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Name: Lauren Feld, MD

Institution: University of Chicago Medicine

Find me on: Twitter — @LaurenFeldMD

How do you use social media in your professional life?
The three main opportunities that social media present for me are education, advocacy and connection. Following physicians who post research and clinical pearls helps me stay up to date with best practices, newly published guidelines, and exciting new areas of research in the field. Additionally, some people who follow me on social media are patient advocacy groups or fellow trainees, and sharing information in a responsible way can be an important way to provide channels of accurate information online. Social media can also be a powerful tool for advocacy, which I view as an important part of our role as physicians. Many physicians use their platform to advocate for patient care, research funding, health equity, and methods to reduce bias in medicine. Lastly, social media helps me connect with others with similar interests in hepatology / gastroenterology, medical education and public health. It can form bridges and collaborations around the world, which is a particularly unique and exciting opportunity.

What platforms bring you the most value and why?
All platforms have inherent benefits and potential risks, so I recommend thinking through which presents the most opportunities that align with your goals of social media use. Separation between personal and professional social media accounts is important, especially for the generation of younger physicians who often have personal accounts across many social media platforms. My professional account is Twitter, which I chose because it has many clinicians and researchers sharing articles and clinical pearls, and advocating for their patients. As a rising chief resident at UChicago, my posts focus on hepatology knowledge for trainees, to increase awareness of and interest in the fascinating field of hepatology.

Why is it important for hepatologists and hepatology health care professionals to be on social media?
Hepatology is an exciting field for me as a trainee due to all of the constantly evolving research and expanding knowledge base. While social media cannot replace reading primary literature, it is a great place to learn about new studies and research directions, to guide further reading. Furthermore, for patients, families and patient advocacy groups, medical information online can be inaccurate and confusing. It can be helpful to have researchers and clinicians highlighting accurate sources of information. Importantly, we should always be clear to make a distinction between providing accurate information sources, rather than giving medical advice online (if the platform is not supported to do this). Additionally, there are many areas of hepatology which benefit from advocacy, including research funding, transplant awareness, and expanding access to screening and treatment. Hepatologists can use their platforms to expand awareness and reach.

What tips do you have for your colleagues who want to get started on social media?
Think about your goals for social media, and be consistent with these aims in everything from your choice of a platform to your daily activity on the site. Be cognizant of the potential risks, and ensure information you are sharing is accurate, appropriate and does not violate patient privacy or ethical codes of conduct. Even though social media can feel more anonymous, the golden rule applies online as well: be kind, professional, and thoughtful, just as you would in your offline life. Think before you post, since online content can be permanent. Importantly, recognize that for all of these warnings, social media can be an incredible way to educate, learn, advocate and connect. Post with purpose!