Social media tips for students applying to medical school

I started my first blog, Chick Lit MD, in December of 2009. By the time I began filling out my medical school applications I had been actively blogging for approximately 7 months. As someone interested in the intersection between medicine and media, the use of social media was integral to my exploration of both fields. As such, I included my adventures in social media in my application in a tactful and strategic manner.  Now that I have actually been accepted to medical school, I’d like to to offer current and future applicants a few tips.

Be professional. If you are listing social media amongst the activities that have reinforced/ strengthened your interest in medicine, make sure you put your best foot forward. I wrote about ChickLitMD.com in my AMCAS essay and a number admissions committees definitely checked it out.  Some told me that they looked at the blog before the interview, and others informed me that they would check it out after the interview ( but before an admissions decision was made).  I’m proud to have my name on my website – make sure you are too!

Be aware of skeptics. Many physicians are quite conservative about physician exposure on the Internet. Make sure you understand these concerns and anticipate skepticism. I only encountered one interviewer who was skeptical to my face on the application trail. Thankfully I had read Dr. Brian Vartabedian’s advice on including social media in medical school applications before hand, so I was prepared for this sort of criticism. Above all, you should also be able to articulate the fact that you understand your responsibility to both the medical profession and patients and choose to use social media mindfully.

Believe in what you blog. Did I mention that admissions officers will read any website you list in your application? That makes all the content you post fair game for the interview.  Be prepared to speak intelligently about any of the material on your website. For example, during one of my interviews I was asked about an article I wrote on the health hazards of smoking Hookah. Despite the fact that I had written the article many months ago, I was asked to discuss the topic and  explain my rationale for including this content on my site.

Present social media as a means to an end. I found that interviewers interested in my social media presence were less interested in WHAT I was doing, and more interested in WHY I was doing it. If you blog about health, why are you doing it? What do you hope to achieve? How is social media helping you achieve these goals?  It’s important to keep these questions in mind when writing about social media in your applications. In your descriptions you should aim to demonstrate ability, interest, and participation in the promotion of health and wellness. At the end of the day, each activity you describe in your medical school application should illustrate learned skills and demonstrate your potential to be an excellent physician.

Jennifer Adaeze Anyaegbunam is a medical student who blogs at her self-titled site, Jennifer Adaeze AnyaegbunamShe can be reached on Twitter @JenniferAdaeze

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  • Anonymous

    Very sound advice, Jennifer. Too bad that many using social media don’t already seem to know this instinctively. 

    For example, on Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media’s  “Friday Faux Pas” column – highly recommended for med students, by the way! – http://ethicalnag.org/2011/08/15/friday-faux-pas-social-media/   examples like the following are graphic warnings for those not bright enough to be using social media in the first place:

    “Stony Brook University Medical Center in Long Island announced last
    summer that it was developing a revised ethics policy after a medical
    student posted a photo on Facebook of a classmate posing with a thumbs up next to a dead body.”

    Or how about 48-year old E.R. physician Dr. Alexandra Thran who recently learned the hard way that she really shouldn’t be chatting about her patients on her Facebook
    page? She was fired from her Rhode Island hospital last year and
    subsequently reprimanded by the state medical board because she had posted personal information online about one of her trauma patients.

    Good luck in med school!

  • http://expatdoctormom.com/ Expat Doctor Mom

    Dear Jennifer

    Solid advice here!  Advice which I think is applicable for even those of us already in practice who decide to blog and or use Social Media.

    Have been perusing your blog!  So accomplished for such a young age! Can’t wait to see what you will become!

    Cheers,
    Rajka