January 14, 2016

Telling tales: Second-year class president Corey Duke and fellow medical students create new podcast to share stories from the School of Medicine

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Photo of Corey DukeFor second-year class president Corey Duke, developing a podcast has provided a creative outlet that he and other medical students, especially those with liberal arts backgrounds, had been missing.

Last summer, Duke had the idea to create a podcast—an Internet-based audio broadcast that listeners can download to a computer, smartphone, or portable media player—to share the stories he and his fellow students have encountered in the course of their medical school experience.

“I’m a big fan of ‘This American Life,’ ‘Radiolab,’ and those types of podcasts, and I wanted to listen to something about what we’re all experiencing,” Duke says. “Initially I thought it would just be a few med students sitting around a microphone talking, but now we’re actually developing stories.”

The first episode of the Magic City Medcast focuses on Dr. Joseph F. Volker and will launch in late January. “None of the students I talked to really knew much about him—I mean, why is Volker Hall, where we spend so much of our time, named after him?” he says. “We learned that he was this incredible person for UAB, Birmingham, the South, and the United States. He was the first president of UAB, and what made him such a big deal was that he desegregated UAB Hospital. It was a super controversial decision at the time, but it made UAB a leader because there were other places trying to do the same thing, and they looked to UAB to see how to do it.”

Duke says he was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response he received when he first started talking to other students about his podcast idea during orientation last summer. “There’s a day where all the different student organizations set up booths,” he says. “I had a booth for the podcast and was out there recording kids, asking them what orientation had been like. I was able to talk to a bunch of different people about the podcast and it just took off from there.”

Magic City Medcast logoDuke says between 40 and 50 students from all four class years and the Medical Scientist Training Program have joined the podcast team. A grant from the Student Senate enabled them to purchase microphones and other equipment and set up a recording studio in the basement of Volker Hall, where they are developing future episodes. “We’re working on one on the future of medicine, one on the cost of medicine, one on medicine for the underserved,” he says. “I keep getting good story ideas passed to me so I think it has a lot of potential.”

The second episode is scheduled to release in February to coincide with Black History Month. “We found the School of Medicine’s first African-American student and we’re working on getting an interview with him—he’s actually still in Birmingham—and we also found the first African-American Internal Medicine Chief Resident, so we’re going to interview him as well,” Duke says.

While the podcast offers a creative outlet, Duke says it also draws on skills students develop as part of their medical school curriculum. “We spend the first two years taking a course called Introduction to Clinical Medicine, where we learn how to conduct an interview,” he says. “So we’re pretty much already developing as reporters, because that’s a big part of what you do in medicine: You have to get their story from the patient.”

Duke spent his childhood in a “one-stoplight town” in Oklahoma before his family moved to Fairhope, Ala., when he was a high school sophomore. He attended Auburn University and transferred to the University of Montevallo, where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in psychology in 2013.

Duke’s interest in medicine was sparked by an internship at the Homeless Coalition of the Gulf Coast in Mobile. “I saw firsthand the power that a physician can have,” he says. “I was working with the psychiatrist, and we’d see patients become different people in just a matter of months. It was amazing to see the impact you can have and also the drastic need in that underserved population.”

Despite his dreams of becoming a physician, when the time approached to apply to medical school, he was daunted by the cost. “I only applied to UAB for medical school and the rest were Ph.D. programs,” he says. “I don’t come from a wealthy family and I was honestly scared of the cost.” Duke says he was “in tears” the day he learned he had received the W. Hudson Turner, M.D., Endowed Medical Scholarship, which provides scholarship support to deserving students with demonstrated need and academic merit.

In addition to serving as class president, Duke has worked in the neuroscience laboratory of Jeremy J. Day, Ph.D., through the NIH-funded Medical Student Summer Research Program. He launched an online resource that he says is used daily by medical students—a “wiki” (a website that allows collaborative editing of its content and structure by its users) that is still being populated with information ranging from clerkship and ward tips to class lecture notes to advice on the best stethoscopes.

As for his future plans, Duke is still unsure, but he hopes to continue to pursue the passions that drew him to medicine in the first place. “I see myself continuing to work with the underserved, and I have also realized that I really like neurology, so we’ll see,” he says. “I’m still pretty wide open.”

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