Experiment 1. Stop five random people on your way to work and ask them to name the top public advocates of health and wellness that come to mind.
Do I dare speculate that more than a few would mention Dr. Oz. Or Jenny McCarthy?
Experiment 2. Stop five medical colleagues and ask them to list their top physician writers and journalists.
Do I dare speculate that more than a few would only have two or three names to mention?
These thought experiments should suggest to you as a health care professional that there remains a serious lack of academic medical figures widely advocating for improved public health and a stronger sense of community within the field of medicine.
Although writing has become an integral component to my medical career and has brought me great pride and self-worth to be able to educate peers and patients on various medical topics, I am not soliciting myself or other young physicians to step up to this near-empty plate. I’m soliciting you — the gray-haired physician in the winter of his or her career — to start writing.
A huge limitation to the scope and influence of young writers is our limited experience and engagement in the field of medicine. Sure you might take a gander of a piece that I’ll write regarding the life of a fumbling resident physician, but how much will you really take away from my fickle opinions on tort reform or practice consolidation?
You’ve been through the thick and thin during your extensive career in medicine, and you have opinions and experience to back them up. For every seasoned outlook or career lesson that you may have, there are innumerable potential readers such as myself scouring social media and health care news sites hoping to read and learn from it.
Coming from a family of physicians, I have seen the fidgety, sub-clinically ADD, semi-retired physician holding on fast to his or her scant clinic hours and lackluster hospital board meetings. Physicians at the twilight of their medical practice find much self-worth in their career; many are resistant to completely disengage from the medical field.
Educating younger peers and the public through medical writing can be a long-lasting alternative solution to many older physicians who desire continued engagement in the field of medicine but no longer wish to practice.
For the several insightful, educational and meaningful medical pieces published out there in the public ether, there are twice as many misguided, misinformed and destructive medical content ready to be misinterpreted as sound medical advice to the lay reader. A prospective study published in BMJ in late 2014 led by Dr. Christina Korownyk found that around half of all medical recommendations made during highly-watched medical talk shows had any evidence-based backing (let alone well-established evidence).
Expertise-based and evidence-backed public medical content is at war with this dirty material, and I often question who’s winning.
It will take seasoned physicians like you and your colleagues to provide your much-needed mentorship, experience, and opinion in order to advocate for improved public health awareness and physician-wellbeing.
Take home point
Instead of droning on about the many other individual and public benefits that seasoned physician-writers may bring to the table by disseminating their thoughts and opinions, I will instead offer you the final experiment:
Experiment 3. Block off 5 to 10 hours of your week. Sit down and make a list of medical topics that interest you.
Brian J. Secemsky is an internal medicine resident who blogs at the Huffington Post. He can be reached on Twitter @BrianSecemskyMD and his self-titled site, Brian Secemsky MD. This article originally appeared in LeadDoc.