Dean Blumberg and Lena Rothstein: Pediatrician podcasters

The skinny on the two kid doctors who started a podcast for parents and children alike.

Dr. Dean Blumberg, left, and Dr. Lena Rothstein mug in their makeshift recording studio.

Dr. Dean Blumberg, left, and Dr. Lena Rothstein mug in their makeshift recording studio.

PHOTO COURTESY OF Lisa Butterworth

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That mound of flesh you’ve lugged around for nine months is now growing on its own. Sure, you’re also a mound of flesh, but that doesn’t make you qualified to help this tiny flesh mound as it screams and stretches out uncontrollably. Someone has to know how to care for your new mound.

Pediatrics is the study of and medical care for flesh mounds. Practicing pediatricians, in all their technical wisdom, refer to the mounds slightly more formally: as infants, children and adolescents. The doctors assert essential care needs, and they both understand and can talk about best practices to maximize a child’s growth. Pediatricians Dean Blumberg and Lena Rothstein of the UC Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento host Two Peds in a Pod, a podcast to educate parents of all experience levels. SN&R sat down with both doctors to talk about the podcast, an endeavor that started as a fledgling idea in June, was cultivated in August and birthed in September.

How did you two land on a podcast?

Blumberg: I don’t know.

Rothstein: I don’t think Dr. Dean wants anyone to know what he looks like [laughs].

Blumberg: Yeah, I mean, maybe we should do something on YouTube. I don’t know. We just thought a podcast seemed sort of natural.

Do you two work together at all?

Rothstein: We haven’t worked that much together in terms of a medical standpoint. We’ve done a lot of advocacy-related stuff together. … We’ve worked a lot together on reaching out to local news when the flu shot comes out, or reminding parents to put on sunscreen during the summer and not leave their kids in hot cars.

How closely do these podcast characters resemble your real selves?

Blumberg: Obviously there’s this age difference. So when we were coming up with this, we thought, “Well, let’s exaggerate that.” Let’s exaggerate the young, bright, open-minded position, which is Dr. Lena. And then I can channel being judgmental. … I can try to channel what the older generation is thinking. … Somebody told me, “I know you’re playing a role like Stephen Colbert did with ‘The Colbert [Report],’ but I was listening to you and agreeing with you the whole time.”

What’s the vetting process for topics?

Rothstein: We started out just polling people we know and [discussing] things that have come up … and then we’re hoping that as time goes on we’ll have to reach out less … one parent wanted to hear about wearing your baby.

Blumberg: Oh yeah, wearing your baby.

Rothstein: And what the studies have shown about that. So we were talking about doing skin-to-skin, or how touch is beneficial for kids. We were asked about weaning with breastfeeding.

Blumberg: Yeah, baby-led weaning instead of the parent leading.

Rothstein: Screentime with teenagers [was another].

Is having electronic access to doctors the direction the medical field is taking?

Blumberg: Here at UC Davis, we’ve been trying to do a lot of telemedicine, and I think we’ve been leaders in the field. … It makes sense, especially here in Sacramento, because a lot of our population that comes here comes from rural Northern California … We’re all equipped with these cameras, and so I can sit in my office and see these patients and save them two- or a four-hour drive one way.

Rothstein: And there are certain things where it doesn’t make sense to do it over the computer. So when we need to listen to their lungs, we need to be able to do a physical exam, we need to be able to talk a little bit further to see how we’re going to treat appropriately. So I still think it doesn’t replace an in-person exam.

Where does the information in the podcast come from?

Rothstein: The studies that we talk about are from everywhere … The marijuana episode we just recorded, I talked a lot about the studies done in Colorado, because that’s where they first legalized recreational marijuana.

Blumberg: For these last ones, we’ve made an effort to have other people review them. On the podcast we’re experts, but my specialty is infectious diseases and Lena’s still in training, so we want other input. To make sure our perspective is correct, we always send it out to subject matter experts, and then they sometimes will give us other references.

Rothstein: We sent our marijuana one out, and she sent back all of these articles that were so science-based. I was like, “Oh god, we have to boil this down for parents.”

Was the marijuana episode fun to record?

Rothstein: It is interesting. I think that our views tend to be less progressive and liberal just because it’s related to pediatric use. And so a lot of the podcast is talking about the dangers of accidental ingestion in young kids, other policies that we could bring up to keep kids safer from this type of thing. But it’s super interesting to research, and I think [California’s] got to be on the forefront … we have to make sure that kids aren’t getting into it and it’s not increasing teen use and things like that.

So the marijuana episode is a definite favorite.

Rothstein: [Laughs] We’ll see. I haven’t heard it yet. We just recorded it, so I’ll have to get back to you.