You -- a medical student, resident physician or newly minted medical attending -- are late in the game. Sure, you appropriately hopped onto Facebook during your first few years of college, only to rightly disengage around the advent of newsfeeds and cover photos. You passively signed up to LinkedIn last winter only to remain passively aware that your profile exists un-updated in the inter-web ether.

Despite this predictable navigation into online social media, you remain steadfast in avoiding the "Twittersphere."

Well, you're missing out.

Like you, I initially thought Twitter to be an online community entirely made up of famous celebrities tweeting how normal they are and normal people tweeting how celebrated they are. All within 140 characters of smushed words with no vowels. I get the distaste.

But, I'm telling you, there exists an entirely different world within Twitter that you, as a young medical professional, should access.

Knowledge

I know at least a little about the life you lead. Coming from a family of doctors and now training as a resident physician, I have a reasonable understanding of your daily grind. I'm also sure of one thing: Despite your many interests in health care, there is little time each day to keep abreast of your field's current research and stay updated on national health care issues.

Here's where Twitter becomes useful.

Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, Twitter allows you to follow many people online without requiring an invitation or acceptance from fellow users. It takes an easy click to follow professional journals, health policy foundations and/or health care leaders without feeling creepy or fearing rejection from the community. (Trust me, it feels good to be followed, no one will mind.)

By choosing a good mix of these medical profiles, especially those that tweet links to high-yield content, you are able to create an individually tailored and constantly updated curated source of medical information, freely available at any time.

Networking

As part of the newest generation of physicians, I am constantly bombarded with fascinating career interests and tend to dream big. Whether these extra-clinical projects involve working as a physician writer or engaging in health policy and patient advocacy, I am usually left with more questions than answers when it comes to contemplating prospective career paths.

Especially when it comes to more specialized professional interests that encompass only a handful of field leaders, Twitter offers a virtual, often tight-knit community that paves way to connect directly with established members despite geographical and professional distance. It is not unheard of for project collaborations and formal mentorships to form from simple interactions via the Twitter community.

Identity

As patients and medical providers increasingly use online sources for information and support, Twitter offers a unique opportunity for young medical professionals like yourself to voice opinions and be heard in ways that otherwise would be challenging at such an early level of medical training.

Having a venue such as Twitter to display professional accomplishments, engage in discussion over important health issues and curate high-yield health-related content allows medical students and young physicians a way to develop a reputation for professional commitment and advocacy beyond what is seen at the bedside.

Take home point

Whether you like it or not, your professional image will likely end up on the Internet. It may be through the increasing patient use of physician rating websites or your own institution displaying your professional profile and accomplishments. It will be difficult to avoid the impact of the online community in your medical career.

By taking this bull by its horns and integrating yourself online in settings such as Twitter, you are more than able to take advantage of these virtual communities rather than considering them useless or detrimental to your line of work.

Therefore, fellow young health care professionals, I eagerly await the chance to learn from you and engage with you via Twitter.

In no more than 140 characters, please. Thx.

Quick disclaimer: I am in no way involved with Twitter beyond maintaining my own professional profile, @BrianSecemskyMD.

Originally written for LeadDoc

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Brian Secemsky, M.D.

Medical writing for patients, students
and practitioners.


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