The Art of Explaining Medical Stuff

by drpepermd

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If someone asks me how I became interested in social media as a physician, I tell them the story of how I was online looking for the logo of one of my favorite drinks to use for a presentation I was giving to the medical students.

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I had been an attending physician at the hospital in my town teaching the doctors in training about internal medicine which encompasses primary care, hospital medicine and general medicine. We are known as doctors for adults, internists, or internal medicine doctors (sometimes incorrectly confused with those first year residents known as interns). But I left that position after 15 years to follow an unfulfilled passion to do private practice.

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Growing up in the Adirondacks, I didn’t really know the local doctor of my small town but through my reading had a Sinclair Lewis ideal of the physician healer who could make people feel better with listening. Of course you also need to examine them and order tests and medications when appropriate but the heart of the healing comes from compassion. I wanted the opportunity to be that kind of physician for my own patients in private practice and gratefully have cared for many patients that way. Yet I found I wanted to spend more time discussing med tech, social media medicine, mobile health, medicine 2.0  and yes, hashtags. Which leads me back to my story.

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As I scrolled through the images for my presentation, I came across a posting of a celebrity in a waist trainer. More and more women are wearing highly constrictive corsets for extended hours a day in an attempt to make their waist smaller in size. Common sense would dictate “it doesn’t work that way” but the number of companies selling the corsets and their popularity as promoted by celebrities indicated many believed it did, in fact, work that way.

So I started posting on instagram about things I find need further clarification as in this case: using waist cinchers can weaken your muscles over time, squeeze the stomach and intestines, prevent enough air from getting your lungs and cause bruising and fainting.

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I love the power of the visual image to capture someone’s attention and thereby give me a chance to share a few medical thoughts. A more in depth discussion is always preferable and so that begins here. Social media is fabulous for getting information across by breaking it down into small manageable chunks in the form of a photo or 140 characters. Being around millennials gives me an idea of what is relevant so I can point out what’s in it for them. And with a medical background, I know what I can leave out to simplify ideas to their essence.

Sounds straightforward on paper but explaining medical health stuff is a challenge, a journey of cross collaborative subjects, frustrating new skills, fast paced information bombardment, creative and original and a struggle, so yes, I love it!

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