How to OT

Developing a podcast to disseminate research to practice

by Michele Berhorst  •  March 6, 2020

Matt Brandenburg, OTD/S '20, creator and host of the podcast How to OT.

If you ask Matt Brandenburg, OTD/S ’20, what his personal mantra is, he’ll tell you—“If you’re not having fun, you are doing it wrong!”

It’s a mantra Brandenburg definitely lives by—it’s rare to see the Virginia native without a smile on his face. A third-year doctoral student, Brandenburg decided to become an occupational therapist following a two-year mission trip to Northern Mexico after his freshman year at Brigham Young University (BYU). “Every day, I was serving people of all ages and helping them in whatever way I could to make positive changes in their lives. That experience made me realize that I want to help people for the rest of my life.”

He returned to BYU with a mission of his own. “I started exploring different careers where I could make a difference in someone’s life. After taking an entire semester of medical classes, I researched careers that were a combination of psychology and medicine and found occupational therapy. Working with other people to achieve something greater than what we can do on our own is appealing to me. I feel you can do that every day as an occupational therapist.”

Even though Brandenburg had no experience or even interest in podcasting, he was drawn to the project—the use of podcasting in teaching and learning—that Stacy Smallfield, DrOT, OTR/L, BCG, FAOTA, offered as a mentored scholarly experience during his first semester.

“I was, however, interested in dissemination and translational science,” Brandenburg explains. “That curiosity is what drew me to the project; it takes on average 17 years for research evidence to reach clinical practice. Podcasting could shorten the gap by addressing barriers such as misunderstanding scientific validity, having limited access to research findings, and the lack of time clinicians have to consult the literature and apply it to daily practice.”

Brandenburg met with Smallfield, and together they mapped out what the podcast’s objectives would be. “Research was always the main goal, but we also wanted to pick topics that would be most helpful to clinicians and students and have people talking about those topics that listeners could trust.”

Smallfield and Steve Taff, PhD, OTR/L, FNAP, FAOTA, helped Brandenburg identify potential guests both within the Washington University community and at other institutions. He reached out to an impressive array of senior scientists, acclaimed researchers, distinguished educators and advanced clinicians, unsure of what the response would be. Amid busy schedules and commitments, almost every guest was willing do the interview.

Next, he set out to develop an episode template so that each interview would have a similar structure and flow. “There were several decisions I had to make on the type of show I wanted to develop, like finding the right balance of scientific content and clinical application,” says Brandenburg, who researched each topic and guest to write the interview questions.

Last, there were the many technical aspects of producing a podcast to learn. “I learned how to record interviews both in person and virtually and how to edit sound—eliminating background noise, amplifying, applying limiters, fading in and out, adding music and overlaying tracks,” Brandenburg says. “Being a student, I chose to use a free platform for publishing—Anchor—where I can upload episodes and they get pushed out to all the podcast apps.”

The first episode of How to OT was released in April 2019 on the topic of low vision and aging. After a summer hiatus for fieldwork, Brandenburg released the remainder of season one during the fall semester, averaging a new podcast every two weeks, with topics ranging from mental health to neuroscience to functional cognition. While interview questions differed from guest to guest, Brandenburg asked each one to share a clinical example or case study of when they implemented their research into practice and saw a positive outcome.

“Every guest shared a story where they changed a client’s life forever. It’s a touching moment on the show because I could tell it impacted not only the client, but my guest as well. It just further emphasized the importance of shortening the gap between research and practice,” Brandenburg says.

With season one completed, Brandenburg began collecting data for the research component of the project. “I asked practitioners, alumni and students via email and social media to listen to an episode of How to OT and take a short survey to measure perceptions on using podcasts to disseminate research.”

The feedback received so far has been positive, including that of How to OT guest Sherry Muir, PhD, OTR/L. “Nearly everyone I know listens to podcasts because it is an efficient way to multitask for busy people; you can listen while you drive or clean house. I believe using podcasts is a strategic and effective way to deliver this information to clinicians; it’s a real-world solution that can improve practice.”

When asked if there will be a season two, Brandenburg replies: “As long as the show helps disseminate research and is helpful to practitioners, students and whoever may listen to it, I can see myself continuing it.”

You can listen to How to OT at, Google podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes vary in length between 30 and 50 minutes.

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