Dr. Miriam A Knoll, MD is a radiation oncologist at the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. She serves as medical director of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center/Mountainside. Dr. Knoll is an Associate Senior Editor for ASTRO’s Advances in Radiation Oncology. She serves on the communications committees of the American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and the American Brachytherapy Society (ABS). She hosts a blog on the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) website, ASCO Connection. You can follow her on Twitter @MKnoll_MD and on Instagram @Dr.Mimi.K
Some of her inspiring work includes advocating for onsite childcare at both ASCO’s and ASTRO’s annual meetings and more recently drawing our attention to the need to nominate qualified females for ASTRO’s annual elections. She has shared her social media expertise with other groups and SWRO is diving a little deeper in to how residents and early career physicians can utilize social media within their own practice and also how we can use social media to continue to promote #RadOncWomen.
1. What social media platform do you use most frequently?
I use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram equally. Each platform is a bit different and I use them for different purposes.
2. Do you separate your professional and personal life on social media?
I don’t, for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t think that truly separating them is possible. Anything that’s posted online (even in a closed group or private message) is automatically no longer personal and can be shared widely and permanently without your consent. Therefore, anything one posts can reflect on their professional reputation.
Secondly, I think that one’s professional profile should include their true personality and humanity. What makes a good physician isn’t simply the medical knowledge in their brain; rather, their personal life experiences, views, and talents are vital as well. For example, I believe that being a mother makes me a better oncologist.
So instead of trying to separate the personal and professional, I recommend instead viewing all of your social media as professional, and also making that platform a true reflection of your profession, values, and ideals.
3. Do you ever interact with patients via social media?
I can’t think of any time when I interacted with my own patients on social media. Once, a potential patient tagged me on Twitter and asked how to schedule a consultation with me. It’s a common misconception that physicians on social media are entering into an automatic HIPAA violation. Most patients and patient advocates on social media are not looking for personal medical advice. They are looking for support to help them navigate their health journey, and often not from physicians specifically.
4. What benefits have you seen personally with the use of social media in your practice?
Social media has innumerable benefits for physicians. Firstly, it’s an excellent educational tool. A physician can ask a question on social media and receive a crowd-sourced answer. You can meet an expert online, and then continue the conversation privately as well. In addition, social media is an excellent filter for the most important news. If you want to know what the most exciting cancer publications are, go onto social media and see what people are discussing.
Social media is an incredible tool to develop and hone your voice as a physician. Platforms like Twitter offer an opportunity to interact with other professionals and the world in an unprecedented way. You can engage in conversations as an oncologist with people that you would have otherwise never met, and that includes other physicians, oncologists, and the public all over the globe.
5. Do you have any specific examples of some form of professional collaboration that started via social media that may not have happened otherwise?
I have had an opportunity to collaborate professionally with multiple colleagues that I met solely through Twitter. Most of the time, while we met first on Twitter, we subsequently met in person at the ASTRO annual meeting or another conference. A recent example was a publication in Advances in Radiation Oncology that I co-authored with Dr. Brian Kavanagh and Dr. Matthew Katz. I met Dr. Matthew Katz on Twitter many years ago and we then met in person at ASTRO 2014 and kept in touch since then. Subsequently, I met Dr. Kavanagh first through Twitter, and then met in person at last year’s Tweet Up at the 2017 annual meeting; we then decided to write the above mentioned article together. There are many other examples as well.
6. Do you have any advice for physicians interested in using social media for research purposes?
Go for it! Academic journals are increasingly interested in publishing social media related articles.
7. Do you think it is important for residents and early career physicians to develop a robust social media presence?
Yes. You won’t regret it! There is so much to gain and you won’t know how much you’ll gain until you see it for yourself.
8. What is the best way for residents and early career physicians to use social media as a networking tool?
I recommend starting with Twitter since that is a common social media platform that the radiation oncology community uses. The first step is to create your account. You’ll need to create your Twitter handle (which is your account name); you can look at colleagues' accounts for ideas. Go to www.twitter.com and type #radonc into the search on Twitter. A feed will show up on your screen, and by scrolling through you will see who shares #radonc tweets, what their Twitter handles are, and what type of content they share. Once you create your account you can then start following accounts including people, news outlets, and journals that interest you. I am a member of the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s (ASTRO) communications committee and we recently published "Social Media Best Practices for Radiation Oncologists.” This is a good overview of “Do’s” and “Don’t” related to getting started on Twitter.
9. How do you think social media can help radiation oncologists and more specifically, female radiation oncologists?
Social media offers us an unprecedented tool for connectivity and therefore allows us to build communities among like-minded individuals. By uniting us in conversations, we can share ideas and experiences. This is a vital first step. For example: recently many radiation oncologists were discussing on Twitter why there are few radiation oncology-led clinical trials. In the Radiation Oncology Women’s Physician Group, members were discussion salary compensation and maternity leave policies. Facilitated by social media, we are having conversations to an extent that we’ve never had before! The next step, of course, is to take action. Social media is helping people take action, too. Once people see how widespread an issue is, it’s much easier to garner the attention, resources, and will to truly make changes.
In 2016, I posted an informal poll in the Hematology Oncology Women’s Facebook Group regarding the barriers to attending the annual meeting. The majority of the women shared that the #1 decision making factor to whether or not they attended ASCOs annual meeting was: childcare! I then shared my ideas about meeting attendance and childcare on my ASCO blog. The response was so overwhelming that ASCO subsequently adopted my ideas to track attendee’s gender and thereafter announced they will be offering onsite childcare at their annual meetings started in 2019. In June 2018, ASTRO also announced they will be offering onsite childcare as well. This discussion and advocacy was facilitated by social media and is a great example of the potential work we can do using these new platforms.
10. Do you ever find it difficult to balance the advantages social media offers against the potential disadvantages such as distraction or “information overload?" Do you have any specific methods to help with this?
The best time to use social media is when you’re not doing anything else- like waiting on line for coffee. Tweeting doesn’t take long and the Twitter app is excellent, so I recommend downloading it onto your phone. How much time should one devote to social media? That’s a hard question to answer. Certainly, when you have other things to prioritize like studying for your boards, don’t go on social media! Other than that, it’s a personal choice. If I want to limit my screen time, I simply put my phone away.