Jan 14, 2022
“Oncology, Etc.” Podcast Series Hosts Share Their Love of the Art of Conversation and Its Healing Properties
By Katherine H. Crawford, MA, PMP, ASCO Communications
The comfortable banter that Patrick J. Loehrer, MD, FACP, FASCO, and David H. Johnson, MD, MACP, FASCO, easily fall into as soon as they connect—whether by Zoom or in person at an ASCO meeting—is funny and heartfelt and clearly shows the depth of their friendship. As such, these two practicing oncologists, longtime friends, and artful conversationalists seem also to be ready-made hosts, and ASCO staff had often thought they should have their own show. With the rising popularity of podcasts, an idea was born: a sort of “Pat and Dave Show” that could cover the human side of the practice of oncology. When the idea was proposed, Dr. Loehrer and Dr. Johnson were immediately all in, and thus the “Oncology, Etc.” podcast was established.
“The podcast started out with a discussion of friendship, and the importance and value of friendship comes through in every episode,” explained Jamie H. Von Roenn, MD, FASCO, ASCO vice president of Education, Science & Professional Development. “Friendship and the ability to easily establish a rapport is valuable as both a physician and a human being, and it clearly comes through in the way that you talk to people and how carefully you listen to them and respond to their answers.”
In the episodes, which drop the first Tuesday of every month, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Loehrer explore various topics in oncology through interviews with emerging thought leaders, physicians, and innovators.
With travel and in-person meetings limited due to the pandemic, for Dr. Johnson and Dr. Loehrer half the fun of planning and recording the podcast is catching up with one another, and there is much witty banter and laughter. They genuinely enjoy the process of planning and producing a podcast, including deciding on guests, topics, and talking points.
“What we really enjoy are people—we are people people,” Dr. Johnson said. “There was a wonderful piece written in the New England Journal of Medicine a couple years ago called ‘The Name of the Dog.’ The essence of the piece is that a resident presents a case to an attending and mentions that the patient has a pet dog. The attending says, ‘What was the dog’s name?’ and the resident responds, ‘I don’t know.’ The attending says, ‘Go back and ask the dog’s name.’ I think there are doctors who get at the human aspect of their patients, and I think this article illustrates that. I think that’s one of the things that drew me to Pat and Jamie: I got the sense that they are more than just doctors, they’re physicians. I try to explain the difference to residents all the time: doctors carry around knowledge and a degree; physicians are skilled in the art of healing, and that requires more than medicine.”
For Dr. Johnson and Dr. Loehrer, the podcasts are their conversations with others in the field, during which they try to really learn about the guests themselves, not just their professional expertise.
“One of the things we had hoped to accomplish is get at the name of the dog—what are these people all about?—and that’s fun to do,” explained Dr. Johnson. “Because we know their scientific and medical accomplishments and achievements, but these are just human beings like the rest of us, yet something has inspired them along the way, and we’d like to know more about that.”
Added Dr. Loehrer, “What Dave and I both do is not only ask them the name of the dog, but who is it named after? We would get into the conversations about why and then go back to a conversation about oncology.”
“Oncology, Etc.” launched in August 2021; some of the available episodes include:
- Introducing Oncology, Etc.: Friendship, and the Majesty of Our Profession—Dr. Loehrer, Dr. Von Roenn, and Dr. Johnson discuss the importance and impact that friendship has made on their careers.
- In Conversation With Dr. Otis Brawley (Parts 1 and 2)— Dr. Loehrer and Dr. Johnson speak with Otis W. Brawley, MD, MACP, FRCP, FASCO, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins and former Executive Vice President of the American Cancer Society, about his incredible life and career.
- On Leadership and Pearls of Life with Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann (Parts 1 and 2)—The hosts get an inside look at the amazing career of Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, which spans from early AIDS research in Kenya and drug development at Genentech, to serving as University of California San Francisco chancellor and chief executive officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The episodes regularly showcase the well-developed sense of humor that both hosts share, a trait they cherish.
“We all use humor,” Dr. Loehrer said, “because we see patients that come in with cancer, the most serious, most scary thing in the world, and if for a minute you can get them to laugh—for just a minute—it’s a miracle in many ways. It’s taking away the fear of their cancer, and it’s something incredibly special. You can just feel like you are making a difference if you can have them smile for a minute at a time when they’re sad.”
In addition to the monthly recorded podcasts, a live session is being planned for the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting. The idea is to bring the dialogue to a larger audience, sharing the joy of discussion and learning with more people. Because it’s the conversation, after all, that sparks joy for Dr. Johnson and Dr. Loehrer.
“As oncologists, every time we go in the room, we have conversations with patients, and I really enjoy that,” said Dr. Loehrer. “The conversations that you have finding out about patients makes me a better person, and I think what we’re trying to do with these podcasts is have these conversations with our colleagues and with other people to learn more about them. These conversations make me better and make Dave better, because that’s what it’s all about: a learning process for us, and hopefully someone else listening in will learn a little bit, also.”
ASCO’s Podcast Lineup
Oncology, Etc. is one of several podcasts that ASCO produces. Browse the latest episodes from each of the following podcasts:
- ASCO Daily News features oncologists discussing the latest research and therapies in their respective areas of expertise.
- ASCO Education helps learners identify knowledge gaps and stay up to date with the latest in new drug developments, cancer treatments, and patient care approaches. “Oncology, Etc.” episodes are part of the ASCO Education podcast.
- ASCO Guidelines features interviews with panelists of recently published ASCO Clinical Practice Guidelines, highlighting key recommendations.
- Cancer.Net offers content on cancer research, treatment, coping, and many other topics for people living with cancer and those who care for them from Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website.
- Cancer Stories: The Art of Oncology includes author interviews and professional readings from the Journal of Clinical Oncology’s Art of Oncology section, hosted by Lidia Schapira, MD, FASCO.
- Journal of Clinical Oncology offers overviews of the latest research published in the journal, with a focus on placing results into a clinically useful context.
- Your Stories: Conquering Cancer includes unscripted conversations between patients, doctors, and caregivers, created in collaboration with StoryCorps, a national nonprofit dedicated to preserving and sharing humanity’s stories.