- Unless you have your own personal mentor willing to walk you around to make introductions to academic surgeons, it can be very difficult or even awkward to network with people who you look up to. By being active on social media, it is easy to learn who is active in various surgical fields and just as easy to participate in conversations via social media. Anecdotally, I was very active in the International General Surgery Journal Club – a monthly journal club on Twitter where a journal article was selected and a guest author and a moderator were available for 2-3 days to tweet about the article and answer questions. Upon attending the Academic Surgical Congress the following year I was in an elevator with the current President of the AAS, and he came up to me to shake my hand and introduce himself. He said, “oh hey, you’re @SarahB_MD, I follow you on Twitter…” I smiled, shook his hand and picked up on a conversation we had on Twitter. Social media platforms allow for conversations among the ranks and make ice-breakers in real life (IRL) simple.
- Staying up to date with current research. Whether you’re on Twitter following along with Surgical journals or on Facebook as a member of groups like the International Hernia Collaboration, it is so easy to stay up to date with newly published data. Furthermore, once you find a group of academic surgeons who you admire, share career goals with or whose work you are interested in, you have the ability to follow them. By following these twitter accounts, you will notice many will tweet links to their research, or research which they find interesting. It’s a great way to streamline what new articles are worth your time.
- Sharing your own research – a recent study shows how tweetations predict citations. There appears to be a correlation to how frequently an article is tweeted and how often it is cited in the next year. While the methods are not perfect, I have to admit that as a relatively early adapter of Twitter, I was eager to share my own publications via links on Twitter. As a result, my publications have been cited 40+ times.
- Conference tweeting. Whether attending academic conferences or learning from afar, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the concurrent sessions. Many organizations and associations have adopted and registered healthcare hashtags with com in order to keep track of tweets occurring during academic conferences. Following along with the conference hashtag (by simply clicking on it on Twitter or searching symplur.com) allows all Twitter users to search and scroll through tweets relating to conference events, talks, presentations and social gatherings (also know as tweet-ups).
- Crowdsourcing and receiving updates about current grant, scholarship or research opportunities. Whether there is a burning question you’d like to ask colleagues in your field, or you’re early in your career, social media platforms like Twitter allow instant feedback from other academic surgeons and access to updates about current opportunities from various societies/organizations/associations.
Other unique opportunities. As a General Surgery resident I’m very proud of my work in ICU delirium prevention, Palliative care in trauma, education research for teaching residents breaking bad news in trauma and especially physician/surgeon use of social media. As a PGY 4 I was invited to give visiting grand rounds on ICU delirium at Temple University department of Psychiatry. Furthermore, I was asked to assist with an interactive Twitter experience for the AAS Fall Courses as a faculty moderator. In addition, I have been recently been invited to give visiting Surgical Grand Rounds on Social Media as well as another exciting opportunity in the works. I know for a fact, these opportunities would not exist without my social media presence on Twitter.
While social media may not be for everybody, it’s important to understand that tremendous benefits do exist. The next step, in my opinion, is to design a social media curriculum for Surgical residents for the responsible use of social media. Many resources exist for getting started on social media. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me. You can find me on Twitter @SarahB_MD.