In this interview, we speak with Dr. Dana Corriel, creator of the #SoMeDocs blog (doctorsonsocialmedia.com) and groups on Facebook (facebook.com/groups/SoMeDocs) and Twitter (twitter.com/somedocs). She is an outpatient primary care physician in Pearl River, New York. Dr. Corriel was also recently named one of 10 Top Internists to Follow on Twitter in 2018 by Medical Economics. In addition, she served as guest faculty at Harvard Medical School’s CME conference on Writing, Publishing and Social Media for Healthcare Professionals in 2018, and is scheduled again for 2019 and 2020. Dr. Corriel is also part of the guest faculty at Rush University’s CME conference, Women in Medicine Symposium, in fall 2019.
How did SoMeDocs come about? What were your initial goals?
SoMeDocs was born after I realized that medical professionals were, as a whole, absent from the largest vehicle of communication of this day and age: social media. The goals of starting a private, physician-only group was to create a shared space where we could all learn both the power and tools of social media, and encourage one another in a light and supportive environment.
What came first: your personal blog, the SoMeDocs blog, or social media sites (or was everything launched together)? How has it grown over time?
The journey started off with my own creative blog, drcorriel.com, which I've written for since around 2015. This enabled me to experience, first hand, some of the ups and downs of the blogging world. I thought to myself, "If I'm doing this, and positively impacting my patients and community, why aren't others?" I realized that there were no platforms in existence where physicians could share their work openly, ask for support, and collaborate in a way that amplified their voices. Then I thought, "We're basically all on Facebook anyway, or various platforms, so why not unite those of us who are looking to make an impact in the world, whether for healthcare or for our own well-being?" That's how the SoMeDocs — short for 'Doctors on Social Media' — Facebook group was created, circa 2017. Some time later, when we started seeing enough members, I unveiled the SoMeDocs website, and then created the Twitter account. Through a cascade of events that followed, several branches of SoMeDocs were born, and I am excited to see them all come to fruition.
What is your medical background?
I am a medical doctor, board-certified in internal medicine, having completed residency at Albert Einstein/Montefiore in the Bronx. My background meshes creativity and design with the traditional world of medicine after a stint at home, taking time off when I gave birth to my third son. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience to be away from medicine, and I believe that this time helped me to be a better doctor now, because I had the chance to discover myself and bring those talents to the table once I took up doctoring again.
What are your favorite topics on the sites? What are you most passionate about?
My favorite topics delve into the creative side of healthcare. I truly enjoy featuring work that is out of the box, because I believe it can inspire change and innovate. I am personally very passionate about exploring different angles of human behavior and interaction — which is what I love to write about — and think this can be applied to medicine and to tackling medical conditions as well. I try to bring that fresh, unique take into my practice as well as to the SoMeDocs group. I believe that finding new ways to present topics can stimulate conversation in a fabulous way, especially when thrown into a large mix of intelligent and motivated personalities. It's like soup — by creating a platform and recruiting physicians, I've cooked it up and now I'm adding in the seasoning!
Posts in the group include sharing social media tools and actual work of physicians, brainstorming through ideas and ways to solve dilemmas on different platforms, connecting on common projects, and conversing around stimulating topics that can impact both healthcare and our lives outside of the office.
What is the time commitment involved for managing SoMeDocs? How and when did others begin contributing to the site?
Time management is an issue I tackle with regularly. I work part-time seeing patients, and in my spare time, I dedicate what I'd estimate as an additional full-time schedule for SoMeDocs. Now that the platform has become more popular and as word of mouth spreads, I'm thankful that physician members are stepping up to help lead. I think many recognize how helpful the group has been, and not only want to give back, but also appreciate the value in collaborating. When we collaborate — rather than compete — we truly grow our brands.
How did the SoMeDocs Engage events come about? What turnout have you received so far?
SoMeDocs Engage is a newer concept I created in order to add texture to the overall experience. Because the virtual SoMeDocs platforms have been successful thus far, I wanted to add a real-life aspect to the mix. Many of our Engage branches, which take place throughout major U.S. cities, are either preparing for their first sessions — which are comprised of casual networking meetups — or taking on their second or third. They are being organized by physicians within the group, and I hope they will help to further promote collaborations from within, or help with passing on the knowledge we need to build our individual brands as physicians.
How has your own experience with social media evolved over time? What challenges and benefits have you found?
Social media is extremely challenging to navigate as a professional, but can also prove to be very rewarding when used correctly. Physicians can grow their practice, become go-to experts in their field, educate patients or the general public, advance their careers, and even beat burnout by finding a niche that brings them happiness. In my own personal experience, I have been able to find my own creative writing voice, been quoted in multiple major publications, and am being asked to speak at multiple conferences. In addition, patients that have found my writing are often fascinated by this side of me they would not have otherwise known.
How do you see social media reshaping healthcare?
Social media has already started shaping healthcare, whether we wanted it to or not, and not necessarily in the best way. There is so much false information out there that is being spread as truth. Many accounts claim to know what's right — without the need to vet or to have credentials — and people innocently believe what they read (often with harmful consequences). We no longer just read about pseudoscience, we now see it walking through our clinic doors. That's where SoMeDocs step in. We want to reclaim the healthcare sector of social media and get people talking about things in a manner that is evidence-based and backed by science.
What tips do you have for other physicians on social media?
My tip for physicians is to approach social media with an open mind. Just because it has the word 'social' in it doesn't mean you can't use it professionally, in a business sense. Give that possibility a chance, learn about the benefits of self-branding (in which you create a voice for yourself under a name you choose), define your goals, and explore the platforms in existence. Each platform is very different from one another, and there are nuances to using each. Most importantly, join SoMeDocs so you can engage with others who are also learning these platforms, and grow together.
How can social media also be beneficial in managing burnout?
Social media can be very therapeutic for beating burnout. From finding groups of like-minded people with which you can socialize — both virtually and in real life — to finding a niche where creative energy can be released, it is truly a versatile space. I look at it like a canvas, and each of us the painter, with the ability to create our very own masterpiece, with as much or as little detail as we want.
What are your thoughts on use of other platforms such as Instagram or the emergence of podcasts? What has been your experience, and how do you see these changing the landscape for healthcare professionals?
I engage in many of the modern-day platforms. Each one offers its own way of interacting with an audience, and of massaging our creative energy. This includes Instagram, where I've been able to play around with images, and find a creative way to present life experiences in both educational and humorous ways. I personally find that humor is somewhat lacking in our field, and that there is a tasteful place for infusing it into that space.
In terms of podcasts, I've participated in many of them to date, and find they are a valuable way of sharing information, especially given the ease with which we can play them. There are many podcasters and soon-to-be podcasters within the SoMeDocs community, and collaborations are made regularly within the group.
What’s next for SoMeDocs?
SoMeDocs has seen incredible growth. On Twitter, the hashtag #SoMeDocs has seen over 33 million impressions in a single month — just under a year into its existence. We now hold weekly Twitter chats, on Wednesdays at 8 PM EST, in which we engage in real time with followers and answer questions that help physicians grow their brands. We try to spark conversations about healthcare topics — often in fun and creative ways — thanks to a group of us that has now formed behind the scenes. Our Facebook group (thanks to Dr. Shikha Jain for helping to moderate) is now over 3100 physician members strong, and growing. Some of my efforts now also focus on somedocs.com, the website I've built to serve as a hub, in order to showcase our physician voices in a slightly more creative way than we're used to, and also to offer services that physicians online may need.
The greatest thing about what I do is that it's a side gig, and if it were all to end tomorrow, I'd be okay, because I still have a career and a family, and that's truly all that matters in this world. It's an important piece of advice to remember when taking on social media. Take advantage of the virtual opportunities out there, but make your real life a priority, too!