Welcome to season 5, episode 4 of the ALiEM Medical Education in Cases (MEdIC) series! Our team (Drs. Tamara McColl, Teresa Chan, John Eicken, Sarah Luckett-Gatopoulos, Eve Purdy, Alkarim Velji, and Brent Thoma) is pleased to welcome you to our online community of practice where we discuss the practice of academic medicine!

This month, we present a case of a budding clinician-scientist who is encouraged to develop a social media and online presence to highlight and disseminate his research achievements. His barrier, however, is his perceived lack of knowledge and technical skills for the growing online FOAM and social media movement. Read more about this case of a technologically-challenged academic!

The Case of the Technologically-Challenged Academic

By Daniel Ting (FRCPC candidate)

It was another busy Monday afternoon in the city’s largest quaternary care emergency department. Luis had just finished his shift and anxiously walking down the hall of the hospital on his way to his semi-annual meeting with the departmental research chair, Soo-Jin. She was always supportive, but alluded to an added agenda for today’s meeting, creating a sense of unease, without knowing what to expect.

Luis was recent graduate, now 5 years out from his board exams, and had completed additional training in clinical epidemiology with a particular interest in concussion medicine. He was well on his way in developing his academic portfolio as a budding clinician-scientist. Over the last few years he had earned success with several grants, published a few projects, presented at several conferences, and had already developed a strong reputation within his field.

Luis exchanged some pleasantries with Soo-Jin and then it was down to business. They reviewed his most recent accomplishments and academic activities over the last several months, all positive feedback. Soo-Jin then smiled and changed the tone of the conversation.

“Luis, I think you’re doing really incredible work with your concussion research, but I fear that not many people in our group, let alone outside our institution, know about it. We need to take some steps to showcase your work and start generating some buzz within our emergency community and beyond. I think it would help if you created a Twitter account and started building a social media presence.”

Luis laughs. “Well, I’m not really gifted when it comes to technology! I don’t even have that Facebook thing. I also can’t really see myself having time for that…”

Soo-Jin didn’t press further. The conversation moved on, and they finished the meeting on a positive note.

Over the next few days, Luis found himself ruminating over the social media comment from his research chair. He remembered a moment from the last departmental retreat when everyone was raving about Jim’s latest med ed research and Sandy’s recent sepsis study. He reflected on a recent encounter with a fresh-faced medical student who had approached him in the department and was gushing about the incredible blog post Jim had written, and the encounter he had last Tuesday with a local news reporter who was in the hospital conducting an interview with Sandy based on a “twitter storm” surrounding her research.

Luis thought to himself, “Jim and Sandy seem to get all this credit, and I’ve actually published more research than they have.” He performed a quick Google search of Jim and Sandy and was shocked at the various blogs, podcasts and social media accounts highlighting their numerous accomplishments. When he did the same for himself, he was presented with only the journal publications and little else.

Luis picked up his phone and texted Jim, a former residency colleague and now good friend. “Soo-Jin wants me to start creating a social media presence and get on this Twitter thing. I’ll be honest, at first, I thought this was a going to be a total waste of time, but after a quick Google search, I see all the incredible things you and Sandy have done online and it certainly piqued my interest. Think you could help me start on Twitter? What is this Altmetric stuff? And where do I even start?”

Discussion Questions

  1. In the context of academia and research, what are the benefits of using social media? Are there any pitfalls in using social media for this purpose?
  2. Social media in medicine can be overwhelming. How should Luis get started?
  3. Once Luis establishes an online presence, how can he quantify the online attention his research receives? Will this benefit him when applying for University/job promotion?

Weekly Wrap Up

As always, we will post the expert responses and a curated commentary derived from the community responses 2 weeks after the case is published.

Our 2 experts for this month’s case will be:

  • Dr. Eddy Lang
  • Dr. Simon Carley

On February 9th, 2018, we will post the curated commentary and expert responses to this case! After that date, you may continue to comment below, but your commentary will no longer be integrated into the curated commentary. That said, we’d love to hear from you, so please comment!

All characters in this case are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Also, as always, we will generate a curated community commentary based on your participation below and on Twitter. We will try to attribute names, but if you choose to comment anonymously, you will be referred to as your pseudonym in our writing.

Inspired by the Harvard Business Review Cases and initially led by Dr. Teresa Chan (@TChanMD) and Dr. Brent Thoma (@Brent_Thoma), the Medical Education In Cases (MEdIC) series puts difficult medical education cases under a microscope. On the last Friday of the month, we pose a challenging hypothetical dilemma, moderate a discussion on potential approaches, and recruit medical education experts to provide “Gold Standard” responses. Cases and responses are made available for download in PDF format – feel free to use them! If you’re a medical educator with a pedagogical problem, we would love for you to get involved in the MEdIC series! Send us your most difficult dilemmas (guidelines) and help the rest of us bring our teaching to the next level.

Tamara McColl, MD FRCPC

Tamara McColl, MD FRCPC

Associate Editor, ALiEM MEdIC Series
Emergency Physician, St. Boniface Hospital, WRHA
Academic Lead, Educational Scholarship
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Manitoba