Demystifying Medicine, a seminar series that has spawned a YouTube channel and a fourth-year undergraduate course at McMaster University, has surpassed 100,000 subscribers.
The channel contains a collection of researched videos and podcasts created by students, trainees, and researchers, directed to those in university and medical settings, including students and faculty. Many videos are also suitable for high school students, and some are created for child audiences.
The channel aims to help increase understanding of how advances in biology can be applied to diseases, and to discuss frequently emerging scientific, medical, and ethical areas of interest, said Kjetil Ask, associate professor of medicine at McMaster.
By linking science and medicine, the McMaster Demystifying Medicine team hopes to bridge the gaps between basic research, clinical care, and the patient experience, and to educate the general public, he added.
The channel has grown since its inception in 2013, and now has more than 1,100 videos, 31 million views worldwide, and 114,000 subscribers.
Its most popular videos include “Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Through my eyes,” with over three million views; “Depression: A Student’s Perspective,” with over two million views; and “Walk in My Shoes: ADHD,” with more than one million views.
Ask is a researcher at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, where he runs the Molecular Phenotyping and Imaging Core lab, and when he was working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland, he attended the NIH Demystifying Medicine seminar series.
“I recognized the powerful impact of the NIH seminar series, which brought different and complementary perspectives to the audience, often including a clinical overview by a physician scientist, followed by a patient interview and then a presentation from a basic scientist on how to address the problems,” explained Ask.
When he returned to Hamilton in 2011, Ask implemented a McMaster version of the Demystifying Medicine seminar series. Shortly after, with the help of many undergraduate students, graduate trainees, faculty colleagues, and the Bachelor of Health Sciences program, a cross-disciplinary fourth year undergraduate course associated with the seminar series was born.
In the course, students work in small teams to develop scientific communication and knowledge translation skills. Videos produced in the course feature a variety of topics across the fields of science, technology, and medicine and are often shared on the YouTube channel.
“This student-driven course has evolved based on student needs – it’s is very different today than when it started, but the foundation has remained consistent,” said Ask. “What has become apparent in the course are the secondary soft skills that the students develop, which are so greatly needed for the lifelong learning that is required in today’s work force.”
The soft skills include teamwork, providing constructive feedback, learning from failure, the importance of creativity and risk-taking in academic contexts, building informative and structured presentations, conflict resolution, and many more.
With each class containing up to 24 students, many of whom speak two or more languages, the channel is in a unique position to make their videos more accessible to different regions around the world. They recently began to include video captions in Arabic, French, Urdu, Sinhalese, and Norwegian.
The channel has also recently joined the YouTube Partner Program, which will allow further development. A new third year course called “Demystifying Research” will be offered in September 2022. Its overall aim is to offer young students a path towards research by creating educational videos that will demystify the research process, from basic technologies to experimental design, interpretations of data, and how to conduct systematic reviews.
In addition, an advanced class called “Demystifying Science – Advanced Knowledge Translation and Science Communication” will start in the Winter 2023 semester.
The channel was recently given a commemorative plaque – a gift from YouTube congratulating the team on hitting this impressive milestone. Ask plans to display the plaque in the office of the Bachelor of Health Sciences program.
To learn more, visit the Demystifying Medicine channel.