Bedside Rounds is a tiny podcast about fascinating stories in clinical medicine. We discuss the weird, wonderful, and human stories that have affected patients and their doctors throughout history and today.


  • A short message from Adam

    A short message from Adam

    25/03/2020 Duración: 04min

    As the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly spreads across the globe, Bedside Rounds is going on hiatus. This short message explains why and gives some historical context. Stay in touch on Twitter in the upcoming months @AdamRodmanMD.

  • 52 - The Rebuff

    52 - The Rebuff

    02/03/2020 Duración: 40min

    Over the past several centuries, the medical field has established a firm graph on the domain of the human body, with one very notable exception -- the teeth. In this episode, we’re going to explore this historic split between medicine and dentistry, and the moment in history where the two fields could have been rejoined but were “rebuffed.” Along the way we’ll talk about barbers and enemas, a fun tool called the dental pelican, 19th century professional drama between doctors and dentists, and the sometimes disastrous consequences this can have for our patients.    Sources: British Dental Association -- Dental Pelicans, retrieved from: “Dentistry,” The Oxford Encyclopedia of the History of American Science, Medicine, and Technology Gevitz N, Autonomous Profession or Medical Specialty: The Stomatological Movement and American Dentistry. Bulletin of the History of Medicine; Baltimore, Md. Vol. 62, Iss. 3,  (Fall 1988): 407. Loudon I, Why are (male) su

  • Winter Shorts #4 - The Backlog

    Winter Shorts #4 - The Backlog

    04/02/2020 Duración: 30min

    Did Hippocrates call consults for chest pain? Were there specialists in black bile? Where does our poetic terminology for heart and lung sounds come from? Is there a historical parallel for #MedTwitter? I’ve fallen off the bus with #AdamAnswers, so in this month’s episode I’m playing catch up on many of the amazing questions you guys send me with the first Winter Short (#spoileralert -- not actually short) -- the Backlog!

  • 51 - Hero Worship

    51 - Hero Worship

    16/12/2019 Duración: 46min

    At the end of 2019, William Osler’s legacy is stronger than ever; he has been called the “Father of Modern Medicine” and held up as the paragon of the modern physician. In this episode, I’m going to explore the historical Osler -- just who was William Osler in the context of rapidly changing scientific medicine at the dawn of the 20th century, and how did he become so influential? But I’m also going to explore Osler the myth -- what does the 21st century obsession with the man say about us, a century after his death?    Sources:   SOURCES NEED TO BE FORMATTED AND WILL BE ADDED TO THIS EDITED LIST LATER THIS WEEK

  • 50 - I Know Nothing

    50 - I Know Nothing

    28/10/2019 Duración: 43min

    What does it mean to know something in medicine? In this episode, we’ll explore this question by developing a historical framework of medical epistemologies in a journey that involves King Nebuchadnezzar, citrus fruit, leeches, water pumps, ICD-10, Socrates, skepticism, and 1970's computer programs designed to replace doctors. This is a version of a Grand Rounds given at BIDMC on October 25, 2019.    Sources:   Bothwell LE et al, “Assessing the Gold Standard -- Lessons from the History of RCTs,” NEJM June 2, 2016. Khushf G, “A Framework for Understanding Medical Epistemologies,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 38: 461-486, 2013. Guyatt G and Tonelli M, Med Roundtable Gen Med Ed.;June 13, 2012 1(1): 75 - 84. Morabia A, A History of Epidemiologic Methods and Concepts, 2004. Tonelli MR, “Integrating evidence into clinical practice: an alternative to evidence-based approaches,” Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 12(3) 248-256.   Music from "Tango de Manzana" and “Return of the

  • 49 - The Ether Dome

    49 - The Ether Dome

    30/09/2019 Duración: 43min

    The world before anesthesia was brutal -- surgeons inflicted torture on largely conscious patients, hoping to finish an operation as quickly as possible. But all of that changed with the introduction of inhaled ether. This episode covers the context behind the discovery of etherization, with myths about screaming medicinal plants, a “missing recipe” of medieval general anesthesia, 19th century recreational drug use, and a controversy carved in granite.   Sources: Brown, M. The Palgrave Handbook of the History of Surgery. 327–348 (2017). doi:10.1057/978-1-349-95260-1_16  Dorrington, K. & Poole, W. The first intravenous anaesthetic: how well was it managed and its potential realized? Bja Br J Anaesth 110, 7–12 (2013).  Robinson, D. H. & Toledo, A. H. Historical Development of Modern Anesthesia. J Invest Surg 25, 141–149 (2012).  Chidiac, E. J., Kaddoum, R. N. & Fuleihan, S. F. Mandragora. Anesthesia Analgesia 115, 1437–1441 (2012).  Vargas, I. Ether Frolic: The Day Pain Stopped. Bulletin Anesthesia

  • 48 - Micrographia (FIXED AUDIO)

    48 - Micrographia (FIXED AUDIO)

    29/08/2019 Duración: 39min

    Because of dad brain, the original musical tracks for episode 48 were offset by almost 30 seconds (even more embarrassing, because I actually LISTENED to it before uploading). I've fixed the audio for the original episode, but anyone who downloaded it already is stuck with the bad audio version. Because of limitations in the podcasting medium, the only way I can get a new episode to those who have downloaded but haven't listened yet is to release a new episode to the feed. Eventually (maybe after a month or so) I will delete this, so only the fixed original remains.   Sorry for the inconvenience guys! 

  • 48 - Micrographia

    48 - Micrographia

    28/08/2019 Duración: 39min

    Germs are regarded today with a combination of fear and disgust. But mankind’s first introduction to the microbial world started off on a very different foot. In this episode, as part of a larger series contextualizing germ theory, we’ll talk about the discovery of animalcules and how they forever changed our conception of the natural world -- and what causes disease. Plus, a new #AdamAnswers about the influence of Bayes Theorem on medicine!   Sources: Albury WR, Marie-Francois-Xavier Bichat, Encyclopedia of Life Science, 2001.  Ball CS, The Early History of the Compound Microscope, Bios, Vol 37, No2 (May 1966). Findlen P, Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything.  Feinstein AR, “An Analysis of Diagnostic Reasoning,” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 1973. Forsberg L.Nature's Invisibilia: The Victorian Microscope and the Miniature Fairy, Victorian Studies 2015. Gest H. The discovery of microorganisms by Robert Hooke and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Fellows of The Royal Society. Notes and Records o

  • Summer Shorts #3 - Insulin Drama

    Summer Shorts #3 - Insulin Drama

    26/07/2019 Duración: 22min

    Bedside Rounds is on a summer vacation! In the meantime, I'm joined by journalist Dan Weissmann of the podcast An Arm and a Leg to talk about the tawdry history of the discovery of insulin. 

  • 47 - The Criteria

    47 - The Criteria

    24/06/2019 Duración: 44min

    Can we ever know what causes a chronic disease? In this episode, I’m joined again by Dr. Shoshana Herzig to finish a three-part miniseries on Bradford Hill and Doll’s attempts to prove that smoking caused lung cancer. We’ll talk about the first prospective cohort trial in history, 1960s “Fake News” from tobacco companies, public spats with the most famous statistician of the 20th century, and the development of the Bradford Hill Criteria, a guideline, however imperfect, that gives doctors a blueprint to finally figure out what causes diseases. Sources: Crofton J, The MRC randomized trial of streptomycin and its legacy: a view from the clinical front line. J R Soc Med. 2006 Oct; 99(10): 531–534. Daniels M and Bradford Hill A, Chemotherapy of Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Young Adults, Br Med J. 1952 May 31; 1(4769): 1162–1168. Dangers of Cigarette-smoking. Brit Med J 1, 1518 (1957). Doll, R. & Hill, B. A. Lung Cancer and Other Causes of Death in Relation to Smoking. Brit Med J 2, 1071 (1956). Doll, R. &

  • 46 - Cause and Effect

    46 - Cause and Effect

    20/05/2019 Duración: 38min

    Does smoking cause lung cancer? How could you ever know? The second in a three-part series on causality, I’m joined by Dr. Shoshana Herzig to discuss how Austin Bradford Hill and Richard Doll set out to try and answer this question -- and along the way revolutionized the way we think about what causes disease. In this episode, we’ll talk about the first double-blinded randomized controlled trial, the long shadow of tuberculosis, and why epidemiology is beautiful. Plus, a brand new #AdamAnswers about chest compressions! Please support Bedside Rounds by filling out the listener demographic survey: Sources: Bost TC. Cardiac arrest during anaesthesia and surgical operations. Am J Surg 1952;83: 135-4 Council, T. Tobacco Smoking and Lung Cancer. Brit Med J 1, 1523 (1957). Crofton J, The MRC randomized trial of streptomycin and its legacy: a view from the clinical front line. J R Soc Med. 2006 Oct; 99(10): 531–534. Daniels M and Bradford Hill A, Chemotherapy of Pulmonary Tube

  • 45 - The French Disease at 500

    45 - The French Disease at 500

    22/04/2019 Duración: 01h09min

    In 1495, a mysterious and deadly plague struck the city of Naples. Over the next 500 years, the medical attempts to understand and treat this new disease -- syphilis -- would mold and shape medicine in surprising ways. In this episode, Tony Breu and I will perform an historical and physiological biography of syphilis, covering the development of germ theory, epic poetry, mercury saunas, intentionally infecting patients with malaria, magic bullets, and lots and lots of experiments on poor rabbits. This presentation was performed live at the American College of Physicians’ national meeting in Philadelphia on April 11, 2019.   Sources (WARNING -- LONG LIST):   Swain, K. ‘Extraordinarily arduous and fraught with danger’: syphilis, Salvarsan, and general paresis of the insane. Lancet Psychiatry 5, (2018).   Kępa, M. et al. Analysis of mercury levels in historical bone material from syphilitic subjects – pilot studies (short report). Kępa Małgorzata 69, 367-377(11) (2012).   Forrai, J. Syphilis - Recognition,

  • 44 - The Great Smog

    44 - The Great Smog

    25/03/2019 Duración: 42min

    What was behind the mysterious increase in lung cancer deaths at the turn of the 20th century? The first of a three-parter investigating the cigarette-smoking link and causality, this episode looks at that early debate, which largely focused on environmental pollution. Along the way, we’re going to talk about toxic vapors -- and not Miasma theory, but the actual literal Great Smog of London in 1952 that killed over 10,000 people -- as well as the birth of the case-control study, Nazi attempts at tobacco control programs, and the rather prosaic beginnings of a debate that rages to this day. Plus a new #AdamAnswers about the medical cause of Game of Thrones greyscale featuring Dr. Jules Lipoff!   Sources: Bell, M. L., Davis, D. L. & Fletcher, T. A retrospective assessment of mortality from the London smog episode of 1952: the role of influenza and pollution. Environ Health Persp 112, 6–8 (2003). Brunekreef B, Air Pollution and Life Expectancy: Is There a Relation? Occupational and Environmental Medicine, V

  • 43 - The Cursed

    43 - The Cursed

    18/02/2019 Duración: 43min

    What killed Charles II of Spain, the inbred monarch whose autopsy famously showed a heart the size of a peppercorn, a head full of water, and a bloodless body? This episode addresses that medical mystery by not only delving deep into Charles’ unfortunate past, but by exploring some of the fundamental assumptions physicians have made about the nature of disease. Along the way we’ll walk about inbreeding coefficients, postmodern philosophy, and two thousand years of anatomy and autopsy. Plus a new #AdamAnswers about whether Vincent van Gogh’s love of the color yellow was caused by digitalis poisoning!   Sources: Alvarez G, Ceballos FC, Quinteiro C (2009) The Role of Inbreeding in the Extinction of a European Royal Dynasty. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5174. Burchell HB, Digitalis poisoning: historical and forensic aspects. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1983 Feb;1(2 Pt 1):506-16. Burton JL, A Bite Into the History of the Autopsy: From Ancient Roots to Modern Decay. Forensic Sci. Med. Pathol

  • 42 - The Lady with the Lamp

    42 - The Lady with the Lamp

    14/01/2019 Duración: 39min

    Florence Nightingale stands as one of the most important reformers of 19th century medicine -- a woman whose belief in the power of reason and statistical thinking would critically shape the both the fields of epidemiology and nursing. This episode discusses the fascinating story of Nightingale’s legacy -- how modern nursing was born out of the horrors of war, medical theories about poisonous air, the outsize influence of the average man, the first graph in history, and how a woman who died over a century ago presciently foresaw some of the most important scientific and social issues in medicine that are still with us today. Plus, a new #AdamAnswers about the doctor-nurse relationship.   Sources:   Beyersmann J and Schrade C, Florence Nightingale, William Farr and competing risks, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society) Volume 180, Issue 1 Fagin CM, Collaboration between nurses and physicians: no longer a choice. Academic Medicine. 67(5):295–303, May 1992. Fee E and Garofal

  • 41 - Animal Magnetism

    41 - Animal Magnetism

    17/12/2018 Duración: 40min

    Mesmerism has had an outsize influence on medicine, despite the rapid rise and fall of its inventor Dr. Franz Mesmer and hostility from the medical establishment. This curious story covers the healing powers of magnets, secret societies in pre-Revolutionary France, fundamental questions about what makes someone alive, and one of the most fascinating medical investigations in history led by a dream team of Benjamin Franklin, Lavoisier, and Guillotine on behalf of King Louis XVI. Plus, a #AdamAnswers about the origin of the phrase “Code Blue.”   Sources: Damton R. Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.   Dyer R, Mesmerism, Ancient and Modern. Victorian Web. Franklin B et al, The Reports of the Royal Commission on Mesmer’s System of Animal Magnetism and other contemporary documents, James Lind Library, translated by Iml Donaldson. Retrieved online at

  • 40 - Phage

    40 - Phage

    12/11/2018 Duración: 52min

    Bacteriophages -- viruses that target and kill bacteria -- were one of the most promising medical treatments of the early 20th century, and were used to treat all sorts of infections, from cholera to staph, and everything in between. But by the 1950s, they had all but died out in the West. This episode tells the story of the humble phage, from its discovery in the waters of the Ganges, love trysts ending in a KGB execution, and to a resurgence of this once forgotten therapy in the 21st century as an answer to antibiotic resistance. Sources:   Abedon ST, Bacteriophage prehistory: Is or is not Hankin, 1896, a phage reference? Bacteriophage. 2011 May-Jun; 1(3): 174–178. Blair JE and Williams REO, “Phage Typing of Staphylococci,” Bull Org mond. Ste, 1961, 24, 771-784. Davis BM and Waldor MK, Filamentous phages linked to virulence of Vibrio cholera, Current Opinion in Microbiology 2003, 6:35-42. d’Herelle F, “Bacteriophage as a treatment in acute medical and surgical infections,” Bull N Y Acad Med. 1931 May; 7(5)

  • 39 - The White Plague

    39 - The White Plague

    08/10/2018 Duración: 41min

    Tuberculosis has been humanity’s oldest and greatest killer. Starting at the turn of the nineteenth century, the White Plague was decimating entire generations in the crowded and unclean cities of Europe, North America, and across the globe. But as medical science learned more about the disease, doctors and reformers developed new ways to combat it, most notably specialized tuberculosis hospitals that sought to heal their patients with fresh air, rest, and a nutritious diet. This episode discusses the sanatorium movement and the gradual conquest of tuberculosis, long before effective antibiotic therapy existed. Along the way we’re going to talk about the King’s Evil, the dangers of rebreathed air, the healing powers of mountains, and the social determinants of health. Plus, a brand new #AdamAnswers about maternal placentophagy. All this and more on Episode 39 of Bedside Rounds, monthly podcast on the weird, wonderful, and intensely human stories that have shaped modern medicine, brought to you in partnership

  • 38 - Blood on the Tracks (PopMed #2)

    38 - Blood on the Tracks (PopMed #2)

    10/09/2018 Duración: 50min

    The first population study in history was born out of a dramatic debate involving leeches, “medical vampires,” professional rivalries, murder accusations, and, of course, bloodletting, all in the backdrop of the French Revolution. The second of a multipart series on the development of population medicine, this episode contextualizes Pierre Louis’ “numerical method,” his famous trial on bloodletting, and the birth of a new way for doctors to “know”. Plus a brand new #AdamAnswers about Occam’s razor and Hickam’s Dictum. All this and more on Episode 38 of Bedside Rounds, a tiny podcast about fascinating stories in clinical medicine! To claim CME and MOC credit, please go to   Best M and Neuhauser D, “Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis: Master of the spirit of mathematical clinical science,” Qual Saf Health Care 2005;14:462–464. Duffin J, “Laennec and Broussias: The ‘Sympathetic’ Duel,” from La Berge A and Hannaway C, Paris Medicine: Perspective Past and Present. (1977) The French Re

  • 0 - Introduction

    0 - Introduction

    10/09/2018 Duración: 14min

    Many podcasts start with an “Episode 0”, basically a mission statement for the podcast. Well, better late than never! This episode explores why I make Bedside Rounds, my philosophy about medical history, and a little bit about who I am and my research methods. Hopefully listeners new and old alike will find it interesting!

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