‘Rick & Jerry’ Pass the Baton

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A look back on the trailblazers of emergency medicine radio

In 1991 I decided to become an ER doc. I started my training in Australia and then immigrated to the United States of America to do a residency at UCLA. Just a few days after I landed, I was at grand rounds. Jerry Hoffman was the speaker. The quality of the presentation can only be described as breath taking. The levels of sophistication of the review, the practicality of the information, the attention of the audience, were all without precedent in my medical career.

As a resident I started to listen to the “EMA show” and it was transformative. It was funny, insightful, packed with practical information, and above all it was an education revelation. I would listen to each monthly tape 5 or 10 times. I would memorize it. Then when a patient or a fellow resident or a consultant would make a medical statement I could agree or refute their information quoting the latest medical literature in a manner that appeared miraculous. I was not the only one to learn this trick. Generations of residents appeared to be geniuses not because of their own talents but because they obsessively listened and re-listened to a show that was in fact “genius.” The academic (Jerry Hoffman) and practical (Rick Bukata) distillation of 40 pertinent papers to emergency medicine in two to three minute chunks every month was ground breaking. Listen, repeat, listen, repeat. Over a relatively short period of time one could amass a huge fund of knowledge. You could look like a genius, not because you were, but because you listened obsessively to two geniuses.


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In the January 2015 EMA program, Rick and Jerry outlined the end of an era, that they would stand down from being the lead anchors, and hand their program off to the next generation. For many of us it was a passing of the guard that is rarely seen – a classy passage that occurs without much fanfare, without ego. The kind of passage that lays open the road for the next generation of educators.

This kind of changing of the guard makes the future so exciting it is hard to stop for a second to look back. But as we take a moment to look back, we realize that we have all this excess of educational oxygen because we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Emergency Medicine is embarrassingly rich with exceptional, next generation educators. In the world of education 2.0 emergency medicine has a plethora of podcast hosts, with tens of thousands of followers, active social media personalities and thought leaders in the new world of online education. It has online video programs with Hollywood level production plus audio education series that rival the entertainment and educational value of NPR. Emergency medicine has bucket loads of speakers who are literally world class. Emergency medicine has a level of critical thinking of the medical literature that is unrivaled in medicine.


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Why has so much amazing educational content come out of our specialty? It is thanks in no small part to two of the first graduates from the original emergency medicine residencies of the 1970’s. Just as the Apple computer exists because Steve Jobs meet Steve Wozniack, emergency medicine has advanced because of “Rick and Jerry.”

The “Rick and Jerry Show,” as it is known to generations of listeners, can be considered a foundation of modern emergency medicine education. Their “podcast,” now over 35 years old, is the shoulder on which programs like EMRAP, EMCRIT, ERCAST, FOAM, AliEM, LifeinTheFastLane, and too many more to list, stand. These two giants and their shoulders so very wide, are the origin of an education tsunami that swept the field of emergency medicine since the beginning of the specialty.

Soon after graduating from residency Jerry introduced me to Rick Bukata. Here was a man you wanted to have a beer with, a man that in his era used the bleeding edge of technology to present education to the world of emergency medicine. A man who created a “radio show” that was for decades absolutely essential monthly listening for residents and faculty across the emergency medicine world. Rick used the internet when most people didn’t know what it was, created searchable MP3’s a decade before the iPod, started a “no slide” conference series that is still today revolutionary and rarely replicated. These are the men upon whose shoulders we stand.

The Rick and Jerry show created an educational environment that has shaped and will continue to shape the landscape of our specialty for decades to come. If you are an older ER doc, you know. If you are a younger ER doc, ask the old guys. If you love EMRAP, EMCRIT, FOAM, EMCAST, EMLITofNote, HIPPOEM or all the others, remember that Rick and Jerry are why they all exist.


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You did good gentleman, you did real good!

Tell us your favorite “Rick & Jerry Show” moment in the comments below.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mel Herbert, MD is a Professor of Emergency Medicine at KECK School of Medicine, and is Founder of EMRAP, HIPPO Education.

8 Comments

  1. Greg Johnston MD on

    Been a listener since 1991, so many hilarious moments, in addition to the education. The Greek study on the proper direction of insertion of rectal suppositories. Potato skins versus honey for burn treatment. And of course, Rick’s rant about hand versus penis washing after male urination. Thanks, guys. You are the greatest.

  2. Joseph Sachter, MD on

    Listener since 1989. My favorite moment (at least fifteen years old) in a discussion about the uselessness of white blood cell counts — paraphrasing now —

    Rick: But Jerry, what do you do when the surgeon asks you what the white count is?
    Jerry: Depends. If I want him to come in the morning, I tell him it’s 14. If I want him in right away, I tell him it’s 19.
    Rick: But Jerry, what happens when they come in?
    Jerry: Have you ever seen a surgeon look In a chart?
    Priceless.

    This August marks thirty years in Emergency Medicine for me, dating from my first medical student rotation. Rick is great, and truly underrated and under appreciated.
    But the greatest single contributor to Emergency Medicine over those three decades has been Jerry Hoffman… It’s not even close.

  3. Chuck Sheppard on

    Introduced to the Rick and Jerry show in 1978 and like many have appeared much smarter than I am as a result. Too many (by hundreds) great moments such gems as the correct way to insert a suppository the BMJ parachute “study proposal” and don’t forget the book reviews I have been introduced to some great reading from Jerry. We all owe you so much

  4. I have been a listener since the late 70’s. No other educational program has given me so much knowledge and joyful entertainment. It will be very hard (?impossible) to find someone talented enough to offer great information in an all the while entertaining manner

  5. Loved the WBC lines, loved Rick’s post urination handwashing rules, but most of all love how they love EM.
    Thank you Jerry and Rick, you changed the world.

  6. Marvin Wayne on

    As an age “related” peer I would never know where to begin nor end to praise. But I can tell you of the many road trips I’ve been on where my wife (totally non medical) would say are you going to listen to “Ben & Jerry”, as she called them. She even learned something from them, as has all the rest of us. Dr. Cookie takes off his hat to you…

  7. I started listening during my internship in Hawaii 1990, not knowing that the 2,3,4 program into which I had matched for 1991 was the ED home of Jerry Hoffman. This wonderful surprise has been an enormous gift to me ever since and I remain an avid listener, fan, and now long time friend. I agree with Mel’s eloquent words and can relate to all the sentiments above. Perhaps a tech savvy friend should put together a podcast “highlight” of those years in celebration? It would certainly be best seller.

  8. I listened with rapt attention during my early days of emergency medicine in the 1970s. Rick and Jerry were like the Siskel and Ebert of medicine. Funny, witty, but incredibly intelligent, insightful and not reluctant to throw barb’s where necessary or appropriate.

    The most famous quote I remember over the years was, “80% of all medical studies are worthless.” I am sure it is still true. But Rick and Jerry able to backup that shibboleth with intelligence and witt.

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