Intimacy, Mission and a Physician’s Public Role

September 27, 2013

This weekend at Stanford Medicine XiStock_000018781954XSmall I’m co-teaching with Wendy Swanson a Master Class on physician online identity.  As I was working through some of my thoughts on the plane, I settled into the idea that being public with our thinking is a pretty big deal for providers.

Being out and open in the virtual space carries with it a whole new set of preoccupations.  Physicians traditionally only had to worry about their IRL (in real life) presence.  We walked around, we touched people, we talked to them.  All of our interactions were in person.  Eye-to-eye and hands-on defined everything about us.

We still do that, but now we’re faced with the new challenge of managing a presence in the virtual space.  But…

  1. We don’t know what the rules are.
  2. Many of us don’t know what the tools are.
  3. A lot of us don’t know what we want there.

This last reality become obvious when I talk to physicians about blogs.  A relevant blog, of course, requires some degree of focus or direction.  You need to create and share around something that drives or inspires you.  But when you get down to it with them, many don’t know what turns them on.  They have no idea what they could even create a blog post about.  Many don’t even know why they’d want to make or share anything.  So beyond even having a mission, there’s no understanding of why it would want to be shared.  It’s striking, really.  It’s like they’ve never been forced to declare themselves in any meaningful way.

The capacity to be public really amplifies the fact that we all have passions, missions and roles in the world.  Being front and center with a footprint and identity forces us to think about where we fit in the world.  It was easy to be elusive when the world was private and our existence was restricted to an exam room.  But now we’re part of a wide-open, networked world.  This capacity to share and create exposes us for who we are and what we believe in.  Being here is an act of intimacy.  Participation is something that many of us just aren’t prepared for.

Often times I position the discussion of our ‘obligation to be public and present’ as so easy and obvious.  But it’s a big step for the provider trained to contain his life within a silo.

More on this later.


Kipp Ellsworth September 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

Dr. Vartabedian:

Your leadership in the field of social media and medicine is much appreciated; in particular, your emphasis on parlaying the democratization of media into a renaissance of understanding amongst medical professionals regarding our new public profiles and their potential use as tools for creating professional opportunity. As the coordinator of the Nutrition Support Professional Development Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, I continue to integrate social media tools and technology into the professional development of both clinical nutrition and gastroenterology staff members. In an effort to encourage staff members to take ownership of their presence in the virtual space, I authored two articles on our newly created blog in which I cited several of your articles on public intellectuals and the importance of transcending our specialty silos of knowledge. I have included links to the articles below:

Public Nutritionists, Public Thinking: Sundering the Silos
Part I: The Role of the Public Intellectual

Part II: The Evolution of Nutrition Support Practice in a Networked World
Part III: Social Media and the Future of Nutrition Support Professional Development

Once again, thank you Dr. Vartabedian for your leadership and encouragement via 33Charts.
Kipp Ellsworth, MS, RD, CSP, CNSC

Kelly September 27, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Dr V- I always leave inspired by your posts, I’ve tiptoed into the social media scene with linked in & twitter. I need to gain more confidence before putting myself out there. I fear the blurred lines between professional and personal, just like everyone else. Someday, I’ll jump in. Probably after reading one of your posts. Keep them coming!

Ed September 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm

1. your plane rides are so much more productive than mine…
2. i echo Kipp’s words. Thank you.
3. please share the link to the class that you and Dr. Swanson gave if a video becomes available.

Michael Negraeff September 30, 2013 at 11:48 pm

thank you for this Bryan. It crystallizes the exact problems I’ve had as I move toward this. Knowing that it is something I want to do (blog) but having only some clarity on what exactly. I anticipate it will become more obvious as I begin. Also, beyond vague, there is likely fear/perfectionism and all the other things plaguing high achievers used to working in silos with mostly themselves holding themselves to account only.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: