October 29, 2012

Last weekend at the American Academy of Pediatrics a new term was spawned to describe pediatricians using Twitter: tweetiatrician.  Throughout the course of the meeting it was used in the busy back channel happening in New Orleans.  In a giddy moment of herd camaraderie I adopted it on my Twitter bio.

In the days that followed some critical dialog emerged surrounding the use of the term.  Some felt that the term minimizes what we do here as pediatricians, infantilizing our efforts and undermining professionalism.  It was suggested that the term takes from the ‘heft’ that some pediatricians bring to Twitter.  I was intrigued by the exchange because I never considered this any kind of liability.

I think I see the point.  For those of us who see big things for doctors and public conversation, the use of the term tweetiatrician adds little in the way of epic thinking.  It doesn’t move the chains forward.  The term’s definitely not serious.

But maybe that’s okay.

I may be the wrong person to be chiming in here.  I’m sometimes accused of taking all of this too seriously.  I do struggle with the balance of levity and leadership.  And I’ve noticed that the more people who watch me, the more challenging it is to be myself in the most transparent sense.

Admittedly tweetiatrician is sickeningly cute.  While it might suggest that we don’t take ourselves seriously, it might on the other hand also reflect a profession that truly understands its role in medicine.  As professionals willing to strap small stuffed animals to our stethoscopes, we take ourselves seriously only to the degree necessary.  Such a whimsical, clever term may capture our culture of color and warmth.

Perhaps it represents a profession that handles the sickest, most vulnerable members of society with grace and strategically placed goofyness.  This is perhaps the feature of pediatrics that drew me to its ranks.  This is the only field where I can wear neon yellow Nike sneakers with khakis as a deliberate means of connecting with my patients.  Try that on the CV surgery service.

In the end I see the emergence of the tweetiatrician as a small demonstration of social solidarity for a profession defining itself in a new age.  An old field meets a new medium.

Tweetiatrician may likely pass from the stream as quickly as it appeared but what it represents may be more important than any objective value it brings to our conversations.  These conversations surrounding its value define what we’re doing here.  And the opinion of those who don’t care for the term challenge us to think rather than blindly follow along.

In 2009 in Washington DC at the AAP, I spent a weekend tweeting to myself.  Desperate for conversation that didn’t exist and hungry to see my field adopt this new style of sharing, I wondered if we’d ever get there.  Last weekend as I sat in New Orleans and saw the vibrant movement of #AAP2012 and the spontaneous appearance of new terms to describe our work, all I could do was smile.

As a specialty, we had arrived.

Tweetiatrician is the brain child of @thegrandfinalle


Terry Kind @Kind4Kids October 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Great post Dr V, was waiting for it. We pediatricians (and pediatricians on Tw) are all of those things, light and serious, advancing individual and public health, caring for critically ill and maximizing wellness. We are with the children and teens, and we are the families and communities. We take ourselves and what we do seriously while sitting on the floor playing peek a boo and demonstrating object constancy with a 9 month old. We may be #tweetiatricians, and… I think some may be just slightly sorry that we didn’t come up with the cute (cool?) term ourselves.

See you in 140 characters, and maybe at some academic meeting.

Wendy Sue Swanson, MD October 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Thanks, Bryan. I, too, take this (social media medicine public health advocacy) stuff seriously. I feel I must.

2 years ago I was tweeting to myself at the AAP meeting. And I had the exact same feeling this year, amidst the crowded chatter…simply delighted to find myself amidst a group of talented, committed clinicians.

I agree we’re making strides. Call yourself whatever you like, I say, and keep on proving to the world the lengths you’ll go to improve the health of our nation. There’s certainly no reason to wait…

Ditto to everything you say here: “I may be the wrong person to be chiming in here. I’m sometimes accused of taking all of this too seriously. I do struggle with the balance of levity and leadership. And I’ve noticed that the more people who watch me, the more challenging it is to be myself in the most transparent sense.”

John Lynn October 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I agree completely with the comment that Wendy ditto’ed. Why is is that the more people that are watching, the bigger the challenge it is to be yourself?

I’ve often said my favorite blog is the one I’ve launched most recently. I think this is the case largely because there’s no expectation on what will be delivered. It provides that freedom that provides for much better transparency. Expectations are very influential.

Mighty Casey October 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm

I for one would welcome the opportunity to evaluate physician selection via just the sort of lexicon mashup you’re talkin’ ’bout here. I’m not hunting for a kid doc, but a Tweetocologist (either gyn or onco, since I have use of both) would win my business. The doctor would earn more, not less, respect from me for being willing to be that open-channel, communication-wise.

You have indeed arrived, Doc. Leadership without levity lacks humanity. Levity without leadership lacks purpose. Put both together, and you can drive great change LIKE.YOU.WOULD.NOT.BE.LIEVE.

Keep it up. All of it.

Jeffrey W. Britton MD FAAP November 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm

As a pediatrician relatively new to Twitter I was happy to take on #tweetiatrician hashtag. I found live tweeting from #AAP12 enjoyable, and through the use of both hashtags discovered how powerful the use of Twitter can be. I “met” many new Twitter colleagues and will be following them.

I will say that without the new term I might not have been as engaged as I became. Don’t underestimate the value of a “cute” hook to get new people into the conversation. It certainly made me less intimidated!

I look forward future #tweetiatrician tweets!

Stephen Pont @DrStephenPont November 3, 2012 at 8:17 am

Great article and comments! I enjoyed meeting, tweeting, and tweetmeeting many of y’all at the NCE. Toys, neon shoes, goofy language and now tweeting… I see them all as ways to get us off our ivory tower soapboxes, as we try to meet our patients and their parents wherever they are, with the goal of helping them find and maintain health.

DrV November 3, 2012 at 8:36 am

…a way to meet our patients where we are. Thanks, Stephen. Brilliant point. Wish I could go back and add it to the post.

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