How Twitter helped me find a New York Times column topic

Occasionally, I’m given the opportunity to write for the New York Times’ Room for Debate blog.

For those who aren’t familiar with the site, every day Room for Debate addresses one question, with various experts chiming in with 300-word op-ed style pieces.  Writers normally have overnight to submit their columns.

The recent question asked, “What items and procedures should Medicare stop paying for now, even if patients and their families object?”

Of course, there were many answers that I was considering: futile end-of-life care, evidence-bereft treatments, or branded drugs with generic equivalents, for instance.  But, as I do when looking for topics to write in my USA Today columns, I wanted to see what the crowd wanted to read.

So, I Tweeted:

Among the many responses I received within 5 minutes, family physician Kenny Lin, who blogs at Common Sense Family Doctor, offered the idea I eventually went with:

Of course, Dr. Lin is an expert in this area.  He was the lead author of the US Preventive Task Force’s prostate cancer screening guidelines, and I am tremendously appreciative for his quote in the piece.

And, voila, the finished product 24-hours later, Over 75? No P.S.A.:

Enjoy, and don’t forget to also read the responses from contributors Maggie Mahar and Liam Yore, as well.

Kevin Pho is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of, also on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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