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#MedTwitter as a Professional Tool

An interview with Dr. Michael Gisondi, Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Education, Department of Emergency Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine (@MikeGisondi)

In preparation for the 2022 Research Impact Challenge, we turned to the Stanford Medicine community to find examples of real people using tools to track and promote their online scholarly presence. We sat down with Dr. Gisondi to learn how he uses Twitter to do just that*. Read on to find out how you can employ similar habits to increase your own impact!

*This interview has been edited for brevity.

Using Twitter Professionally

How do you use Twitter to support your work?

I think social media in general is an interesting tool for knowledge translation in the digital era. I think [Twitter] is very powerful. I like to use March 2020 as my case study. At that time New York physicians put pictures of chest x-rays on Twitter and instantly I knew what a covid pneumonia [x-ray] looked like. Years ago we would have needed to wait for print. Twitter also taught us to prone [covid] patients. That’s an extreme example, but very instructive. Social media platforms are simply tools in your toolbox as a researcher or an educator. 

In what unexpected ways has your Twitter use impacted your career?

[It has provided] very interesting opportunities for me that I would not have had without my relationships built on Twitter. For example, a colleague on Twitter from India invited me to give a talk at a conference in Delhi. I never would have considered going otherwise. I’ve had similar invitations to speak in Costa Rica, Chile, and Canada. When I meet [Twitter colleagues in person], it [feels] as if I’ve known them for a long time. I give Twitter a lot of credit for my current CV. I’ve lectured all over the world because of connections made on Twitter. [I’ve also] been on research teams and built a class because of Twitter.

I credit it for a lot of interesting personal network connections. You can’t meet and develop relationships with people the same way going up to their poster [at a conference]. [There’s] something different when you see them post about their work and how they got through their day, or what their family was doing that night. They become real people to you. 

Just this morning I had a paper published in an obscure journal. I made a Twitter post [with a] picture [created] on Canva. [You] can publish in an obscure journal, and can tweet about it for people to discover it. I think every paper [you publish] should be tweeted.

Can you speak to whether you believe your Twitter presence has influenced your impact within your field?

Until the pandemic, I used Twitter for professional use. Then the pandemic hit, and I found myself rage tweeting about misinformation and disinformation. I had a quiet professional account that went a little berserk. The ‘realism’ of what I tweeted resonated with people in medicine. 

Your platform in society is important. For example, to publish a book, you need enough of a platform to sell enough copies. Twitter gave me a platform in ways that my traditional efforts to build national reputation never had. Now I can use this and leverage it in other ways. [For example, addressing] health misinformation. It is a national crisis. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said this is something all of us have to address. 

What are some examples of when Twitter discourse has given you inspiration for your own research? 

[One of my former students,] Rachel Barber, a sophomore at the time, wrote a grant proposal with me to host the INFODEMIC conference [about COVID-19 misinformation on Social Media] last summer. From that [conference] several papers have occurred. I didn’t know the word ‘misinformation’ prior to 2020. From my rage came good scholarship. 

Advice for New Users

You teach a class for undergrads titled, “Does Social Media Make Better Physicians?” What takeaways from that course can you share with the Stanford Medicine community?

Social media can be used to build one’s academic platform. It has professional and societal implications. The bigger the platform, the better and the more impact it can have socially. [It] is a wonderful tool to disseminate one’s research. I still think there should be social media training for all faculty that explains rationale and pedagogy for these tools. Ultimately the 2020 example is what my class is all about. 

What advice do you have for early career clinicians and researchers who are considering using Twitter professionally? 

  • Follow 10 medical professionals who tweet a lot. 
  • ‘Lurk’ for the quarter and watch what these people tweet about. Generally people stay in their [subject] lanes. 
  • Once you have a sense of how people talk on Twitter, create a voice for yourself.
  • Tweet about journal articles that you find interesting. Go to the journal page, click the Twitter button, and add a sentence like ‘I found this article interesting because…’ or ‘I learned….’
  • If you do that everyday, your followers will grow quickly. 

Twitter Tips and Workflows

Do you plan out your content, and tweet on a scheduled basis?

I have used Hootsuite before to schedule posts around lectures. I create timed tweets at the time of the lecture to make a point. Usually [I tweet something like], “I’m so excited to be speaking at …” Every 15 minutes another tweet goes out that summarizes the talk. I will [also] tweet from conferences or lectures, creating a summary. 

Are there specific hashtags you recommend people follow?

#AcademicTwitter, #MedTwitter #MedEd. On Thursday nights there’s a tweet get together, #mededchat, attended by academic faculty around the country. A question is posed every 15 minutes [and participants tweet out responses].

Would you like to learn about more ways to increase your impact? Sign up for the upcoming 2022 Research Impact challenge, September 12th to 16th. 

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