[Talk Handout] Social Media and the Revolution of MedEd

Slides from the talk


Social Media and the Revolution of Medical Education


The revolution will not be televised. It will be:

And sent as a direct message

The revolution of medical education is here.

#FOAM: Free Open Access Medical Education


The integration of social media and medical education really began to accelerate in 2012 with the development of #FOAMThe Free Open Access Medical Education movement.

Helpful resources to start participating in #FOAM:

Create and build your Twitter account

Follow the #FOAMed hashtag on twitter

Keep up with services that curate the top FOAM resources – like LIFTL review

Use GoogleFOAM to search for #FOAM topics you are interested in

Twitter-Based Medicine?

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Dr. Milton Packer, cardiologist and heart failure researcher at Baylor brings up some important questions:

  1. Are we reading medical journals anymore?
  2. Are we practicing Twitter-based medicine or EBM?

While these are both questions that we as a community should wrestle with, social media and EBM are NOT mutually exclusive.



It’s important to remember that social media is just another platform where we as medical professionals can engage in conversation ABOUT content. The medium is not necessarily the problem.

Just like:

  • Conversations during rounds
  • Conversations during morning report
  • Conversations in the classroom or at conferences

The quality of the the conversation depends directly on the quality and evidence-base of the content.

What makes social media so powerful? It amplifies this conversation about content. This means more people are talking, more people are learning, and more people are striving to take better care of patients.

Spaced Repetition

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Spaced repetition is a learning strategy that uses multiple small feedings – or multiple periods of review spaced out over time – instead of cramming.

Spaced repetition arrests forgetting and facilitates better long-term retention of learned information.

Where does social media fit into this?

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When we take the time to curate our social media feeds – Twitter and other platforms are a fantastic source of these multiple small feedings. Some notable examples include:



Social Constructivism



Social constructivism is a theory that describes how knowledge is constructed BY individuals THROUGH social interaction.

We are social learners – we enter the community with our own knowledge and experiences, interact with our peers, then leave with new knowledge and new experiences

Social media amplifies constructivist learning in two ways:

  1. Increasing our impact
  2. Flattening medical hierarchies

1. Increasing Our Impact

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Eysenbach describes how tweets reliably predict citations – a correlation between social impact (on Twitter) with traditional measures of scientific impact.

Is digital scholarship the future? altmetrics of impact are coming.


Ibrahim et. al describe how visual abstracts – simplified, pictorial representations of research fidings – increase dissemination of scholarly work on social media.

Interested? Learn how to make your own visual abstract here. 

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2. Flattening Hierarchies

The structural inequalities that exist in our current medical hierarchy mean that “lower-ranking” individuals do not have access to the same educational resources or the same amount of influence as those who are “higher-ranking.”

Social media helps to flatten the medical hierarchy.

Chretien et. al created a digital ethnography of medical students who use Twitter for professional development. They followed their social media habits peripherally for 8 months, and what they found was astonishing:

  • Social media afforded students unprecedented access to information, experts, and communities of support
  • Social media gave medical students a voice in a system that tends to prioritize rank and title over quality of ideas


A great example is the Tweet I sent out in preparation for this talk:



I didn’t expect to have many people respond – but they did.

The #medtwitter community from all over the world commented with stories of how social media impacted their career, their learning, and their teaching. Multiple people shared slides and summaries of social media grand rounds talks they gave. A few sent me emails and phone numbers – offering mentorship and feedback on my talk as I was developing it.

Apparently it didn’t matter that I am a PA who didn’t graduate all that long ago. Rank and title weren’t a barrier here.

Social media flattens hierarchies.

The Zone of Proximal Development



Every learner has a core set of knowledge and skills – things that they can do on their own with effort, but without help.

Just outside this core skillset lies the Zone of Proximal Development. These are the things that the learner can do with the help of a More Knowledgeable Other.


Hey educators (hopefully all of you) – this is the part where you should listen up.

  1. What you do matters. Your teaching, mentorship, and guidance are what learners need to develop proximally. Please keep doing those things.
  2. Want to make your teaching, mentorship, and guidance more effective with minimal effort? Social media can help.

Social media is a platform where you can leverage and re-purpose work that you are ALREADY DOING to mentor and teach your learners. See the below examples of clinician-educators who wanted to drive their teaching points home.

Discussing these teaching points on rounds, then taking 5-10min to post the teaching points on social media:

  1. Is an excellent way to incorporate spaced repetition into your traditional methods of teaching.
  2. Serves as a reference for your learners to return to and reference.
  3. Can have a global impact (after all – you are reading and learning from these tweets)

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So – do I practice Twitter-Based Medicine?

Of course not. I practice Evidence-Based Medicine.

Social media connects me with a community of people who do the same.

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  1. Cadogan, Mike. LIFTL: FOAM, Life in the Fast Lane, litfl.com/foam-free-open-access-medical-education/.
  2. Chretien, KC et al., “A Digital Ethnography of Medical Students who Use Twitter for Professional Development.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2015.
  3. Eysenbach G. “Can Tweets Predict Citations? Metrics of Social Impact Based on Twitter and Correlation with Traditional Metrics of Scientific Impact” J Med Internet Res 2011
  4. Haynes, R., Gaglani, S. “Spaced Repetition.” Osmosis. Video, accessed 2019 https://www.osmosis.org
  5. Ibrahim, Andrew et. al., “Visual Abstracts to Disseminate Research on Social Media: A Prospective, Case-control Crossover Study.” Annals of Surgery, 2017.
  6. Ibrahim, Andrew. “Use of a Visual Abstract to Disseminate Scientific Research.” 2018.
  7. Kundi, Ghulam, and Allah Nawaz. “From objectivism to social constructivism: The impacts of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on higher education.” Journal of Science and Technology Education Research V, 2010.
  8. McLeod, Saul. “What Is the Zone of Proximal Development?” Simply Psychology, 2019.
  9. Pulido CM, Redondo-Sama G, Sorde´- Martı´ T, Flecha R “Social impact in social media: A new method to evaluate the social impact of research.” PLOSone, 2018
  10. Sean, Kang. “Spaced Repetition Promotes Efficient and Effective Learning: Policy Implications for Instruction.” Instructional Strategies, 2016.

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