Thursday, February 16, 2012

Social Media in Academic Medicine

The inspiration for this post came from a Twitter chat on the theme of Social Media in Academic Medicine on the “meded” chat, on Thursday 2-16-2012

Social media is definitely integrated into today’s culture. So many young people are using social media. In addition, a quicly growing demographic in social media is actually those in their 40s-50s. Despite this impressive growth, social media has not, in my opinion, made its way into mainstream academic medicine yet. Certainly papers have been written on the topic of social media in medical schools, but much of the focus has been on professionalism around using social media, and less on what positives social media can bring to medicine.

With regards to social media in academia, however, the growth is slow. Promotion of faculty in academia on the strength of a portfolio focusing on social media is currently probably not that common. But should it become more common in the future? Will physicians who choose to be engaged in social media for purposes of promoting medical education or medicine consider this as their main “scholarship”? And what about the physician who chooses to blog on medical topics (which can provide quality information on the internet to counteract some questionable medical material that currently exists)? Is that something to put on a dossier? Surely it can attract an audience, and can provide useful information to patients and those interested in health.

Finally, as we talk about the hidden curriculum in medicine often, how should the academic physician who is “laughed at” or “taunted” for tweeting or blogging react when she hears: “You are wasting your time with that social media stuff.” (you can probably ascertain that indeed I have heard this quote more than once)

I have my opinions, and would love to hear yours. I will leave you with a few articles on Social Media in the academic arena.

Professors like social media more than other educational technology

How higher education uses social media

Social Media Footprint for Academics

A doctor's reputation vs a hospital's responsibility: Social Media


  1. I think, in addition to the concerns of professionalism, social media has not become mainstream in medical educatin because
    1) Students primarily use Facebook as their social media platform of choice and see the main purpose of Facebook to be personal/non-professional.
    2) Students do not use Twitter because they view it as a way to see what Justin Bieber and Ashton Kucher are up to. Many faculty feel this was as well.
    Thus, if we in medical education see social medica (twitter and blogs in particular) as a valuable tool in medical education, we are going to have to teach our students, residents and colleagues how to use these in a way that is good for education, valuable to patients, and useful for scientific advancement.
    I agree that social media is indeed a form of scholarship (and thus useful for promotion and tenure), but we would need to establish some criteria for what constitues scholarship in social media.

    1. Thanks for your comments. Great points!
      I totally agree with teaching students to use twitter and blogs. Some students would find it disingenuous if a faculty teaches about using SoMe but does not personally use SoMe.

  2. Interesting post.

    You're certainly not wasting your time with this social media stuff! I think the focus of the debate should be on the value of the communication and not on the particular medium itself.

    1. Wonderfully said. Some academics are not sold on this "value" until they see it in mainstream journals. I would not fall into that category, yet realize that getting such papers out there are critical to making it "mainstream".

  3. I agree w/ Dean Jenkins on this - it's as if we're staying away from social media simply because it's being used to keep up on Bieber's life. While that may be true, it's also a medium that's coming into its own.

    Marshall McLuhan may have said the medium is the message, but that may not always be the case. The message can also be the message.

    I'm the Director of Communications for a large Department of Medicine in a large academic medical center. We're moving in a big way toward adopting social media tools to communicate, first, with residents and younger, and, as they move their ways through the system, these social media tools will catch on.

    Good luck to us all. Let's be careful out there, but do right for academic medicine.

  4. Thank you, Jimmy, for your kind words. Happy New Year to you and yours.