Can we get this trending?

This past weekend I was in Quebec City for the Spring General Meeting of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. This meeting involved receiving a general round of updates and summaries of the initiatives that happened throughout the year from the CFMS (Wellness survey, new external representation of students on national medical academy level, establishing a financial policy, looking into revising their Student Initiative Grants). It was a great weekend full of making new acquaintances across the country, learning more about national student issues, and having reunions with old friends.

However, this isn’t the part of the weekend I want to talk about.

Concurrently with the CFMS meeting was the annual Canadian Conference on Medical Education (CCME),  a multi-day conference that showcased the innovations of medical research happening across the country, with TONS of Western Med representation. Basically, if conferences were analogous to parties, the CCME is the one that Gatsby throws.

However, this isn’t the part of the CCME I want to talk about.

What really got my attention was the shear amount of presence that the conference got on Social Media. Heck, the fact that the conference was adopting social media (mostly Twitter, but there were people blogging along at a much expedient and effective rate than I) was something to appreciate.

The hashtag #ccme13 was the official way to follow the conference and over the course of the weekend, approximately 3000 tweets were made using this hashtag alone.


The popularity of the usage of Twitter to engage conversations among the delegates was apparent as the subject began to trend (albeit momentarily).

The popularity of Twitter being used at this year’s conference was even more apparent when contrasted with last year’s presence on social media. Using a platform known as symplur, which analyses the extent (“reach”) and total number of tweets made on a given subject, it was found that only 679 tweets were made about the same conference a year ago (using the official hashtag #ccme2012).

I tried to search up #ccme2011, but only found 3 archived tweets mentioning it, and honestly, did not really venture further, because I think that hints towards the obscurity of tweeting at conferences only 2 short years ago. 

And it’s not just the number of communications being sent out, but by who, and on what subjects. Both students, researchers, and clinicians were all using social media to contribute and discuss what was happening at the conference. In some cases, those in the conversation were not even physically in Quebec City. Users spoke about talks they had just attended, observations and insights throughout the days, or socializing.

Even with these basic observations, it’s becoming more obvious that social media’s infiltration into health care is not some one-hit wonder, but has been growing through time. While the use of social media tools may have not caught on as quickly in this field as in others, there has been a number of ways they have evolved to be of use in medical education.

And of course, what would a blog post be without a list of some sort. So what follows are some ways medical educators and learners can utilize social media:

1) Develop a professional profile to network with other players in the field. LinkedIn is the first one that comes to mind; however, both Facebook and Google+ can serve the purpose as long as some curating occurs.

2) Pass a message quickly and widely. I’ve seen my Global Health friends use this method quite successfully with Facebook or YouTube: sharing articles or videos in order to raise awareness of important issues in current news.

3) Keeping in touch with colleagues/peers across the world. Yes it is true that the “friends” you have online or on Facebook are not a good reflection of the relationships you have IRL (In Real Life, in internets speak). However, relationships are living concepts and require appropriate nourishment to grow and survive. With some time and effort, you can keep in touch much easier with more people using Social Media than via the old “pen pal” method I had back in Gr. 3.

Point 3 is quite important as once you have your network, it opens up even more possibilities.


4) Learn from each other. This one is so obvious but must be pointed out. Facebook/Google+ groups and large cloud storage mediums have allowed new ways of sharing files, notes, and even audio-visual data that can foster learning from a  ‘grassroots’ level (mediated by the students rather than the instructors). Gives you another excuse to be n Facebook, I know, but it does provide a tool to  share the different insights that every student has during class or while going over an assignment.


5) Crowdsource an answer. You’re in med school, so you’re pretty clever. You’re classmates ergo, are clever too. The doctors you know, well they must have learned a thing or two before you. If these people are in your network, that’s a lot of brain power to draw from. While they might not be at the same level as Brainiac, you can use the power of the crowd to potentially gain information. In fact, several websites and apps utilize crowdsourcing as a way to find answers to possible medical mysteries. There are even contests to utilize crowdsourcing to come up with new research ideas, innovations or discoveries.

6) Disseminating information at a conference. As demonstrated with CCME, selective labeling of information can help create tags and filters for information coming from the conferences. All someone needs to do is find out the tag’s name and then can follow from the leisure of any mobile device.

7) Creating online, open journal clubs, discussion groups, classrooms.  This is very similar to the above. By creating a unique #hashtag you can clue people (from anywhere around the world!) into an online dialogue of your choice. They are basically the new chat room; but open for all (if you have Twitter) and the content is available publicly. Lecturers have done this to get answers from students, groups have ‘met’ to discuss research even when separated geographically, even side conversations can be formed along the same theme of a session during a conference (without noisily interrupting the speaker). Check out #hcsmca #meded #FOAMed #HCLDR for examples of weekly online chats. Or check out #QPedsGR to see a QueensU Neonatologist tweet his Peds Grand Rounds questions.

8) Reflect…and connect. Now I haven’t really addressed blogging, even though ironically (SO HIPSTER) this is on a blog. But the ability to write or reflect, even anonymously online, can really aid all users of the medical industry express themselves. This goes from students, physicians, to patients. And by sharing, this connects us to new communities that we may find to be kindred to our cause. A great example relevant to medical care is the site:, which has allowed thousands of individuals undergoing disease or treatment share their experiences with others just like them. This helps reduce the isolation some may feel navigating the health care system, and has definitely led to a new form of support system.


Well that’s pretty much all I have to say on this topic for now. I know the above list isn’t done, but that’s all my poor limited brain has at the moment. So I’m going to exercise a little bit of crowdsourcing and put it out to the “readership” (yes, I know, my articles aren’t popular) to answer.

In 140 characters or less: What are some other ways Social Media can be used in Medical Education? 


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