If the adage “everyone has a story” is true, two medical students from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine are intent on finding those tales that are connected to the school and sharing them with the world.

Podcast shines light on ‘Humans of OUWB’
Humans of OUWB
“Humans of OUWB” is a podcast created by Dina Abdo (left) and Maidah Raja, both rising fourth-year medical students. The podcast launched in late 2020, and can be found just about anywhere podcasts are available, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts.

If the adage “everyone has a story” is true, two medical students from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine are intent on finding those tales that are connected to the school and sharing them with the world.

“Humans of OUWB” is a podcast created by Dina Abdo and Maidah Raja, both rising fourth-year medical students. The podcast launched in late 2020, and can be found just about anywhere podcasts are available, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts.

The latest episode was released this week and features their classmate, Monique Waltman. Previous episodes have featured OUWB Founding Dean Robert Folberg, M.D., Jason Wasserman, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, and a custodian named Sebastian who works on the first and second floors of OUWB’s O’Dowd Hall.

Abdo said the show’s origin can be traced to a desire to remain connected to the OUWB community during COVID-19, and do so in a creative way that helps “rejuvenate this other side of my brain.”

“We felt this overwhelming sense of not getting enough closure,” she said. “We didn’t get to say goodbye to O’Dowd (Hall), we didn’t get to say goodbye to our classmates…and we had just spent a year together constantly seeing each other, faculty, and staff.”

Abdo said those feelings prompted her and Raja to “reimagine the community while we’re still apart.”

The initial idea was to do something OUWB-specific that would be based on “Humans of New York,” a concept that features stories about all kinds of different people from the Big Apple, and on various platforms, such as a photoblog, Facebook Watch series, and more.

Abdo and Raja said they ultimately decided a podcast would be the best medium for their idea, despite neither of them previously having any experience in broadcasting.

“It really was a creative endeavor for us to venture out into something that we’ve never explored,” said Raja. “We got to a point where we were like, ‘We’re just going to do it.’”

Using how-to sources found online, the two figured out what kind of microphones and audio editing software they would need. They also dove head-first into other production aspects of the show, such as scheduling guests and promoting finished episodes via social media channels.

“We just thought it was the perfect way for us to safely allow people to connect with one another and still have everyone’s stories being shared,” said Abdo. “It was the perfect platform to progress onwards.”

With each episode, Raja said the hosts — and roommates/best friends — aim to capture a candid discussion that would be similar to a casual discussion held in their home and over a cup of tea.

Abdo said discussions are primarily driven by two questions often brought up during the OUWB interview process and the early part of their respective medical school experiences: who are you, and who do you want to be?

“Me and Dina have such a great dynamic and…a great rapport with each other,” said Raja. “We’re able to invite others and hopefully make them feel safe enough to share their vulnerabilities, fears, and ambitions with us.”

It seems to be working.

“Episode 0: The Prequel,” for example, features OUWB Founding Stephan Sharf Dean Robert Folberg, M.D., recounting stories from the foundational years of OUWB. The episode also includes an emotional moment when Folberg talks about Michele Raible, M.D., founding associate dean of OUWB, who passed away before the school’s first class graduated.

“Episode 1: Sebastian” features the beloved member of the custodial staff who works on the first two floors of OUWB’s O’Dowd Hall. Among other things, Sebastian openly talks about how difficult the last year has been.

“People entrust their stories with us and we like to think that it’s because we’re trustworthy,” she said.

Raja added that “it’s a huge honor.”

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Beyond reconnecting with the OUWB community in a creative way, the podcast hosts also say the experience contributes to their training as physicians.

“To be a virtuoso physician…is to be able to connect with other humans, be able to connect with your patients,” said Abdo. “The way that you do that is to be present, have open body language, be inviting, and be caring. That’s our goal with every episode…to create that ambience with our guests.”  

“Because we’ve been able to create that space, we’ve been successful in getting our guests to share really, really important and pivotal points in their life,” she said.  

As for the future of the Humans of OUWB, the hosts said they plan to continue producing the podcast after their expected graduation next May. Abdo said that’s due, in large part, to the initial response they’ve received from their audience, which has been very supportive.

“Alumni have reached out to us from wherever they are in the world right now and been like ‘Hey, that was the O’Dowd Hall that I remember, I’m so glad that community and that spirit lives on,’” she said. “We want the telling of these stories to continue long, long after we’re gone from Rochester Hills or Royal Oak, Michigan.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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