In 2016, I wrote an article for KevinMD about using social media to get promoted to associate professor. Well, I’m thrilled to write this follow-up article discussing how I not only got promoted again but how physician involvement on social media is becoming increasingly recognized across academic institutions for inclusion in promotion and tenure criteria.
It would be naïve to think that sending many Tweets or having a few thousand followers is enough to earn a promotion. However, social media engagement can be translated into more familiar avenues that demonstrate national reputation regarding medical education, advocacy, research, and more. Most dossiers are divided into sections that categorize a candidate’s work into traditional realms such as publications, teaching, etc. By using the narrative within each section, social media can be explained within the proper context. When composing the narrative, I recommend assuming the reader has zero knowledge of social media or how it can be used professionally.
I use my professional Twitter and Instagram accounts @AllergyKidsDoc to disseminate evidence-based information and combat misinformation. I discuss various allergy-related topics and was quite busy during COVID-19 discussing viral transmission, the immune system, and the basics surrounding vaccines. My target audience includes the general public, patients, media, and medical professionals. Within my dossier, I translated much of this work into both advocacy and medical education. By including analytics surrounding engagement (number of impressions, followers, etc.), the widespread impact of my platforms became more recognizable.
In addition, I have also adopted a traditional academic stance through my work with social media. For instance, I am the social media editor for one of my specialty’s major professional organizations. I have also created an elective rotation for our medical school and residency program, as well as an annual conference at my institution, aimed at teaching best practices for medical professionals who use social media. As the producer and host of the podcast series for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, I included metrics surrounding downloads and how many continuing medical education credits were obtained for each of my episodes. My work on social media has also led to speaking invitations at national and international conferences on topics such as medical misinformation online. I have also published invited review articles, original research submissions, and book chapters on this topic. Hopefully, these examples offer inspiration for those doing similar work.
After my last promotion, my institution adopted new guidelines and criteria for incorporating social media into promotion. I understand several other academic institutions have taken similar approaches, and it is enlightening to learn that academic medicine is evolving to match the current state of medical education. I encourage anyone considering promotion to become familiar with your institution’s criteria and consider how to leverage that with your work. I also encourage you not to discount the work you do on social media and consider how you can translate into more traditional checkboxes such as teaching, advocacy, and national reputation.
Social media has fundamentally changed how the world receives information. Science, medical expertise, and fundamental facts are under constant assault. Thousands of medical professionals are engaged online and interacting in positive ways to help combat misinformation. It’s time for this important work to be recognized and rewarded by academic institutions. Good luck, colleagues, and please feel free to reach out on social media if I can help in any way.
David R. Stukus is a pediatric allergist and can be reached on Twitter @AllergyKidsDoc.
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