While many surgeons may not think of Twitter as a boon to professional activities, this particular social-networking platform is “an essential tool” for the academic surgeon. So claim Logghe et al. in their recent article in the Journal of Surgical Research. The authors back up their claim with pertinent, real-life examples of how Twitter can be used to practice five core values promulgated by the Association for Academic Surgery: inclusion, leadership, innovation, scholarship, and mentorship.
Inclusion—Anyone with Internet access can sign up and easily use Twitter to interact with colleagues. The service is free and facilitates the creation of “virtual communities” through the use of hashtags, making it easy to follow posts of other surgeons and organizations.
Leadership—Twitter allows users to create and expand their own professional footprint while also helping the academic and/or clinical organizations with which they are affiliated increase their reach. As the authors astutely note, “Surgeons on Twitter become respected voices with large followings not only based solely on their academic pedigree, but also on the degree to which they share interesting content and participate in timely conversations.”
Innovation—Twitter facilitates sharing among like-minded individuals in similar fields by breaking the normal constraints of time and space. This enhances the potential for multidisciplinary collaboration that may not have occurred otherwise and helps surgeons find colleagues with whom to develop and promote new ideas.
Scholarship—Multiple studies have shown that using social media can increase the dissemination and viewership of academic material. Many journals (including JBJS) are embracing social media to amplify their message and generate further scholarly discussion of their content.
Mentorship—Twitter not only increases the opportunity for younger surgeons to find potential mentors, but also helps mentors increase their pool of prospective mentees. Users of Twitter are not constrained to one-on-one conversations. Instead, using hashtags and similar strategies, they can develop or nurture a mentor/mentee relationship with multiple professionals at the same time.
As a relatively new Twitter user myself, I am nowhere close to maximizing its potential to enhance my professional life. However, the more I use it, the more I understand its possibilities. I hope other orthopaedic surgeons realize these possibilities as well, because, like all social-media platforms, Twitter is only as powerful as its users. The more of us who participate, the better we will be as physicians—and the care of our patients is bound to improve.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media