A Capstone Project for the Podcast Era

October 19, 2020
Eliza du Pont

It was the spring of 2020, and Eliza du Pont had returned home to Vermont to finish her second year in the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. Due to a change in the program’s education schedule caused by the coronavirus pandemic, she discovered she could begin her capstone project earlier than normal.

A photographer before arriving at the MGH Institute, du Pont started to think of ways to put together a project that would focus on social participation after a person had experienced a neurological injury. Her mentor, Dr. Kimberly Erler, an assistant professor of occupational therapy who also researches the subject, suggested the idea of creating a podcast as a way an alternative to the traditional practice of writing a paper. 

While du Pont had no experience with podcast development, she jumped at the chance to engage her creative side. She began by listening to some of her favorite podcasts like “Up First” and “Hidden Brain” on National Public Radio, her ears attuned to how they used music, introductions, formalities, and questioning formats. Using that, she created a trial recording with her fellow OTD classmate, Nicole Lam, and soon afterward “Bridging the Gap” was launched.

“I was initially hesitant to dive into a project that was unexpected and completely different than what we had been planning for, but with the encouragement of Dr. Erler the project really came together,” said du Pont. 
Employing a vocal delivery that sounds like one of her favorite NPR podcasts, du Pont has dropped four episodes since August. In the second episode, she interviews a Vermont business owner about the trials and tribulations the woman has faced after having a traumatic brain injury. In the third episode, Lam talks about her own capstone project. The latest episode involves interviewing researchers from Northern Arizona University about post-stroke rehabilitation services.

“The aim is to include the voices and perspectives of people with first-hand experiences of life after neurological injury, researchers with pertinent data to discuss, clinicians with first-hand experience of patient care, and policymakers,” du Pont said. “By including all these diverse stakeholder perspectives, the podcast provides context and meaning to otherwise complex and overwhelming medical jargon and research data and gives it a lot of depth and meaning.”

She added, “I hope it can serve as a guide for other innovative and creative doctoral capstone projects down the line.”

- John Shaw