling Christmas and even worse, postponing Rangers vs Celtic.


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Episode 06 - Guddi Singh

In this episode, Martin talks to Guddi Singh – a paediatrician who co-hosted the television series Your Body Uncovered and Babies, Their Wonderful World, and an advocate for creative health and health justice. They discuss doctor burnout, introducing dance to the paediatric ward, addressing health inequalities, the importance of quality improvement skills, and educating the public through TV.



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Episode 7 - Richard Horton

In this episode, Martin speaks to Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet, and a powerful advocate for global health. They talk about Richard’s path from liver disease specialist to one of the youngest editors of a major medical journal, working with heads of governments, medicine as part of human culture, the governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance for doctors to take part in political struggles and public debates.


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Episode 8 - Trisha Greenhalgh

In this episode, Martin speaks to Trisha Greenhalgh, a GP who is a member of Independent SAGE, internationally recognised academic in primary health care, and self-professed avid Twitter user. They talk about evidence-based medicine, the difficulties of running a randomised control trial of face masks, co-creating solutions with patients, and the best ways to handle media interviews and Twitter trolls.


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Episode 9 - Ben Goldacre

In this episode, Martin speaks to Ben Goldacre, a psychiatrist and science writer who wrote the ‘Bad Science’ column for the Guardian from 2003 to 2011 as well as four books – he is also a founder of the AllTrials campaign and OpenTrials, which call for greater transparency on clinical trials. They discuss the responsibilities of the media as gatekeepers, being sued for libel, and the Barbie Liberation Organisation – and much more.


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Episode 10 - Dom Pimenta

In this episode, Martin speaks to Dom Pimenta, a cardiologist and writer who resigned in protest at Dominic Cummings’ rule-breaking trip to Durham in 2020. He wrote for years, and his latest book Duty of Care recounts his experiences during the COVID pandemic. He talks to Martin about high-functioning anxiety, establishing a charity to support health workers, the role of AI in the future of medicine, and how his career as an author began at a very young age, with a book about ants.



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Episode 11- Alice Roberts

In this episode, Martin speaks to Alice Roberts, an anatomist, paleopathologist and science communicator who is best known for bridging the gap between medicine and archaeology. Her rich broadcasting career started on Time Team, and she tells Martin about this and much more, including public engagement in science, the important links between medicine and evolution, and the challenges of talking about reproductive systems on the BBC before 9pm.



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Episode 12 - Nick Black

In this episode, Martin speaks to Nick Black, a health services researcher, professor and author, whose interest in history led him to write a guidebook entitled Walking London’s Medical History, and more recently his first historical fiction novel, The Honourable Doctor. They discuss Nick’s lifelong desire to educate the public, the disciplines that can enhance health systems improvement, the difference between whistle-blowers and reformers, and the parallels between the Covid pandemic and a shortage of French leeches in the Napoleonic era.


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Episode 13 - Hannah Barham-Brown

In this episode, Martin speaks to Hannah Barham-Brown, a GP trainee who is an activist, campaigner and advocate around gender, disability and LGBTQ+ issues, a former Deputy Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, and one of the Shaw Trust’s 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. She speaks to Martin about the role of doctors in politics, being a ‘roll model’, how to have awkward conversations, and why everyone should pay attention to the bins in NHS bathrooms.


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Episode 14 - Ian Fussell

In this episode, Martin speaks to Ian Fussell, a Professor and Associate Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Exeter – and once GP partner. He talks to Martin about combining science with poetry and storytelling at the COP26 and COP27 climate change conferences, making a music album about the climate crisis, using humanities in undergraduate medical education, and the importance of trust.


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Episode 15 - Stephen McGann and Heidi Thomas

In our final episode, Martin speaks to two special guests, from the team behind the BBC series ‘Call the Midwife’. Stephen McGann, who plays Dr Turner, and is not only an actor but also an experienced science communicator; and Heidi Thomas, an accomplished screenwriter and playwright who is the creator, writer, and executive producer of the series. They talk about the opportunities of the show to deliver health messages to its wide audience, the response doctors have had to fictional GP Dr Patrick Turner, Heidi’s childhood aspirations towards healthcare, Stephen’s science communication work, and much more.


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Bonus episode - Wise words

In each of the past 15 episodes, Prof. Martin McKee spoke with people he sees as role models for communicating medicine to a wider audience. He asked them about what inspired them, the lessons they have learned, and their advice for doctors who may want to follow in their footsteps.

In this bonus episode, we summarise their wise words and Martin shares his own advice to young doctors who may want to follow in his footsteps. You do not need to have listened to any of the episodes to enjoy this one, but we hope that if you haven't, this might pique your interest in listening to the series.


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