The Worldwide Community of Rheumatologists (Part 1: Introduction)

Paul Sufka

2012-11-14 14.13.59

Minneapolis, November 2012

“When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” – Mark Zuckerberg

My first major realization of the enormous potential for social media in medicine was at the first rheumatology tweetup at the ACR meeting in Atlanta in 2011. During this meeting, I had made the conscious decision to (gasp) attend a few less lectures, and get out and meet people. During this time, I was able to meet a number of amazing people, many who have become more than just a contact with a profile picture and random 140 character messages, but colleagues and friends that I frequently interact with.

Interactions within social media have benefited my own continuing medical education far beyond what I could have learned by any other method. Although it might seem somewhat counterintuitive at first, anyone not using social media to keep up with medicine is at a significant disadvantage in this aspect. Why? Because a well-built social community will help do two very important things that you cannot do alone:

  1. Filter the most important information to you. What tends to show up frequently are the important journal articles, case reports, or just the best random and interesting things. The best questions that people are asking show up. I can’t think of any more useful single source of information. If it turns out that what is showing up doesn’t suit your interest, you can modify your network, but you have to remember that you also need to…
  2. Avoid being stuck in an information silo. If you’re never made aware of innovations going on in other areas, and you’ll never be able to apply them to your own life and practice. Social media is great at finding the best things in other fields that might apply to what you’re doing, and bringing them to you.

Brian Reid  (@brianreid) said it best on this Google Plus post on why Twitter is Important:

If your perception of Twitter (or Facebook or Usenet or Google+ or whatever) is as a broadcast tool, you’re probably never going to be entirely happy. If you view it as a way to join/build communities, you’ll be blown away.

Communities that are built on social media can expand in two directions. The most common way is to expand wider (follow more people, gain more followers): this way is relatively simple. The other way, is to look deeper: this is true networking.

Over the next few posts I plan to take a deeper look at some of the most active rheumatologists in the worldwide social media community. I hope that this will expand our community both wider and deeper.