Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mentoring My Mentors: An unexpected opportunity in Twitter

Last year, when I needed a research project on short notice, my mentor, @BarbaraGerbert, suggested I do a “Twitter study” with her.  Dr. Gerbert had recently published PublicHealth Surveillance of Dental Pain via Twitter and she was certain I could find something of interest to research through Tweets. Only in hindsight can I fully appreciate how her suggestion would change my life and the endless opportunities and connections that awaited me in the vast “Twitterverse.” One of my favorite unexpected joys of Twitter has been the unique opportunity to "mentor my mentors."

While doing my lit review on Twitter, I stumbled upon @KentBottles' article, Twitter: An Essential Tool for Every Physician Leader and I started to wonder if perhaps Twitter had more to offer than just research data. As an experiment, I opened a Twitter account. It didn't take long to realize that Twitter was life changing. After discovering the far reaching opportunities at the intersection of social media and medicine, I wanted to share its virtues with everyone I knew. Thus when I emailed my general surgery mentor to see if he would have time to meet during the @AmCollSurgeons' Clinical Congress in San Francisco, I asked if he would be interested in "Twitter 101" tutorial. He graciously agreed.

Also at this conference, I planned to meet my first "Tweet friend", @AndrewMIbrahim who had invited me (via Twitter) to join his new national student group, As fate had it, both my mentor and Andrew texted me at the last minute to meet at exactly the same time. Even though I had never met Andrew in person, I figured it would work out fine--what a better assistant could I have to give a Twitter tutorial with than a fellow med student I met on Twitter? While we did not create an immediate social media convert out of my mentor, Andrew and I were able to convince him that Twitter was more than a passing fad and that its opportunities and applications in academic medicine were vast. Since that time, I have mentored many of my mentors in social media. I have introduced the Association of Women Surgeons to social media by starting and tweeting for their Twitter account @WomenSurgeons.

Ever since my first cup of “inspiration tea” shared with my biology professor during my undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison, I have been hooked on the enthusiasm, support, and encouragement I receive from career mentors.  Through every step (and misstep) of my educational journey, my mentors have have been an invaluable source of inspiration and guidance. It has been a great privilege and honor to have the opportunity to "give back" to my mentors through teaching them how to Twitter. I am humbled by their commitment to lifelong learning.

I would like to give a special thank you to Dr. Vineet Arora @FutureDocs for her article, Twitter to Tenure: 7 ways social media advances my career, which has been a particularly useful tool in convincing my mentors that Twitter can benefit both their career and their patients. I would also like to thank the @MedEdChat community for teaching me the power and potential of social media to improve medical education.

Addendum: Since posting this I came across an excellent article on younger doctors mentoring older colleagues.