An open letter to medical educators (#ccme14)

Please teach medical students about the value of using social media in health care and medicine
That’s my plea delivered in what I hope is a timely manner to delegates currently attending the annual Canadian Conference on Medical Education (CCME) here in Ottawa.
It’s a message I feel badly needs to be delivered in the face of statistics and anecdotal evidence suggesting practising doctors still do not appreciate the value of Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other social media tools for improving their own professional lives and the care they are delivering.
It is clear that if physicians are going to learn the value of social media tools and platforms they need to be taught about it in medical school. Despite the ubiquitious use of social media by young people, most entering medical school have little understanding of how social media tools can improve their learning experiences and their future professional lives.
If examples are needed of just how social media tools can be incorporated into the curriculum one needed look no further than the CCME meeting itself where panelists at a pre-conference symposium delivered a crash course in just how social media can be used effectively to improve the learning experience in medical school
The panelists:
* Dr. Alireza Jalali (@ARJalali), professor of anatomy at the University of Ottawa and social media lead for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
* Dr. Ann Marie Cunningham (@AMCunningham), GP and clinical lecturer at Cardiff University, UK and acknowledged expert in using new media in medical education
* Natalie Lafferty (@NLafferty), lecturer at the University of Dundee, UK
* Dr. Neil Mehta (@Neil_Mehta), associate professor of medicine, Cleveland Clinic
* Catherine Peirce (@c_peirce) Project Manager, e-learning at Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada
Given that the title of the session was “Everything you wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask your students” it is impossible to quickly summarize the information transmitted at this session – one replete with both wisdom and practical tips and tools to use.
(To those unfamiliar with Twitter and hashtags, the meeting feed at #SMB14 was a demonstration in itself about how Twitter can be used to relay information and promote discussions far beyond the geographic confines of one meeting room)
A few one liners from the panelists provide some pearls of wisdom and a sense of the sentiments expressed:

“Twitter has become my personal learning network” @nlafferty

“Computers don’t stop people from listening. Boring teachers do.” -@ARJalali

Curation “is more than just posting a link. It’s giving it context as well.” ‪@nlafferty
“A big part of this is introducing students to our networks” ‪@amcunningham

‪@ARJalali “think twice, tweet once.

”Think about relationships rather than rules“: ‪@amcunningham

Of 9 Cdn med school with social media guidelines “all are enthusiastic and encourage use of SM” CHEC-CESC scan via @c_peirce

‪@ARJalali tells med students on use of social media: “we’re not there to catch you”

Important to promote principles of Digital Professonalism by education, not rules: @toppsd

Time management an important component of teaching med students about SM: ‪@amcunningham

‪@ARJalali “My students are in a digital world that I’m not a part of.”

“Social media has helped me break out from the boundaries of my own institution” ‪@nlafferty

Perhaps the most telling moment during the course came through Twitter when – as Dr. Jalali was emphasizing the value of Twitter as a tool for teaching, networking and information gathering, – a medical student attending a session of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students at the same time tweeted a note that a straw poll of students at that meeting indicated few use Twitter.
Surely it’s time to do a better job of bridging that gap.