Several years ago I wrote a white paper called The Social Physician. Back then, it was relatively easy to keep track of the socially engaged doctors because there were so few. Today all that has changed as more and more physicians flock to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, blogs, and beyond. Here are six doctors I follow in social media, all of them practicing and all worthy of your attention. I focused on practicing doctors because they choose to engage on top of all their clinical responsibilities. For them, social media is an important way to stay connected with patients, peers, and the world outside their office.
Known to her legion of fans (of which I am one) as SeattleMamaDoc, Dr. Swanson is one of the most eloquent medical writers in the social sphere. A pediatrician, she is an avid blogger for Seattle Children’s Hospital where she covers everything from swimming safety to measles outbreaks. Her recent post on the hiring of Jenny McCarthy on The View is indicative of her passion and willingness to take a stand on important, even controversial, issues. She also uses video effectively to educate, such as teaching parents about bike helmets. Dr. Swanson is pretty amazing.
Known by his alter ego ZDoggMD, this Las Vegas-based internist and hospitalist is a wannabe rapper/comedian/reality show star in scrubs. He is funny, sometimes hilarious, as he sings about everything from insurance paperwork to prostate cancer. My favorite video is one in which he gets his psychiatrist mother ZMommMD to “lay down the smack” on his internist father ZDaddMD. Seriously, though, I think that ZDogg makes medicine more accessible and relevant to the public and that’s a good thing.
Parenting young children is hard enough, and when they start with the constant coughing, noses that ooze, and ear maladies it’s time for a visit to Dr. Nina Shapiro’s website. While the Internet is never a replacement for a visit to the doctor, as director of pediatric otolaryngology at UCLA, Dr. Shapiro blogs, tweets, and updates Facebook with practical, trustworthy content for parents struggling with snot, boogers, and beyond. One of my favorite posts was Am I a Mean Mom? which challenges parents to let their kids experience the world – even if hurts a little – instead of constantly shielding them from it. Most recently, Dr. Shapiro joined the vaccine conversation with an op-ed in the L.A Times called With fewer vaccinations, is your child’s school safe? Can you tell I follow strong, smart women?
This early adopter has gone from being Dr. Anonymous to being…Dr. Mike Sevilla. In between he used Family Medicine Rocks as his home base, where he tirelessly advocated for his specialty – and primary care in general. Recently, he took a break from social media to regroup (many of us were sad), but came back stronger than ever (which made us happy). Dr. Sevilla uses every form of social media: blog, podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram – name it, he’ll try it. Wherever he is, he’s one to follow for his honest, funny, human musings about family medicine and life in general.
He is a recent addition to my list based on a poignant piece he wrote for KevinMD. It is a story of his angst about a patient who died a terrible cancer-stricken death after enduring a tragic life of untold abuse from her husband. The patient’s children wouldn’t let her go even though an earlier departure would have been – in a sad twist – more humane. “There was no happy ending. I failed to appease their pain during Ellen’s life, so she died terribly,” wrote Dr. Salwitz. I read more of his posts on KevinMD and discovered what a compassionate and steadfast advocate for patients he is. Dr. Salwitz seems to be everything you would want in an oncologist (and I’ve met some who were everything you wouldn’t want).
Dr. Saxon is a health tech rock star on a coast full of them, yet most are male. She is both chief of cardiovascular medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine and executive director of USC’s Center for Body Computing. Known as the Digital Heart Doc, she is a pioneer in the evolving world of wireless and digital health. Her research using a smartphone-based ECG recorder for inexpensive, continuous heart rate monitoring helped the AliveCor device gain FDA clearance, one of the first mobile applications to do so. Dr. Saxon’s social media posts are generally on major news outlets like CNN – Leading the Charge in Wireless Health was fabulous. She tweets, too, so if you’re interested in where digital is going, she is one to follow.
Bunny Ellerin (Twitter: @BunnyEllerin) is Senior Vice President at Intouch Solutions, a privately held marketing agency specializing in digital and mobile solutions for the pharmaceutical and health care industries. She is also co-founder and president of NYC Health Business Leaders, a cross-sector network of senior executives that showcases NYC’s position as a thriving center of health, medical and life sciences innovation.