Warning–Old Doc Tweeting

Ten years ago, if I told someone I had become an “old doc tweeting,” I probably would have lost my medical license.

Ten months ago, I thought Twitter was for people who loved pictures of cats, liked the idea of a flash mob dance in the park with strangers, or were interested in knowing which celebrity was behaving badly.

Ten minutes ago, I learned on Twitter about the latest advance in cancer immunotherapy.

What changed was I learned Twitter could be an outstanding professional tool. I now use it to keep up with the latest advances and news in cancer research, cancer care and cancer prevention.

What is the key to someone in their sixth decade of life and a social media novice using Twitter effectively? For me, it is not knowing all the technical details or becoming fluent in “Twitterese” (although having a 20-something explain a few basic concepts was very helpful). It is being very careful about selecting whom to follow so I am not overwhelmed by the noise.

I have found about 50 colleagues and organizations from Iowa and around the country who tweet about things I am interested in professionally, such as publications covering advances in cancer research and news about related political events that impact on care of cancer patients. Through Twitter, I am linked immediately on the web to the items they think are interesting.

I select whom I “follow” carefully, and edit it often. Sometimes, I “unfollow” someone or an organization if they post too often on subjects I don’t find interesting, When I review my Twitter feed (what do you know – guess I am learning Twitterese after all), I become aware of publications or reports my colleagues have identified that I otherwise would have missed. After spending a few months as a Twitter observer, I am now posting my own tweets that point out advances and reports I think are important or interesting.

I encourage you to give Twitter a try whether you are a professional or an interested layperson, and if you decide to do so, follow me at @weinerg. No dancing cats, flash mob invites or updates on Justin Bieber – just information on what I think is important related to our complex and ongoing efforts to reduce the burden of cancer.

OK – I’ll be honest and admit it is possible I might digress on rare occasions, so please forgive me if this old doc tweeting sneaks in a comment about a piece of pie while I am on RAGBRAI (and if you are not from Iowa and don’t know what RAGBRAI is, get on Twitter and check out what’s trending at #RAGBRAI).

George Weiner, MD
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center Director