Tweetiatricians

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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