Every Public Physician Is a Brand

socialized_medicineBy Bryan Vartabedian, MD

The more public we become, the more we become defined by how we appear to those around us. Consequently, every doctor has a brand. But how can that be? Everybody knows brands are for potato chips and toilet paper.

This has nothing do with promotion or commercials.

Your brand is what people think about you. It’s what comes to mind when your name is mentioned. It’s a tattoo on others’ brains that’s been created by your words and actions.

This is nothing new, of course. Doctors had brands long before their ability to be public. For example, all of these have brands:

  • the surgeon who answers within 30 seconds of being paged
  • the ID doctor whose dress is as impeccable as her penmanship
  • the vascular surgeon known for his rough bedside manner and compulsive attention to operative detail
  • the soft-spoken pediatrician who takes lots of time no matter how far behind she is.

Even that quirky anatomy professor with the seven dry-erase markers has a brand.

In the age of democratized media, every doctor with a smartphone is a publisher. Our new public personas reinforce, or even shape, our public identities. Great examples of doctors with well-defined brands are Wendy Swanson and ZDoggMD. Wendy is defined by her passion, energy, voice, and transparency. ZDoggMD is defined by his unique delivery of health information.

Our public presence and our brand are a complex mix of who we are as doctors; how we’re seen and portrayed by others; and how we choose to present ourselves.

There are, of course, things people think and believe about us that aren’t true and can’t be changed. But there are other impressions that we can influence. If we care, the latter is what we should be working on.

What is your brand?

Vartabedian—Bryan Vartabedian, MD, is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine. He blogs at 33Charts.