Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#ILookLikeASurgeon: With a moral obligation to tweet?

One thing the #ILookLikeASurgeon movement has made unambiguously clear is that surgeons are on Twitter. Literally thousands of tweets later, the surgical Twitter community has congealed and specialty hashtags such as #plasticsurgery and #colorectalsurgery have emerged. As the surgical Twitterverse continues to evolve, what are the roles, opportunities, and even responsibilities of academic surgeons? Do surgeon scientists have a moral obligation to communicate with the general public?

Many say yes. In our new reality of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” world citizens are turning to social media as their main news source; if scientists do not join the conversation, who will lead the scientific discourse? Rather than depending on journalists to bridge the gap from scientific journals to the lay press, today’s surgeon scientists can utilize social media to directly communicate the importance of their findings to the general public. Surgeons are accomplishing this through social media posts that utilize photos, videos, graphics, and blog posts.

Inspiration abounds. See the #PresentYourPaper videos put forth by the Journal of Transplantation. Search the #visualabstracts inspired by Dr. Andrew Ibrahim’s work as creative director for Annals of Surgery. To create your own, check out his primer on “How to Create a Visual Abstract.” Whether you are a presenter, mentor, or simply an attendee of #ASC2017, you have a leadership opportunity to disseminate and communicate the scientific discourse to the greater public.

Here are my top 5 #TwitterTips for disseminating the findings presented at #ASC2017.

  1. Complete your Twitter profile--this includes a real photo, brief bio, and geographic location. A complete profile allows you credit for your contributions and adds credibility to your tweets.

  1. USE VISUALS. As always, a picture is worth 1,000 words. Research shows that tweets that include a photo or video get more retweets.

  1. Mention people. That is, include Twitter usernames whenever possible. The beauty of Twitter mentions is that they inherently provide an introduction through links to profile pics and bios.

  1. Link to previous research. This adds background and evidence (whether supporting or conflicting) to the current discussion. See here for a great example by Dr. Elliott Haut.

  1. Wherever possible, use emoticons to communicate. For a great examples of strategic use of emoticons, see Drs. Adil Haider and Marissa Boeck.

Finally, have fun! #SurgTweeting is about more than promoting our work, it’s about supporting each other and celebrating moments of accomplishment!