Features, Science

Nutrition professor utilizes podcasting platform to provide wellness advice for students

After years of answering students’ questions about health and wellness in class, Joan Salge Blake said a light bulb went off in her head — this could be a podcast. If the 200 students enrolled in her introduction to nutrition course are hungry for this kind of information, Blake surmised, then there must be others. 

In less than a year, “Spot On!,” which is hosted by Blake, a clinical professor in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and BU alumnus, has reached more than 16,000 downloads. 

Joan Salge Blake, right, sits with medical student Cara Guenther and Guenther’s dog Otis in a recording booth during the production of her health and wellness podcast, “Spot On!” COURTESY OF DR. JOAN SALGE BLAKE

The podcast’s first episode aired on Jan. 6 and started its second season on Sept. 11.

While Blake said she is “pleasantly surprised” at the success of the podcast, she also thinks perhaps she shouldn’t be so shocked. After all, her course has 200 seats and still has a waitlist to get in.

So obviously this population that college students are hungry for this kind of information,” she said. “… it shouldn’t have surprised me that others outside of BU, of the students in this demographic, is very much interested in this information.”

“Spot On!” covers the latest health-related news topics and is aimed at providing college students with accurate and usable health and wellness advice, according to the podcast’s description on Spotify.

“I’m very passionate about trying to take a complex, science-based topic and reduce it to understandable terms that the public can use,” Blake said.

A lot of the podcast’s content comes directly from what Blake discusses in class, she said, as well as the information — or misinformation — that her students see in the media.

“I am making a podcast topic to help them weave through a lot of the misinformation and quackery that’s out there on nutrition, health and wellness,” Blake said.

Blake’s podcast also provides professional experience for nutrition students, some of which can fulfill their required practicum by helping Blake with research. Students from College of Communication can also help out by working on the production of the podcast, Blake said.

Having nutrition and COM students working together to produce accurate content makes the podcast an interdisciplinary project, Blake said. 

A BU alumnus and professor in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Blake was inspired to start her podcast after hearing many of the questions posed by her students in class. GRAPHIC BY HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Marie Napolitano, a senior studying dietetics in Sargent, said she was in Blake’s community nutrition class when Blake announced she was starting a podcast. Napolitano said she volunteered to help with marketing for “Spot On!” and has been a part of the social media and marketing team ever since. 

Danielle Lirette, a senior studying public relations in COM, was the podcast’s first producer and said she found “Spot On!” through the BU Public Relations Student Society of America. Before helping start “Spot On!” Lirette had no experience with production, but said she taught herself everything on the job.

“I had no experience with any contents of that shape at all,” Lirette said. “By the end of the fall semester, I felt like I had more skills and created better episodes and then we launched in the spring.” 

Since the start of “Spot On!,” Lirette said the viewership and production team has grown a lot.

“It is kind of weird because when we first reached 1,000 [listeners], I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this feels like a big number,’” Lirette said. “And then from there, it has just slowly grown into 10,000.” 

Lirette said the growing viewership numbers don’t feel real — to her they’re just numbers. Meeting people who listen to and enjoy the podcast in person is what puts those numbers into perspective, she said.

It is rewarding to see the finished product of her hard work and time spent editing and producing “Spot On!,” Lirette said.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Lirette said, “but it’s also cool to see all my work having an impact.”

 

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