Radiation Oncology Corner

Social Media in the RO Community

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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Miriam A. Knoll, MD, a radiation oncologist at the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. We discussed the topic of social media and its importance in the field of radiation oncology. Despite its significant impact on our field, many have been slow to adopt social media as a tool.  Knoll has been very successful in using it, and has valuable insights into the topic. Follow Miriam A. Knoll, MD on Twitter @MKnoll_MD and on Instagram @Dr.Mimi.K.

Here are some of her tips on how to best implement social media within our practices:

1) How does one start the process of becoming active on social media?

I recommend starting with Twitter since that is the most common social media platform that the radiation oncology community uses. The first step is to create your account. To get ideas for your Twitter handle (which is your account name), take a look at your colleagues' accounts. Start by typing #radonc into the search on Twitter. A feed will show up on your screen, and by scrolling through you will see who shares #radonc content, what their Twitter handles are, and what type of content they share. Once you create your account you can then start following people, news outlets, and journals that interest you. I am a member of the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s (ASTRO) communications committee and we recently published "Social Media Best Practices for Radiation Oncologists.”  

2) How have you incorporated social media into your daily practice?

I use Twitter because it’s an excellent source of general and medical  news. If you want to know what the most exciting new publications are in the world of oncology, you can browse Twitter to see what people are discussing. These will be by far the most exciting and relevant publications, because social media is a great way to filter out what's important. Also, there are many medical and radiation oncologists on Twitter and following their discussions is a great way to stay on top of what's relevant. During national meetings like the ones hosted by ASTRO and the American Society of Clinical Oncology), attendees who are at the meeting will tweet about it. So if you can't attend a meeting in-person, you can still get updates simply by checking Twitter.

Social media is also an effective networking tool. Forging relationships online is a great way to meet people in the world of radiation oncology. And, while you may be skeptical that these connections are superficial, I can tell you that when you meet a colleague in real-life that you initially met through Twitter, it truly feels like meeting an old friend. Most conferences now have a time and space set up for a "Tweet up," which means that anyone on Twitter goes to this designated meeting area and gets to catch up with their Twitter friends. It's a lot of fun and is an important way to reinforce these relationships.

3) What are some advantages of becoming involved in social media?

Social media strengthens your voice as a physician. It allows you to interact with colleagues and the public as an oncologist in a direct way. You learn more about the small part that we physicians play in the larger world of oncology through the view that social media offers of the "other side" of cancer care — i.e., how other physicians, patients, patient advocates and the public also influence cancer care. You can participate in Twitter chats, which are designated, timed discussions on predetermined topics. There are many patient-centered oncology Twitter chats, like the weekly #BCSM (breast cancer social media) chat and the weekly #LCSM (lung cancer social media) chat.  Anyone who is interested in participating can join the chat simply by including the hashtag in their tweets.

4) Going forward, what role do you anticipate  social media will play in our field?

I believe the radiation oncology community is just getting on social media and we will soon see exponential growth in engagement. The benefits to using social media on a professional, personal, and public level are immeasurable. If we want to be considered a vital part of the oncology community, we need to be sitting at the table and joining the conversation. And the conversation is occurring online.

5) How do we encourage others to join and participate?

I believe the most effective way is the personal one. Individuals need to hear directly from others who are involved. For this reason, I often give grand rounds on this topic. I am always very satisfied when audience members who hear my talk subsequently join social media and I enjoy helping them get oriented. Medical journals are also increasingly publishing articles relating to social media and this is a great way to get the word out there as well.

6) Do you think social media is helping to create a more robust mentoring network for women in our field, and if so, how do we continue to expand upon this progress?

Social media is a powerful tool to share ideas and support each other. There are multiple Facebook groups geared specifically toward female physicians, including the Physician Mom Group which has over 71,000 members, the Hematology Oncology Women Physicians Group (which includes oncologists from all specialties), and the new Radiation Oncology Women Physicians Group. These groups are an incredible resource for women oncologists both in terms of education and support. If you aren't a member of these groups, contact me on Twitter @MKnoll_MD and I'll be happy to add you. Recently, I successfully advocated for ASCO to offer childcare at their annual meeting, an initiative brought about specifically via social media. 

By Chelsea Miller, MD, radiation oncology resident at Loyola University of Chicago

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