Blog | Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Social media as an advantage in medical education

At a recent AAMC meeting, Alex Djuricich, MD, FACP, (@MedPedsDoctor), Terry Kind, MD, (@Kind4Kids), and I presented a workshop that dealt with using Social Media/Twitter in our roles as medical educators. During a breakout session within the workshop, I heard an interesting concern that I had not previously considered.

One participant's administration was concerned that students who are not using Twitter, Facebook or other social media venues would be excluded from the information provided by the faculty on these sources. Their concern is that the students who are involved on social media would thus have an advantage over those who do not use the sites.

Although I understand the worry, I am not concerned. Social media is simply a different way that faculty and students can communicate. After classes, students often come up ask questions or clarify areas of uncertainty with their teachers. Many professors hold office hours, sometimes even with groups of students. On a personal note, for years I have been answering students' e-mails on a one-to-one basis.

If a significant area of concern arises, it surely is the faculty member's responsibility to make sure the problem or misunderstanding is not a systemic issue that all students are having. Social media simply expands the ability for students to communicate efficiently with their faculty. The faculty members' responsibilities to clarify information for all their students don't change. Social media simply helps break the barrier between the two groups, not increase it.

Ryan Madanick, MD, is an ACP Member, a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain. This post originally appeared at his blog, Gut Check.