Originally posted to AM Rounds on June 11, 2015
By Alireza Jalali, MD, Andrew Micieli, MMI, and Jason R. Frank, MD
A common question asked of many medical educators seen tweeting in the wild is “Why do you tweet?” There are a few main reasons why Twitter is such a popular tool among medical educators, including: advocacy, teaching, immersion, and professional networking.
For a physician, Twitter is a great place for health advocacy and education of the general public. It can be used as a platform for discussing medical issues (e.g., vaccination), debating, and gathering public opinions. It can provide a transparent platform to advocate for a public cause directed at politicians, industry leaders, or pharmaceutical companies. It can also be used to facilitate connecting with others who have similar interests, promote one’s area of expertise, and find other researchers to discuss research plans, network, etc. In this way, physicians like Michael Evans have an enormous worldwide public impact.
For an educator, Twitter is a great example of a social media tool available to teach medical students and residents. Trainees can learn about the benefits of being online, curation of information on the Internet, and professional behavior in the digital world. They can follow hashtags (#MedEd) or feeds (@AcadMedJournal) from chats, conferences, etc. and learn about diseases. Physicians and other health care professionals may join in as well by easily accessing tweets through their hashtags. Twitter can be a gateway to a virtual universe of so-called Free Open Access Medical Education (#FOAMed).
Following a Twitter feed is a way of immersing oneself in a topic area. For a medical student or resident, it is a convenient, easy, and effective tool to read potentially interesting medical news stories. Medical students can use Twitter and #MedEd to stay up to date on medical news, as a study tool, and as mentioned above to facilitate knowledge transfer between different health professionals and patients. Medical student Andrew Micieli personally uses Twitter on his feed @medstudent_blog to share high-impact, important news stories that affect medical students. Overall, Twitter can be a productive resource in the medical student’s armamentarium, a tool to expand their knowledge that is often not taught in the classroom.
Finally, Twitter is a powerful professional networking tool. Want to connect with someone in medicine that shares your teaching interest? Looking for a collaborator for your next research project? Want advice on a specific clinical topic? Twitter hashtags create themed “feeds” of posts from around the world. The power of Twitter can be used to create a global community of practice. Jason Frank uses his @drjfrank account to network with thousands of clinician-educators from many countries.
This is why many medical educators and learners use Twitter. Feel free to have a look at our Last Page on how to use Twitter and #MedEd as medical educators.
Alireza Jalali, MD, is teaching chair, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa. Andrew Micieli, MMI, is a medical student, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, and Jason R. Frank, MD, is director of specialty education, strategy, and standards, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.