Bedside Rounds is a storytelling podcast about medical history and medicine’s intersections with society and culture. Host Adam Rodman seeks to tell a few of these weird, wonderful, and intensely human stories that have made modern medicine.

Elizabeth Blackwell -- the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States -- and her sister Emily Blackwell are some of the most important physicians of the 19th century, firmly establishing the role of women as physicians, starting an infirmary and hospital for poor women and children, and founding a women’s medical college that was decades ahead of its time. In this episode, Dr. Nora Taranto joins me to explore the legacy of the Blackwells along with Janice Nimura, who recently published a biography of the sisters.

Words matter. At its best, etymology gives us insight not only into the origins of words, but why they remain so important today, especially in medicine, where we’ve been accruing jargon for millennia. In this episode, we’re delving into four specific words -- doctor, cerebrovascular accident, rounds, and zebras.  And along the way, we’re going to discuss pre-historical pastoralists on the Eurasian steppes, medieval universities, Octagonal air-ventilated chambers in 19th century Baltimore, and of course, early 21st century sitcoms.   Works cited: OSLER W. THE NATURAL METHOD OF TEACHING THE SUBJECT OF MEDICINE. JAMA. 1901;XXXVI(24):1673–1679. doi:10.1001/jama.1901.52470240001001 Fair, A 2014, 'A Laboratory of Heating and Ventilation: The Johns Hopkins Hospital as experimental architecture, 1870–90', The Journal of Architecture, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 357-81. Engelhardt E. Apoplexy, cerebrovascular disease, and stroke: Historical evolution of terms and definitions. Dement Neuropsychol. 2017 Oct-Dec;11(4):449-453. doi: 10.1590/1980-57642016dn11-040016. PMID: 29354227; PMCID: PMC5770005. Coupland AP, Thapar A, Qureshi MI, Jenkins H, Davies AH. The definition of stroke. J R Soc Med. 2017 Jan;110(1):9-12. doi: 10.1177/0141076816680121. Epub 2017 Jan 13. PMID: 28084167; PMCID: PMC5298424. An Updated Definition of Stroke for the 21st Century Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN, Co-Chair, Scott E. Kasner, MD, MSCE, FAHA, FAAN, Co-Chair, Joseph P. Broderick, MD, FAHA, Louis R. Caplan, MD, J.J. (Buddy) Connors, MD, Antonio Culebras, MD, FAHA, FAAN, Mitchell S.V. Elkind, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN, Mary G. George, MD, MSPH, FAHA, Allen D. Hamdan, MD, Randall T. Higashi

For a special holiday treat, we’re going to explore two tales of salmonella disease detectives -- the first about Mary Mallon (“Typhoid Mary”) and the birth of the genre; and the second about a mysterious salmonella outbreak at Massachusetts General Hospital solved with the assistance of a very jolly patient. Along the way, we’ll talk about clinical epidemiology, the long-lasting influence of Berton Roueché, and the joys of being an internist!   You can sign up for the Digital Education conference at   Sources:   Buckle GC, Fischer Walker CL, and Black RE, Typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever: Systematic review to estimate global morbidity and mortality for 2010.J Glob Health. 2012 Jun; 2(1): 010401. Marineli F et al, Mary Mallon (1869-1938) and the history of typhoid fever.Ann Gastroenterol. 2013; 26(2): 132–134. Soper GA, The Curious Career of Typhoid Mary, read on May 10, 1939 before the Section of Historical and Cultural Medicine. Retrieved from: Norrington B, Cochineal: A Little Insect Goes a Long Way, UCSB Geography.  Roueche B,  The Santa Claus Culture, The New Yorker, Aug 27, 1971. Lang DJ et al, Carmine as a Source of Nosocomial Salmonellosis, NEJM. Apr 13, 1967.   You can buy Medical Detectives here:

Diagnosis is arguably the most important job of a physician. But what does it actually mean to make a diagnosis? In this episode, we’ll explore this question by tracking the development of the “classical” model of diagnosis and pathological anatomy and discussing three cases over three hundred years. Along the way, we’ll ponder the concept of the lesion, iatromechanistic theories of the human machine, the birth of the International Classification of Diseases, and the rise and decline of the autopsy. You can sign up for the iMED Digital Education conference at   Sources: Hooper R, The Physician’s Vade-Mecum: Containing the Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Prognosis and Treatment of Diseases. 1812.  Holdman L et al, The Value of the Autopsy in Three Medical Eras. N Engl J Med 1983; 308:1000-1005. Cabot RC et al. CASE RECORDS OF THE MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITALANTE-MORTEM AND POST-MORTEM RECORDS AS USED IN WEEKLY CLINICO-PATHOLOGICAL EXERCISES. Case 9431. Boston Med Surg J 1923; 189:595-599. Shojania KG and Burton EC, The Vanishing Nonforensic Autopsy. N Engl J Med 2008; 358:873-875 Morgagni GB. The seats and causes of diseases investigated by anatomy in five books, containing a great variety of dissections, with remarks. To which are added ... copious indexes. 1769. Retrieved online: Castiglioni A, GB Morgagni and the Anatomico-pathological Conception of the Clinical. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, November 7, 1934. Thiene G, Padua University: The role it has played in the History of Medicine and

In this episode, I talk about my podcasting journey -- how I started Bedside Rounds for inspiration during a low period in residency, how it changed me as a physician, and how it has changed my views about digital education and the future of medical education in general. This is a live recording of a talk I gave at the Michigan ACP annual meeting last month. Also, we are hosting the first annual iMED conference in January (virtual this year, of course) -- the link is to sign up!

The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the racial health disparities in the United States, with markedly increased mortality especially among Blacks and Native Americans. In this episode, Tony Breu and I discuss the conception of race, racism, and the social determinants of health through three historic plagues in the United States -- from yellow fever in New Orleans, to poliomyelitis, and finally the early days of HIV/AIDS -- and what lessons we can draw for COVID-19. Along the way, we’ll discuss the unique social capital afforded by acclimation, immunity passports, the concept of the “original antigenic sin,” and constitutionalism and eugenics. This presentation was performed live at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts American College of Physicians, and is only lightly edited.   SOURCES:   Monath TP, Yellow fever: an update. Lancet Infect Dis. 2001 Aug;1(1):11-20. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(01)00016-0. Kallas EG, D'Elia Zanella LGFAB, Moreira CHV, Buccheri R, Diniz GBF, Castiñeiras ACP, Costa PR, Dias JZC, Marmorato MP, Song ATW, Maestri A, Borges IC, Joelsons D, Cerqueira NB, Santiago E Souza NC, Morales Claro I, Sabino EC, Levi JE, Avelino-Silva VI, Ho YL. Predictors of mortality in patients with yellow fever: an observational cohort study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2019 Jul;19(7):750-758. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30125-2. Epub 2019 May 16. Erratum in: Lancet Infect Dis. 2019 Nov;19(11):e370. PMID: 31104909. Blake LE, Garcia-Blanco MA. Human genetic variation and yellow fever mortality during 19th century U.S. epidemics. mBio. 2014 Jun 3;5(3):e01253-14. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01253-14. PMID: 24895309; PMCID: PMC4049105. Jelili Ojodu, MPH1, Mary M. Hulihan, MPH2, Shammara N. Pope, MPH2, Althea M. Grant, PhD2,, MMWR, Incidence of Sickle Cell Trait — United States, 2010. IthaMaps, Haemoglobin Epidemiology. Ser

In August of 1918, a horrific second wave of the Spanish Flu crashed across the world. In this episode, the third of a four-part series exploring hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19, I’ll explore this single moment in time, through the mysterious origins of the Spanish Flu and historiographical controversies, scientific missions to mass burial sites in remote Alaskan villages, the ill-fated journey of the HMS Mantua, debates about how to count victims of a pandemic, and the mystery behind Pfeiffer’s bacillus. Plus a new #AdamAnswers about that annoying yellow on blue powerpoint template so common in the medical field!   Sources: Viboud, C. et al. Age- and Sex-Specific Mortality Associated With the 1918–1919 Influenza Pandemic in Kentucky. J Infect Dis 207, 721–729 (2013). Oxford, J. S. & Gill, D. A possible European origin of the Spanish influenza and the first attempts to reduce mortality to combat superinfecting bacteria: an opinion from a virologist and a military historian. Hum Vacc Immunother 15, 2009–2012 (2019). Epps, H. L. V. Influenza: exposing the true killer. J Exp Medicine 203, 803–803 (2006). Patterson, S. W. & Williams, F. E. PFEIFFER’S BACILLUS AND INFLUENZA. Lancet 200, 806–807 (1922). Taubenberger, J. K. & Morens, D. M. The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and Its Legacy. Csh Perspect Med a038695 (2019) doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a038695. Trilla, A., Trilla, G. & Daer, C. The 1918 “Spanish Flu” in Spain. Clin Infect Dis 47

The 1889 Russian Flu was the first influenza pandemic in an increasingly globalized world. In this episode, the second of a two-parter on how hydroxychloroquine became a great hope in COVID-19, we’ll talk about how quinine became the standard of care for influenza. Along the way, we’ll discuss the astrological origins of the flu, the nosological difficulties of identifying past pandemics, conspiracy theories about previous global coronavirus outbreaks, the media panic over the Russian Flu, first year law school cases about Carbolic Smoke Balls, and the first studies into quinine’s efficacy in influenza.    References   Seeler, A. O., Graessle, O. & Ott, W. H. Effect of Quinine on Influenza Virus Infections in Mice. J Infect Dis 79, 156–158 (1946). Barberis, I., Myles, P., Ault, S. K., Bragazzi, N. L. & Martini, M. History and evolution of influenza control through vaccination: from the first monovalent vaccine to universal vaccines. J Prev Medicine Hyg 57, E115–E120 (2016). Ewing, E. T. La Grippe or Russian influenza: Mortality statistics during the 1890 Epidemic in Indiana. Influenza Other Resp 13, 279–287 (2019). Gold, E. Pandemic Influenza 1700-1900: A Study in Historical Epidemiology. Jama 257, 2656–2656 (1987). Rice, G. W. & Palmer, E. Pandemic Influenza in Japan, 1918-19: Mortality Patterns and Official Responses. J Jpn Stud 19, 389 (1993). Mulder, J., Masurel, N., Deggars, E. M. & Webbers, P. T. PRE-EPIDEMIC ANTIBODY AGAINST 1957 STRAIN OF ASIATIC INFLUENZA IN SERUM OF OLDER PEOPLE LIVING IN THE NETHERLANDS. Lancet 271, 810–814 (1958). Refresher Course for General Practitioners. J Amer Med Assoc 152, 773 (1953). Moore, J. W. The influenza epidemic of 1889–90, as observed in Dublin. Transactions Royal Acad Medicine Irel 8, 56–74 (1890). Textbook of Influenza. (n.d.). Coghill, J. G. S. The Prophylaxis of Influenza. Brit Med J 1, 751 (1895). When early modern

This bonus episode introduces episode four of the Curious Clinicians, about Vincent Van Gogh and digitalis. The Curious Clinicians is a new medical podcast produced by Hannah Abrams, Avi Cooper, and Tony Breu; you can download them all at

Where did cinchona, the first medication to cure malaria, come from? This episode explores the murky history of the bark of the fever tree and its derivative chloroquine with mysterious pre-Columbian Pacific crossings of the plasmodium parasite, Jesuit priests and Inca healers, a Chinese Emperor performing a clinical trial to treat his fever, chemistry leading to the first modern pharmaceuticals, and imperialism on a global scale. This episode is the first of a multi-part series exploring how hydroxychloroquine became the great hope for treating COVID-19.   Sources: Jaramillo‐Arango, J. A Critical Review of the Basic Facts in the History of Cinchona. J Linn Soc Lond Botany 53, 272–311 (1949). Smith, N. K. A Cure for Ague. J Roy Soc Med 90, 589–590 (1997). Potter, C. W. A history of influenza. J Appl Microbiol 91, 572–579 (2001). Cunha, C. B. & Cunha, B. A. Brief history of the clinical diagnosis of malaria: from Hippocrates to Osler. J Vector Dis 45, 194–9 (2008). Goss, A. Building the world’s supply of quinine: Dutch colonialism and the origins of a global pharmaceutical industry. Endeavour 38, 8–18 (2014). Al-Bari, Md. A. A. Chloroquine analogues in drug discovery: new directions of uses, mechanisms of actions and toxic manifestations from malaria to multifarious diseases. J Antimicrob Chemoth 70, 1608–1621 (

The 1918 influenza pandemic, or the Spanish Flu, is the obvious parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic -- a worldwide plague attacking a scientific and global society much like our own. In this guest episode by Hannah Abrams and Gaby Mayer, we chase these parallels wherever they take us, talking etiology, presentation, treatments, masking, curve-flattening, and mortality measures.

Plagues have fascinated us since antiquity, but the Antonine Plague stands out because one of the most famous physicians in Western history was present to make detailed observations. In this episode, guest host Liam Conway-Pearson explores what we know -- and what we don't know -- about this plague, which ravaged Rome two millennia ago. Plus a brand new #AdamAnswers about using convalescent plasma to treat the Spanish Flu of 1918!   Sources: Adrian Muraru, “On Galen of Pergamum: The Greek Physician and Philosopher of Late Antiquity in the Roman Empire,” Agathos 9, no.2 (2018): 7-20. H. Clifford Lane and Anthony S. Fauci, “Microbial Bioterrorism,” in Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 20e, ed. J. Larry Jameson et al. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2018), S2. James Greenberg, “Plagued by Doubt: Reconsidering the Impact of a Mortality Crisis in the 2nd C. A.D.,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 16 (2003): 413-425.  Jennifer Manley, “Measles and Ancient Plagues: A Note on New Scientific Evidence,” Classical World 107, no. 3 (Spring 2014): 393-397.  J. F. Gilliam, “The Plague under Marcus Aurelius,” The American Journal of Philology 82, no. 3 (July 1961): 225-251. John Haldon, Hugh Elton, Sabine R. Huebner, Adam Izdebski, Lee Mordechai, and Timothy P. Newfield, “Plagues, Climate Change, and the End of an Empire. A Response to Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome (2): Plagues and a Crisis of Empire,” History Compass 6, no. 12 (November 2018). Joseph B. Fullerton and Mark E. Silverman, “Claudius Galen of Pergamum: Authority of Medieval Medicine,” Clinical Cardiology 32, no. 11 (January 2008): E82-E84. Joseph R. McConnell, Andrew I. Wilson, Andr

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.

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) surgeons still addressed as Mr? BMJ. 2000 Dec 23; 321(7276): 1589–1591. Otto M, Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America, The New Press, 2017. Tung T and Organ CH, Ethics in Surgery: Historical Perspective Arch Surg. 2000;135(1):10-13.

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!

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: Bliss M, William Osler: A Life in Medicine. Bryan CS, Osler goes viral: “The Fixed Period” revisited, Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2018 Oct; 31(4): 550–553.  Cooper B, Osler’s role in defining the third corpuscle, or “blood plates”, Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2005 Oct; 18(4): 376–378.  Davis E, Vaginismus, The medical news, 1884. Retrieved online from: Flint AF, A Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Medicine. Retrieved from: Justin MS, "The Entry of Women into Medicine in America: Education and Obstacles 1847-1910". Retrieved from:

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 Mummy” by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (

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 Hist 28, 53–56 (2010).  Whalen, F. X., Bacon, D. R. & Smith, H. M. Inhaled anesthetics: an historical overview. Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol 19, 323–330 (2005).  Prioreschi, P. Medieval anesthesia – the spongia somnifera. Med Hypotheses 61, 213–219 (2003).  Stallings, S. & Montagne, M. A chronicle of anesthesia discovery in New England. Pharm Hist 35, 77–80 (1993).  Litoff, J. & Pernick, M. S. A Calculus of Suffering: Pain, Professionalism, and Anesthesia in Nineteenth-Century America. Am Hist Rev 91, 176 (1986).  Leake, C. D. Letheon: The Cadenced Story of Anesthesia. Science 199, 857–860 (1978).  CRAWFORD W. LONG (1815-1878) DISCOVERER OF ETHER FOR ANESTHESIA. Jama 194, 1008–1009 (1965).  Riches, E. Samuel Pepys and His Stones. J Urology 118, 148–151 (1977). 

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! 

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 of the Royal Society of Lond, 2004.  Hall, GH, The Clinical Application of Bayes Theorem, The Lancet, September 9, 1967.  Howard-Jones N, Fracastoro and Henle: A Re-Appraisal of their Contribution to the Concept of Communicable Diseases,” Medical History, 1977, 21: 61-68. Lane N, The unseen world: reflections on Leeuwenhoek (1677) ‘Concerning little animals’. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 19 April 2015.  Lawson I, Crafting the microworld: how Robert Hooke constructed knowledge about small things, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of Lond, 2015. McLeMee S, Athanasius Kirchehr, Dude of Wonders, The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 28, 2002.  Van Leeuwenhoek A, Observations, communicated to the publisher by Mr. Antony van Leewenhoeck, in a dutch letter of the 9th Octob. 1676.