Why Every Medical School Dean Needs a Blog

By Bryan Vartabedian, MD

At a recent AAMC meeting, I found myself in a conversation about medical school leadership and the changing face of public engagement. I believe that content creation and the sharing of ideas should happen at every level of medical education, especially that of deans. What would you say to your medical school’s dean to make them consider a more engaging presence?

Here’s what I would tell the digital dean-in-waiting:

Medical education needs public dialogue. As someone concerned about the next generation’s ability to function in tomorrow’s radically different environment, we need open discussion and collaboration. We need to share our successes and failures. Blogging is one way to erode ivory silos and make the medical education community part of the open conversation.

It’s where your students are. And we’re here because of the medical students.

You create the story. In the world of democratized media, you have two choices: You can create the story about your school or you can allow the public to do it for you. And who better than leadership to shape the story?

Public affairs no longer controls the message. We do. You and every member of your faculty is a brand ambassador for your school. As the academic leader of your school, you should create the narrative, tell the stories, and drive the conversation. As you create conversation, your faculty will follow.

It allows competitive positioning. This is where your future students are. Your dialogue will showcase your commitment to whatever you happen to believe or support. And how about this: It will help searching students get to know the human side of your organization; hopefully, that’s a good thing.

It provides a place to showcase your thinking. Public thinking can be powerful. When people see you think, they want to talk to you. And when people talk to you, good things happen.

Corporate websites are going the way of the hula hoop. Dusty, ossified Web 1.0 properties are good for parking snail mail addresses, maps, and static copy, but that’s about it. The world has long since been about human dialogue. The absence of an active social presence dates your school’s digital presence to somewhere in the late 20th century. Don’t hold your school hostage to hula-hoop–era thinking.

Everyone worries about positioning their organization in the public eye. But few medical education leaders have done this successfully. With these tools, the smallest school in the nation could become the one to watch. Why not lead the way and position your school like no other?

—Bryan Vartabedian, MD, is a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He writes about the intersection of medicine and technology on his blog, 33 charts.

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