Who asks an anonymous physician blogger for advice?

I’m often asked why I use a pseudonym. When I first started blogging almost 4 years ago, I was still in practice. Some of my posts are a little edgy and my sense of humor is not for everyone. I didn’t want patients to Google me and have my blog come up on the first page of hits.

Now that I’ve been retired for over a year, I still have not revealed my true identity. You may ask, “Why not?”

I like being anonymous. I feel that I can be more honest because I am not worrying about what someone is going to think. A quote from Oscar Wilde says it all: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

Some people have questioned my credibility. They say how can anyone believe what you write when they don’t know who you are? I’ve been referred to the UK General Medical Council’s rule #17, which states, “If you identify yourself as a doctor in publicly accessible social media, you should also identify yourself by name. Any material written by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust and may reasonably be taken to represent the views of the profession more widely.”

Regarding the previous sentence, I agree with the first part about trust and strongly disagree with the second part. How could anyone think that what a single doctor writes is representative of the profession more widely? I am reasonably certain that is not the case in my situation.

You want credibility?

A single post of mine called “Appendicitis: Diagnosis,CT Scans and Reality,” which I wrote about three weeks into my blogging career, has received almost 14,000 pageviews.

In the comments section of that post or via email, more than 50 people have asked me questions about their own or a family member’s abdominal pain. I’ve had to add numerous disclaimers over the years reminding readers that I could not give medical advice without examining the patient.

Despite the disclaimers, the questions keep coming with the most recent one submitted two days ago. I can only guess that they are either reluctant to ask questions in person or not getting satisfactory answers from the doctors they are seeing.

Pre-med and medical students and residents frequently look to me for career counseling. Last week I even got a question from a high school student who was thinking about becoming a doctor. The students and residents occasionally preface their questions by saying that they didn’t want to ask someone from their school or residency program for fear it would reflect poorly on them.

I have been amazed at how many readers seem to trust me enough to ask personal questions about their health or their career. To be able to connect with so many people despite my use of a pseudonym is rewarding.

Patients and aspiring doctors — that’s who would ask an anonymous blogger for advice.

“Skeptical Scalpel” is a surgeon blogs at his self-titled site, Skeptical Scalpel.

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