Joy has really been the catalyst behind getting this website site started. On a drive home from Minneapolis one day, she started talking about an idea for a blog that could serve as a resource for people interested in global healthcare. She had done a lot of research, figured out how to obtain the domain name, start the website, etc, but she couldn’t figure out what to call it.
She was so excited about the concept; honestly, I didn’t think one thing or the other about it. I liked the idea, but didn’t intend to get involved much. But because I could tell it was important to her, I participated in brainstorming names, trying to help her dig-in to what was driving this desire in her to make a website and blog. Eventually, we came to Indie Docs, combining the thought of indie music (the liberated, do-it-yourself attitude that has changed the music industry over the past few decades and resulted in many of our favorite bands and tunes), and, of course, the concept we are hoping to achieve of being free to pursue global health projects. Like I said though, I thought of this website as her passion project, not mine, or even ours.
Part of my–dare I say it–disinterest, stemmed from the fact that at this time I had commenced my final and toughest year of training as a chief resident. Combine that with the fact that we have a little girl, and at the time, another on the way (who is now here as of September 24th!), and trying to find a job, I didn’t have much mental energy for other things. But Joy’s enthusiasm is infectious and, within the seed of her idea, I started to see the many possibilities in it.
I’ve always been a big fan of talk radio, mostly NPR shows like This American Life, Fresh Air, and Radiolab; eventually I have found my way to podcasts, of course, and I devoured Serial, S-Town, Malcom Gladwell’s Revisionist History, Missing Richard Simmons, and many, many others. It’s such a populist art form and a brilliant way to tell stories, share ideas, and explore all the little nooks and crannies that exist in our world. I mean, 15 years ago, would anyone ever have produced a radio show about figuring out why Richard Simmons has disappeared from public life? Or spend a whole series on telling the life-story of an eccentric paranoid genius in Sh**town, Alabama?
Stories have always influenced the direction I think I want to take in life. When I was young and watched Karate Kid, I wanted to take karate. When I saw Top Gun, I wanted to be a pilot. I abandoned both pursuits eventually (made if further in karate than in becoming a pilot). Maybe growing up is choosing a story that inspires you, and sticking with it. It was the story of Paul Farmer as told by Tracy Kidder in Mountain Beyond Mountains that led me to become a doctor. It’s the stories we were both raised on of Jesus physically ministering to the poorest, least powerful, least cared-for that I think serve as the bedrock for why we want to work in global healthcare.
Truthfully, we are just now figuring out how to enact both of these sensibilities and, other than becoming doctors, we haven’t done that much in the way of caring for the poor other than a couple of short-term trips, relief efforts from afar, small amounts of charitable giving, etc. We’ve been trying to get through school and training, but now that we are finishing up with that part, we are starting to look at each other as we enter our mid-to-late thirties and say, If not now, when? And beyond that, How do we start?
I don’t know how or when the idea of doing a podcast for the site came to my mind. There was no inciting event, or thunderbolt from the sky. I’ve always tried to learn the stories of people working in global neurosurgery. When I was a medical student, I went to the CURE hospital in Uganda, and learned about Dr. Ben Warf, who was the first neurosurgeon I came across that showed me neurosurgery was not only possible, but could thrive in an low-resource setting. When I go to national neurosurgery meetings, they almost always have a session on international neurosurgery efforts, and I am amazed during the presentations by the intelligence and effort of people like Drs. Kee Park, Dilan Ellegala, and Michael Haglund who are changing the paradigm of global neurosurgery. My former senior resident, Will Copeland, made the decision to go right out of residency to live and work in Kenya (with his wife and six kids!), and has shown me it’s really possible. Joy and I think these stories, and stories of people like them, hold the key to figuring out how we are going to achieve our ambitions of joining the global health community.
And so the past few weeks, I’ve learned about microphones and pop-filters, Garage Band and Zencaster, how to use the Seriously Simple Podcasting app for Word Press (how to use Word Press at all really), how to register a podcast with Apple, make a logo, and on and on. I’ve also learned that I am as passionate about this as Joy is, that it is our project. We set out together to become physicians, and eventually a neurosurgeon and trauma surgeon, so we could gain skills we enjoy and that would be useful in global healthcare. Now we are setting out to discover how to employ them, and as part of that, finding, sharing, and learning the stories of people who are already doing just that in a variety of ways.
The podcast will include episodes in which Joy and I tell our story as it unfolds, interview others about their experiences, and reflect on how these interviews are shaping our thinking about what we are going to do next. We have several great interviews lined up already, starting with Sean Dupont, a general surgeon who Joy did residency with, who is just getting started working in Niger, as well as Will Copeland and Kee Park, both of whom I mentioned above. We will talk about how they manage their lives and families, finances and careers, and what inspires them to do the work. Stay tuned!