Find Your Voice, Listen To Theirs

Rain drops trickle down the double-paned, ovoid window as my eyes jump from plane to plane watching for movement on the runway. The rainy weather in my connecting city has brought me back to the familiarity of muggy, hot Spring days that were so common place in my college years and I’m reminded of the excitement I felt of being in a new place, doing new things. As we taxi the runway for what seems like hours I reflect on the whirlwind weekend I’m making my way home from…

New city.

New people.

New ideas.

New Inspiration. 

I spent the weekend surrounded by what I can only describe as the most innovative and creative group of people I have ever encountered. The thirst for knowledge, aptitude for leadership, drive for entrepreneurship and innovation in the room was almost palpable. I found myself repeatedly standing just outside of conversations and listening – not wanting to join in too quickly because I was learning so much as an observer.

Amazed by everyone from medical students to physicians to marketers and computer programmers, I began wondering what I had missed…how I had become so complacent with doing the same things every day rather than innovating and advancing.

Being surrounded by people who harbor a thirst for knowledge and desire for advancement is contagious. The viral enthusiasm was quick to seep into my brain and I now find myself wondering how I spent so long in the dark about all the opportunities available for me…for my husband…for anyone who wants to seek them out.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of the Doximity Leadership Summit and I am so impressed with the ideas and information coming out of the group of physicians, students, supporters, developers and crew. My eyes have  been opened to an entirely different world of medicine that I never knew I was missing.

 

Doctor Vartabedian of 33 Charts wrote today on the future of Key Opinion Leaders – what does a physician influencer in the age of social media look like?

In my eyes they look like the people I was with this weekend – innovative, intelligent, well-spoken and … most importantly … just plain excited about all the things we will be accomplishing in the next 10, 15, 25 years.

 

As medical students and young doctors this is exceedingly important – we have this opportunity to use our voices and ideas to further not only our careers, but the entire field of medicine and how it’s practiced. I no longer feel like we have an option to be involved – this is an obligation…to ourselves, to our patients, to our educational experience. If you aren’t interacting with your tech-forward peers and mentors you are robbing yourself of an opportunity for personal advancement and missing out on inspiration and innovation coming from the mouths (and finger-tips) of people just like you.

Life is short, take this opportunity to find your voice and listen to the voices of others.

The digital age cannot be viewed as threatening for medical professionals any more – the longer we shy away due to scare tactics and unfounded concerns, the longer we lag behind in innovation. We can use this platform to change the world.

 

To be inspired…to create…to have a voice…this is a privilege. 

 

10 Blogging Rules To Follow

I used to resist referring to myself as a “blogger,” it just seemeds like such a large shoe to fill with people out there who write so much more graciously (and humorously) than I…and often about more important things. I guess after this much time I can start to embrace being called a blogger, even though I still feel a bit like a fraud saying that. Occasionally, people will ask me how to start a blog or if I have any tips for them as they work towards creating a space for their thoughts. Here’s a few rules I try to follow for myself, most of which are based more on my experiences as a reader than as a writer – the things I appreciate in blogs I look up to and enjoy.

Wordy Version:

The beauty of blogging is that if someone doesn’t like what you’re writing about, they don’t have to read it. So, own your material, whether boring, hilarious, informative or crazy, it is yours and you created it. No matter how your blog evolves, and it should be allowed to evolve, it needs to always be yours. I started this blog as a mostly personal blog and it has evolved into a conglomeration of medical school, personal stories and general information. Write about what you want and be open to your blog growing and changing along the way.

If you are happy with what you’re writing, that is all that matters. Always write posts that are worth reading, but remember that a post worth reading is one that you think is worth reading. This is your space and you get to decide what does or does not belong, what is or is not worth reading. You may not think reading about my crazy dogs or life timeline is interesting, but I love those posts and having them recorded here is more than worth it to me.

So often I see people not write for three days…or three weeks…or three months…and come back apologizing. Unless you are Frank of PostSecret, it’s highly unlikely people are sitting around fretting over the fact that you took a blogging break…in fact they may have not even noticed you went on hiatus. Sometimes life (or a surgery rotation) happens and you can’t write. It’s okay…don’t come back apologizing, just come back. Pick up where you left off – you have nothing to apologize for. In that same vein, take some time off for crying out loud! The internet isn’t going anywhere, we’ll all be here when you come back.

This is especially important if you’re just starting out with your writing – set goals for how often you want to write, how long your posts should be, etc. When I first started blogging my goal was to write one post per week, because any more than that seemed overwhelming at the time. Now I really just write when I feel like I have something to say that’s more than 140 characters, but at first I wasn’t always sure I had something to say until I just sat down and started saying it.

Your readers deserve your attention – they are visiting your blog and reading your content, the least you can do is listen! If a reader disagrees with your opinion, welcome it…accept it…discuss it. The only way to grow in this life is be open-minded and you can’t do that by immediately discounting opinions other than your own. If a reader emails you, respond. If someone poses an interesting view or question in a comment, write back to them or create a post in response. Find ways to engage and interact, it will serve you well in the future.

Post a link to your blog on your Twitter or Facebook if it seems appropriate, but don’t only post links to your blog. Nobody likes a spammer. If the only thing you ever tweet is “HEY CHECK OUT MY NEW BLOG” your only followers are going to be that naked girl who tweets links to diet pills and her friend who has the miracle acne cure.

The Golden Rule of blogging – link your references. If you reference an article or another blog or a person or a tweet – link it! It’s common courtesy, you’d want your work linked back. And please don’t steal photos, use a creative commons-type source for your pictures and link back to their photographer. Don’t Google Image search and include those pics in your post, this is not only basic courtesy…it’s avoidance of plagiarism, which we all learned about in 2nd grade. Cut & Copy = Plagiarism.  Sometimes you simply can’t remember where you read something you reference and that’s fine, but cite your sources if at all possible.

If you are posting 4 times per day you are overloading your readers. Once per day is fine, less is great, more is definitely overkill. Others may disagree with this one, but I delete any blog that regularly has more than once per day out of my reader (barring the occasional blog with multiple authors or which aggregates info & posts from other sources). Almost universally anyone who has that much to say rarely has anything to say that is really worth reading.

This may be the most important rule of them all – posts need a format. Use bullet points, headings, numbering and formatting. Break up your post with images if relevant. Make your writing look pretty – remember in junior high when you’d have to write papers and make them double-spaced? Same principle. It is no lie when I say I will often spend an hour writing and 2 hours formatting a post…it’s just that important.

Barring the rare exception, posts should not be extremely long. I typically write a post and come back to it the next day to whittle it down to the important stuff. Fluff is not your friend in blog-land.

 

Bottom Line:

  1. Own your space & teach it about Darwinian Theory.
  2. Be proud of work you create and create work you are proud of.
  3. Never apologize for time off, nobody even noticed you were gone.
  4. Set goals for yourself, especially in the beginning.
  5. Interact with readers and embrace opposing opinions as opportunities to grow.
  6. Don’t be an annoying spambot or annoying spambots will be your only followers.
  7. Follow the Golden Rule: Link back to others as you’d want others to link back to you.
  8. Don’t flood your readers…nobody can write 5 great posts every day, not even you.
  9. Make posts easy to read, formatting can make or break your writing.
  10. Fluff is for Build-A-Bears, Moon Pies and school essays, not blogs.

 

What rules do blog authors that you appreciate and look up to consistently follow? What would you add or subtract from my list?

 

Image: Michal Marcol | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One Year Blog-O-Versary

Today is my 1 Year Blogging Anniversary!

One Year Ago I:

  • Wrote a post that started with “I have no idea if I’ll start writing here regularly.”
  • Was a 2nd year Medical Student who had written 4 blog posts ever (and it took all of four entire years to get those travesties to blogging out).
  • Had zero subscribers, less than 10 visitors and less than 100 followers on Twitter.
  • Used Blogger to publish my posts, the blog looked like this.
  • Was embarrassed to tell people I knew that I wrote here.
  • Never imagined I’d be here writing this to y’all in 365 days.

Today I:

  • Wrote a post that started with “Today is my 1 Year Blogging Anniversary”
  • Am a 3rd year Medical Student who has written just over 100 blog posts in the past year.
  • Have around 250 subscribers and over 20,000 visits and am nearing 1,000 followers on Twitter.
  • Use WordPress.org as my backend publishing and have my own URL.
  • Am deeply humbled and  flattered when people I know in real life say they enjoy my blog.
  • Have no idea where I’ll be blog-wise in one year and am so excited to see.

Thank you so much or being such amazing supporters over the past 12 months. So many wonderful opportunities and friendships have come from this blog – a published post on KevinMD, a MomMD blog that you guys named for me, public support from the Texas Medical Associate Medical Student Section, opportunities to collaborate with some of the most influential doctors and medical students in social media, the chance to connect with medical students and doctors from around the world through the Medical Education Monday series, a brand new position as an iMedicalApps staff writer and so much more.

I never dreamed these types of opportunities would be available to me and I honestly only have y’all to thank. I’ve learned so much and had SO much fun. I truly think the investment I’ve made into Social Media is worth so much.

Alright, enough sappy, mushy goo for one day, since it’s my birthday we’re gonna talk gifts.

Will you humor me by answering 6 simple questions as my blogging birthday gift? Come onnn, I never onlyoccasionally beg y’all for stuff…and it’s my blogging birfffdayyyy…and it would make me ohsohappy…and it won’t cost you a million bucks.

I mean, if you have a million bucks and you’d rather give me that I’d appreciate it as well, but while my bank processes your hot check, answer these questions…it’ll help me out in civil court and stuff.

  1. Who are you?
  2. Where are you from? (country, state, town, whatever is fine)
  3. Why do you read this and/or how’d you find Mind On Medicine? 
  4. What would you like to see more or less of around here? 
  5. Do you have a favorite post on Mind On Med? (it’s ok to say no or skip this one)
  6. Who’s your biggest inspiration or favorite blogger?

If you don’t want to post a comment, will you send me your answers on Twitter or by email to MindOnMed@gmail.com? And yes, Mom – even you should answer them.

Why I Don’t Blog Anonymously

In my last post, the one in which I temporarily lose my mind and decide to take on a slightly controversial and hugely important subject as my next blogging endeavor, I discussed how it seems some are lagging behind in seeing the benefits of Social Media in the realm of Medical Education. Today I’m going to talk about what I see as an important aspect of my personal Social Media experience – anonymity, or lack there of. Next time, I’ll introduce you to some tweeters and bloggers who have impacted me and try share a few of the really great responses I received on my last post. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons User: iamtheo
People have written anonymously for as long as publishing has had a place. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Eric Arthur Blair…* Not ringing a bell? I bet you’re familiar with their writing…

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Tom SawyerAlice’s Adventures In WonderlandAnimal FarmNineteen Eighty-Four – any of those sound familiar? I don’t think anyone would argue these works being written under pen names, which is not so different than the current trend of establishing an anonymous, yet prominent and consistent, online identity, led them to achieve less than their maximum level of influence. However, they also did not become classics because they were written under pen names.

Obviously, I choose to blog without anonymity. Having my name permanently attached to everything I write makes me consider a post just that much more before I hit “publish.”
Without the mirage of personal protection anonymity brings I will never feel justified in writing snarky or compromising details about patients or using this public domain to vent my frustrations concerning colleagues or classmates. That is not to say that all anonymous writers use their space in that way, but I can think of at least a few prominent medical bloggers who abuse their anonymity as a method of personal protection in order to mistreat or poke fun at their patients.

This blog isn’t really about medicine or patients anyway, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever even blogged about a patient encounter. Mind on Medicine is really kind of a confused blog floating around a big blog-sea, transitioning between personal stories, education endeavors and bad attempts at humor without picking one category to dive head first into.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons User: Erichhh
I enjoy not being anonymous for several reasons, not the least of which being I’m not nearly creative enough to come up with believable and interesting stories that don’t give away information about who I am. As an example of effective anonymous blogging I’ll share with you Apotential, one of my favorite med student blogs. As a comment on my last post the author of Apotential made a great point about anonymous blogging and specialty choice that had never crossed my mind:
“I’ve actually thought a lot about un-anonymizing myself, but in the end, I’m too interested in psychiatry to take that chance. Most physicians can get away with having a professional personality or voice, but psychoanalysis requires anonymity even in the analytic session itself. (Not saying that’s my future career, but I sure haven’t ruled it out yet). So I’m anonymous as far as google is concerned. If I end up going into something else, I’ll eventually de-anonymize. :)”

Other reasons people shared included things like fears of repercussions when applying to residency or jobs, not being comfortable with colleagues reading their writing, protecting family/friends and the very real threat of writings being used against us (out of context) in the future. Personally, I think these are all really great reasons to blog anonymously.

While in my eyes all the reasons for blogging anonymously may seem insignificant when compared to the actual process of keeping a blog anonymous, others may value their anonymity to a greater degree. While I would rather have my writing out in the open when I apply for residencies, because I feel it’s an asset that contributes to me as a whole, others may be more cautious due to the fact that not everyone in this field has caught on to just how beneficial the use of Social Media can be.

I am fully aware of the very real chance that I may someday need to verbally back up not only how I share my thoughts and experiences, but also why I share them. I’m not so naive to think that publishing my writing online will never prompt a negative response, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take in exchange for all the great things I have gained from having a presence in Social Media.     

Or maybe Danielle Jones is just my pen name…



*Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell