Physician launches book-focused podcast to extend reach, improve patient outcomes

Denise Millstine, M.D.

Denise Millstine, M.D., believes there is an opportunity to empower more people with knowledge to manage their health conditions by "putting the right book in the right hands at the right time." She created the "Read. Talk. Grow" podcast as a vehicle to do just that.

An avid reader herself, Denise Millstine, M.D., knows the powerful influence a good book can have on someone's life.

Now, she's made it her mission to connect people with books that can help them understand and manage their health conditions better through her podcast, "Read. Talk. Grow."

Launched this year, the podcast highlights books about various health conditions — from reproductive rights, opioid use and racism in healthcare, to miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

Episodes are released weekly on Wednesdays and feature Dr. Millstine in conversation with authors of the books being highlighted and experts on the topics discussed.

You can check out the podcast through the Mayo Clinic Press website or on your preferred listening platform, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

The News Center team connected with Dr. Millstine to learn more about her inspiration for the podcast and the difference she hopes it will make. Read what she had to say below.

What inspired you to start the "Read. Talk. Grow" podcast?

I love books and always find myself talking with patients about the books they are reading. I used to think of this as "social time" before the "real" portion of our visits started, but after having some powerful conversations with patients about addiction, child loss and gender transitions, my perspective changed, and my empathy increased.

In the same way that books can transport readers to a different time or culture, books can teach people about navigating health conditions. I have learned so much from books and want others to know they can, too.

The team at Mayo Clinic Press helped me develop "Read. Talk. Grow," where we discuss story-driven books (fiction, memoir, narrative nonfiction) about health-related topics.

What need do you hope the podcast fills?

I want to help listeners better understand and manage their health conditions by putting the right book in the right hands at the right time. For example:

  • Someone going through perimenopause might benefit from the episode and book "What Fresh Hell is This?" by Heather Corrinna.
  • A woman whose daughter-in-law just had a miscarriage might understand the process of grieving that loss through the book "Brood" by Jacqueline Polzin.
  • A friend whose friend is dying might see aspects of her journey reflected in "We All Want Impossible Things" by Catherine Newman.
  • Someone who has never considered transgender or nonbinary parenting could learn from Kris Malcolm Belc's "The Natural Mother of the Child."
  • A healthcare professional could learn about well-being from "I Can’t Save You" by Anthony Chin-Quee or take a deeper look at how racism affects healthcare and chronic illness by listening to episodes about those topics.

How do you decide what topics to cover?

I often read or hear about a book and instantly know it will be perfect. If the story portrays the health condition accurately without propagating stereotypes, and if the condition is related to women’s health, even tangentially, I move forward. Sometimes, I decide to cover a specific topic and search for a book that is a good fit instead. In those instances, I often connect with Mayo Clinic's medical librarians, who are excellent resources.  

Could you describe what listeners can expect from a typical episode?

Episodes are about 30 to 40 minutes and are hosted by me, in conversation with an author and topic expert. Experts come from Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic affiliates such as Arizona State University, or are otherwise experts in their field. We discuss a health topic as it is portrayed or discussed in the book.

Most of the topics we cover are targeted toward women, but many apply to everybody.

What do you hope listeners will get from the podcast?

I hope "Read. Talk. Grow" will improve health outcomes for listeners by serving as a tool to help them better understand health conditions and be more supportive and empathetic toward themselves and others navigating them.