Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Twitter to Tenure: My (parenthetical) story

I'll soon be heading to the 2011 Society of General Internal Medicine's annual meeting. As prelude to a workshop called "Twitter to Tenure," I, and several fellow academicians are blogging about how social media has helped our academic careers. See bottom of post for the other posts in this series. And if you'll be at SGIM, please come and say hi!

If I had known that starting a personal blog in 2006 would eventually result in such great things for my career, I would have started one a long time before that. The truth is, I was simply trying to capture the moments of new motherhood that I didn't want to forget. (Also, before 2006, I was like, what's a blog?)  In the process, I unknowingly set wheels in motion that would eventually help shape my future personal and career pursuits. (Bonus!) This is what you call a win-win. Win-wins in life are the best.

Writing leading to...
In my early days of blogging, I posted feverishly, to my 3 readers, one of which was my husband. We're talking practically everyday (I sigh when I think about how much more time I had when there was only 1 child to contend with). In the process (of talking to those 3 people), I developed my writing voice. It became like nothing to write a post- I could whip one out in 5-10 minutes, honing my story-telling, organization and my writing got better. (Please do not use this previous sentence as an example.) Malcolm Gladwell talks about this 10,000 hours phenomenon to achieving excellence in anything--I haven't come close to that but blogging so frequently was a start.

Writing opportunities...
An amazing thing happened in the midst of blogging feverishly (now over 3 readers): people found my blog and offered to pay me to write about parenting --humor writing. Paid! To write! This was a huge boon since it felt like I was an actual writer who could (occasionally) make people laugh. Meanwhile, the blogging (on multiple blogs now) continued, more hours under the belt. I networked with other bloggers, went to blogging conferences (after at first scoffing at them--who would go to a blogging conference??? Lame. I've realized, since, how much I love eating my words, or at least, embracing being lame.). I am not sure when my affinity for using parentheses developed.

And medical education applications...
I now appreciated what blogs could offer (discussion, community, feedback, support, to name a few) and while studying adult learning theory and the theoretical underpinnings for reflection in medicine, started a reflective writing blog for internal medicine clerkship students. Students' writings blew me away as they wrote frankly (amazingly frankly) about professionalism, doctor-patient relationships, empathy, and the struggles and anxieties of being a medical student. This led to workshop presentations at conferences, a paper in an academic journal, and networking with some pretty awesome collaborators.

And research....
Having had a blog where I occasionally mentioned issues that I saw in the hospital, as well as developing a (vaguely, on good days) humorous writing voice, I could appreciate the line that physician-bloggers had to manage between privacy, humor, disclosure, and professionalism. I became interested in the intersection of professionalism and physicians on social media and had an idea for a study on medical students and unprofessional online content. I also got involved with other forms of social media - Facebook and Twitter - and more ideas for studies came. This research has led to plenary talks, media interviews, grand rounds invitations, national conference workshops, and has defined a career path. Not to mention it's just fun to do these studies. Note: I would have never imagined I would be doing research when I was a resident! Thoughts of doing research in the past had always been accompanied by images of pain and suffering, like having a fork stuck in an eye.

And staying up-to-date with news from my field...
I've become a Twitter convert, thanks to Twentors (sorry) like Vinny Arora, an amazing academic rock star and Star Tweeter (ST). It has become my go-to source for breaking news and keeping up with my areas of academic interest --medical education and social media in medicine. I do not follow anyone like Paris Hilton ("I'm sooo tired! Need a nap!"), and instead follow those who have similar interests (as me, not Paris--pretty sure our interests don't overlap) or provide interesting perspectives and links. See Vinny's post for more resources about how to use Twitter professionally.

And Mothers in Medicine...
And of course, blogging led to the birth of Mothers in Medicine. Enough said.

So, social media has been good to me. It might also be good to you too.

Also see the following STs:

Alex Smith's (@AlexSmithMD) intro post on Geri Pal.
Vinny Arora's (@FutureDocs) post on FutureDocs.
Bob Centor's (@medrants) post on DB's Medical Rants.
Eric Widera's (@ewidera) post on Geri Pal.


  1. I had no idea Vinny was into this too. I read a paper she wrote on blogging and professionalism a few years back and assumed the opposite. Thanks for pointing me in her direction! (She is amazing, in case anyone wants to know.)

  2. I am a huge fan of hers and happy to be able to call her a colleague and friend.

  3. Thank to both of you for your support and kind words! I feel honored to call you both friends as well. Vinny

  4. Awesome work, KC! I've really enjoyed this blog.

  5. That is amazing. I myself have 3 followers right now and am trying to get used to writing again. I am currently following you and I hope that I can learn so much from you all. I'm not a medical student but I do aspire to be one in a couple of years. I am happy to see that physicians can be personable and not frightening individuals who can't be "touched". I wish you all the success for your blog, although you don't need it, your career, and your personal life. Again thanks a lot for posting :)

  6. I am not sure it's so much the social media as your (awesome) tendency to create opportunities for yourself. I'm sure you would have been equally creative and successful even back in the day of corded rotary telephones and typewriters. :)


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