Edmonton podcasters doctor up new kid-friendly show about medicine

What keeps the heart beating, why are we ticklish and what makes a fart? A new made-in-Edmonton podcast is answering the tough questions.

Surgery ABCs teaches kids about medicine and the mysteries of human body

Digital education program assistant Jenni Marshall (left) and medical student Natalie Marsden have produced 11 Surgery ABCs podcasts so far. (Richard Siemens/University of Alberta)

What keeps the heart beating, why are we ticklish and what makes a fart?

A new made-in-Edmonton podcast is answering the tough questions.

Surgery ABC's, produced in partnership with the University of Alberta, is a kid-friendly program aimed at getting young listeners excited about medicine and educate them about the "mysteries of the human body." 

"Each of our episodes centres around a question that kids might have about the human body, for instance, 'What happens if we break a bone?" said producer Natalie Marsden in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"Then we talk about the body part that's associated with that question, how it works and how it develops normally.

"We also feature a doctor of the day, and that's a doctor who works on that specific part of the body and that's meant to inspire kids to pursue careers in healthcare."

Mardsen, a medical student at the University of Alberta, teamed up with host Jenni Marshall, a U of A digital program assistant, on the podcast.

While Marshall handles administration and all the editing, her five-year-old daughter Aofie is also a big part of the program.

"Aofie is our superstar kid guest host that features on the podcast with us," Mardsen said.  

"Some of the ideas came from Aofie, some of the ideas came from other kids in my life and other things I recalled from when I was a kid that I was curious about."

Curiosity answered 

The podcast is considered a spin-off of Surgery 101, a series of episodes hosted by Dr. Jonathan White and produced with financial assistance from the university's surgery department.

Surgery 101, which provides detailed lessons on surgical procedures such as intubations, setting fractures and reading x-rays, has gained a huge following among medical students over the past decade, with more than five million downloads worldwide.

Mardsen and Marshall were keen to serve a younger audience.

"We had been listening to a lot of kid podcasts with Aofie. It's a growing market but when I looked for one about the human body there wasn't one," Marshall said. "It just grew from there."

The women got together last summer and started producing the 11-episode first season, and getting Aofie behind the mike.

"We were originally going to feature numerous children," Marshall said. "That proved to be logistically harder than we thought but we had one handy here and we took advantage of that."

The program is free for download and the women would love to see it used in the classroom.

"I think the earlier we learn about these things, the more we understand them," Marshall said.

"The more education that we have, the better."