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  • How to Leverage Social Media as a Resident

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    Social media can help with education, promotion and marketing, but can also be a powerful tool for networking and branding, especially for a young resident.

    Social media’s presence in ophthalmology training is rising; almost one-half of all U.S. residents use social media for professional purposes. As health care professionals-in-training, ophthalmology residents must adhere to a higher standard that reflects the integrity of the medical profession.

    Here are a few pearls for maximizing the benefits of social media as an ophthalmology resident, while minimizing the pitfalls.

    Be Yourself, But Know Your Institution

    Before embarking into the world of social media as a young and eager resident physician, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your institution’s social media guidelines. Many academic programs have published regulations and require specific deidentification of all ID badges and campus facilities, for example, on all online posts.

    There have been cases of disciplinary action taken against practitioners and trainees who violated their institution’s social media guidelines, including suspension and expulsion. In some cases, personal views can be separated from one’s employer or academic institution by including a statement of disclosure: “All views are my own.”

    Share Your Journey, Respect Patient Privacy

    Sharing day-to-day clinical experiences can be an enjoyable way to reflect upon one’s journey through medicine as well as to stimulate engaging discussions between colleagues.

    However, think twice before sharing any information related to any patient experience online. Physicians must follow the guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 20 U.S.C. § 1232g), especially in the online space.

    Even if specific identifiers about a patient or case are not explicitly stated, just the timing or location of the post could make a patient identifiable. Specific patient-related information, videos or photographs can only be shared if the patient gives appropriate written consent. In such instances, a simple line in the caption could be included, such as: “Release consent obtained. Do not repost or distribute without permission.” Without such consent, it is safest to avoid sharing patient-related information and interactions on social media.

    Provide Evidence-Based Education to Patients and Colleagues

    Sharing a video that demonstrates an advanced surgical technique or linking a new publication that you co-authored are great ways to demonstrate both your growing expertise and passion in a particular field.

    It’s never too early to build your professional reputation. It may also prove valuable when applying to competitive fellowship programs or job positions early in your career (you never know who’s Googling you).

    Remember, however, that one should only promote information on social media that is scientifically accurate and supported by evidence. Opinions should be clearly distinguishable from facts. It is also wise to refrain from giving specific medical advice to patients on social media due to liability risk. Avoid direct contact with patients over social media and employ traditional methods of communication instead.

    Harness Professional Relationships Through Social Media

    Social media provides trainees with an unprecedented channel for connecting with role models and potential mentors in ophthalmology, many of whom are also using social media professionally. LinkedIn, Instagram and X are among the most popular platforms for networking within the ophthalmology community.

    Following the official social media accounts of academic ophthalmology institutions and faculty whom you admire can help you to learn more about their program and ongoing work. Actively engaging with their social media posts can help to put your name and face out there and make introductions that are far less daunting than those traditionally accomplished at large, crowded meetings.

    There are also a number of online ophthalmology communities catered to trainees that aim to foster relationships between young and seasoned ophthalmologists.

    By following these tips and tricks, young eye surgeons can best leverage all that social media has to offer during their residency training.

    Further Resources – Advisory Opinion: Social Media and Professionalism, American Academy of Ophthalmology

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    Untitled-1Dagny C. Zhu, MD, is a cornea, cataract and refractive surgeon and medical director and partner of NVISION Eye Centers in Rowland Heights, Calif. She joined the Academy in 2013.