(Post by LINDA POURMASSINA, MD)
Priscilla Chan probably knows that she is going to be watched. What she may not know is that it won’t be the paparazzi alone who will be watching her closely.
No sooner did Chan get married to the most famous social media icon and gain an “M.D.” after her name than did Twitter go abuzz with anticipatory murmuring. (Read here and here). While the tabloids and major “news” outlets pondered the presence of a prenup, physicians on Twitter – an already selectively progressive sort – have been pinning high hopes and expectations on this new graduate.
It would seem – by reading the tweets – that with the Chan-Zuckerberg marriage announcement, a new potentiality was born. Doctors who currently utilize social media (myself included) have been trying to change the face of medicine and doctoring to something more human, more “social,” and more impactful. Unsurprising, then, is this sense of excitement among them regarding the joining of the human embodiments of the very two fields they themselves have been trying to marry – medicine and social media.
(A marriage made in #hcsm -healthcare social media hashtag- heaven, perhaps.)
The news that “tech’s newest first lady” received her medical degree, should be a reality check. One that reminds us that if there ever was a time think outside of the box during medical education, it is now. With “reasonable” residency work hours and access to more avenues of communication – including social media – than ever before, it is an enviably exciting time to be training to be doctor. How can there not be a rapid pace of innovation coming from the next few generations of physicians? The time seems ripe for it. (No pressure, Class of 2012.)
The potentiality of innovation is also a present reality and does not require marriage or a legal document (except in the form of HIPAA paperwork, at the moment) to exist. The etched portrait of the traditional physician, though on a steadfast rock, is weathering with the winds of time and the tides of social change. And with this transformation, creative medical minds have discovered more freedom to innovate and collaborate. This can be observed when following the work of forward thinkers (like Bryan Vartabedian or Eric Topol), bright minds (Mike Moore or recent med school grad, Aaron Stupple), innovative practitioners (Wendy Sue Swanson and Howard Luks), and dedicated academic clinicians (Vinny Arora, Ryan Madanick, and Katherine Chretien).
What we hope from the newly married, newly minted Dr. Priscilla Chan and her generation of doctors should be no more than what we hope to aspire as physicians currently practicing in the medical field. Hard as it may be, we need to keep our eyes and minds open and complacency out. Admittedly, I, too, am curious what further contributions Chan will make to the fields of social media and medicine. But I don’t want to pressure her just yet. As I remember it, internship is hard enough.
Dr. Linda Pourmassina, Seattle, Washington
Linda practices at The Polyclinic in Seattle and is also on Facebook and Twitter. Her blog “Pulsus” is written from an Internal Medicine physician’s perspective, for physicians and nonphysicians alike, with reflections on a variety of topics, with focus on the social and cultural aspects of medicine.