Penn HealthX Podcast is sharing stories of the University’s students, faculty, and alumni who are working at the intersection of medicine, business, and innovation.

When Ryan O’Keefe got the OK to create a podcast under the student group Penn HealthX, he ran with it. A year later, the second-year Penn medical student has built up an impressive collection of nearly 20 episodes, featuring interviews with some of the University’s greatest minds in medicine.

Penn HealthX podcast
Ryan O’Keefe, right, host of the Penn HealthX podcast, discusses SpectrumScores with website creators (from left) Phil Williams, Naveen Jain, and Jun Jeon.

His goal? To produce content catered to budding medical students interested in business and innovation. In other words, O’Keefe says, the podcast is aimed at “our future health care leaders.”

That isn’t to say the conversations are always technical.

“They are light enough that anyone can enjoy them,” he says.

A recent episode featured a 90-minute interview with Arthur Rubenstein, who’s internationally known for his research achievements in endocrinology and diabetes. The former dean of the Perelman School of Medicine and executive vice president of the Health System in the early 2000s not only talked about his work, but also interesting tidbits about his personal life, such as growing up in South Africa and why he decided to move to the U.S.

“I was able to pull back the curtain a bit on a very important man in Penn Medicine’s history,” says O’Keefe.

O’Keefe took on the podcast project—something he’s secretly wished to do for years—with no more than an old microphone from his theater days in hand, and, of course, a curious mind. A natural on air, O’Keefe says he learned his interview techniques through listening to “podcast after podcast.” To record and edit the interviews, he uses Audacity, a free, open source, cross-platform audio software.

“At first, I literally Googled ‘How to start a podcast,’” he says with a laugh. For his first episode, he plopped the microphone down in front of David Fajgenbaum and “hoped for the best.”

Joking aside, O’Keefe says he credits that first interview with Fajgenbaum, an assistant professor at Penn Medicine and co-founder of the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network, as a real confidence booster.

“It really was such a great interview, mostly because of him,” he says. “It gave me assurance that I should keep going.”

Other episodes include talks with Nora Becker, a graduate of Wharton’s Department of Health Care Management, who discussed the Affordable Care Act, women’s health, and contraceptives; the Penn student founders of Spectrum Scores, who focused on LGBTQ+ health issues and creating a startup in medical school; and Eric Heil, a Penn alumnus and co-founder of the medical technology company RightCare Solutions, who talked about systems engineering and reducing readmissions in hospitals. Another recent episode features Patrick Brennan, who discusses his role as chief medical officer of the Health System, as well as coaching in health care.

Next up, O’Keefe says, is Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor at Penn Medicine who has been leading “artificial womb” research and raising hopes for premature babies.

The Penn HealthX Podcast can be found on SoundCloud as well as on. O’Keefe hopes Penn HealthX will continue releasing episodes on a regular basis in the future. As he tackles his first clinical year, a new crew of Penn students will take on the podcast’s responsibilities, but O’Keefe says he’ll stay involved.

“It’s been so fun,” he says. “I’ve been hoping to have a lot of these conversations anyway, so it’s even better that I can do that and then also share it with others. It’s all about inspiring a new generation.”

As part of the agreement, a new jointly funded laboratory will be created within the CAS research facility in Beijing, China. Known as the ‘Ferring Institute of Reproductive Medicine’, the facility will bring together researchers from both Ferring and CAS to find solutions to address global challenges in fertility and high rates of obstetric complications.

“Across the world, too many couples still face considerable challenges when trying to become families,” said Per Falk, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, Ferring Pharmaceuticals. “This collaboration forms the next phase in our ongoing efforts to advance knowledge and care in reproductive medicine and women’s health. Working together we hope to gain a deeper understanding of fertility and implantation and discover new solutions that could transform the way in which reproductive medicine is managed in the future.”

“Our collaboration with Ferring will expand our research base into the translational space and together we will rapidly expand our tool set to look at truly transformational ideas in reproductive medicine,” said Prof Hongmei Wang, Director of the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology at the Institute of Stem Cell and Regeneration, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

For CAS, the collaboration will provide additional expertise and funding to support their world-class stem cell research and regenerative medicine programme, a core element of their Innovation 2030: Building Tomorrow initiative. For Ferring, the collaboration will help to identify new therapeutic concepts and targets that will enable the discovery of novel drug candidates that may be further developed to address unmet needs in reproductive medicine and women’s health.

“CAS is already recognised as a leading life science institute for our early basic research in reproductive biology, which covers most aspects of female and male infertility and obstetric complications,” said Prof Qi Zhou, Director of the Institute of Stem Cell and Regeneration and the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. “We welcome this collaboration which will help us to reach our Innovation 2030 goal and improve reproductive health both in China and worldwide.”

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About Ferring Pharmaceuticals:

Headquartered in Saint-Prex, Switzerland, Ferring Pharmaceuticals is a research-driven, specialty biopharmaceutical group active in global markets. A leader in reproductive medicine and women’s health, Ferring has been developing treatments for mothers and babies for over 50 years. Today, over one third of the company’s research and development investment goes towards finding innovative treatments to help mothers and babies, from conception to birth. The company also identifies, develops and markets innovative products in the areas of urology, gastroenterology, endocrinology and orthopaedics. Ferring has its own operating subsidiaries in nearly 60 countries and markets its products in 110 countries. For further information on Ferring or its products.