By Joel Adler (with special guests Niraj Gusani and Heather Yeo)
Rise of Twitter in Surgery: It’s no secret that there is a growing community of medical students, surgeons-in-training, and surgeons on Twitter. Many use Twitter and other social media to keep up on news, connect with colleagues, and access the latest medical innovations and data, or promote their own research. But Twitter can also be a source of inspiration and a fantastic way to share ideas and stories (140 characters at a time).
#SurgStory: This past week, in the midst of a normal exchange, a discussion about being inspired by mentors to choose surgery as a career led to the beginning of the #SurgStory hashtag.
Great idea @joeladler @heatheryeomd – Share your #SurgStory about how you got hooked on a career in Surgery #SurgTweeting
— Niraj J. Gusani, MD (@NirajGusani) April 6, 2016
The idea quickly caught on as surgeons contributed their own stories about a moment when it all clicked and they knew they had to become a surgeon or about a key role model whose behavior they wanted to emulate. More and more surgeons joined in, shared their stories, and asked others to share theirs. The flood of #SurgStory(ies) that followed was inspiring.
SurgStory Themes: A number of consistent themes emerged, some predictable and some not.
Not surprisingly, many identified particularly formative moments. Most of these were great moments in the operating room, often as a medical student or well before (a particularly memorable operation, the beauty of anatomy, or participating in the procedure), but many came from interactions with surgeons outside of the operating room or personal encounters with surgical disease.
M4 deciding IM vs GS. Watched Steve Leach and @beauchrdb do Whipple/PV recon and saw SL's compassionate postop care. I was all in #surgstory
— Chris Sonnenday (@HPB_Txp_Surg) April 6, 2016
After being shot in throat as a high school senior I knew that becoming a TraumaSurgeon was in my future! #SurgStory #theunsungpandemic
— Joseph Sakran (@JosephSakran) April 7, 2016
A remarkable number volunteered that they never intended to become surgeons and “saved surgery for last” or did it early to “get it out of the way”, but soon fell in love with it and changed career plans.
Did surgery at @UMich early to "get it out of the way" but then fell in love with it. Nothing else compared! I have no regrets! #SurgStory
— Lillian Kao (@LillianKao1) April 7, 2016
At Columbia did surgery rotation last because I wasn't interested. Fell in love day 1, threw out my apps to medicine on day 2 #surgstory
— Jo Buyske (@BuyskeJ) April 7, 2016
My #SurgStory: Entered @RushUniversity for peds, did surgery clerkship first, fell in love with it & thus began my vascular surg career!
— Julie Freischlag, MD (@JFreischlag) April 6, 2016
Of course, plenty of participants just always knew that they would be surgeons:
I was operating in the womb! In pre-K said "I want to be a heart surgeon!" in my yearbook. #SurgStory Look at me now #bariatricsurgery #MIS
— Amir A. Ghaferi (@AmirGhaferi) April 7, 2016
Entered medical school "knowing" I wanted to be a surgeon; did electives starting 1st yr and was hooked for good. Awesome mentors #SurgStory
— Anees Chagpar (@AneesChagpar) April 7, 2016
Perhaps the best part of #SurgStory was the thread of mentorship. Through this conversation on Twitter, many were able to share their experience with mentors and how they shared their craft:
it's important that many #SurgStory (ies) started when a #surgmentor took a few min 2 share their #craft @joeladler pic.twitter.com/LMS5lt8jjP
— Heather Yeo MD (@heatheryeomd) April 7, 2016
Many senior surgeons (often not on Twitter) were mentioned and thanked by name for being great role models. But these mentorship relationships were most certainly not limited to interactions with attending surgeons. Many spoke to the profound impact that residents and fellows have on medical student education and career choice.
M3 picked surgery.Now @Anonymous___d @drsuswarner @sandralwong @HPB_Txp_Surg @jdimick1 +all @ UM show me the surgeon I want to be #SurgStory
— Meredith Barrett (@sparklyscalpel) April 7, 2016
@AmaliaCochranMD my #SurgStory is amazing Rez and attend mentors in Surg @Duke_Medicine. Fab cases at VA, on cardiac and txp svcs
— Mary Klingensmith (@meklingensmith) April 6, 2016
And, of course, there were some who didn’t fall in love during the first try, but stuck around long enough to figure out that surgery was the right thing for them.
@rogerhkim I've also passed out in the OR…and a trauma bay #stillbecameasurgeon #SurgStory
— Andrea Merrill (@AndreaLMerrill) April 6, 2016
#SurgStory has been well received because it provides a short, concise avenue to share our collective experience and explain why we love what we do. It is an honor and a privilege to be a surgeon. Through these tweets, we have been able to share our experiences, and our love of the job not only with each other, but also, we hope, with future surgeons. It is wonderful to see why so many people #ChooseSurgery as a career.
We hope that people will continue to share their inspiration with us and with others.
Submit your own #SurgStory! To see the accumulated tweets, either search for #SurgStory or view the Storify.
Joel T. Adler, MD, MPH, is a resident in general surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He plans to complete a fellowship in transplant surgery. His research focuses on disparities, decision making, and quality metrics in solid organ transplantation. He can be found on Twitter @joeladler.
Niraj J. Gusani, MD is Associate Professor in the Departments of Surgery, Medicine, and Public Health Sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine and serves as Director of the multidisciplinary Program for Liver, Pancreas, and Foregut Tumors in the Penn State Cancer Institute. He is active on Twitter (@NirajGusani), with over 5000 followers.
Heather Yeo, MD, MHS, is Assistant Professor of Surgery and Assistant Professor of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College – NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She is board-certified in general surgery, colon and rectal surgery and complex general surgical oncology. Dr. Yeo has a Master’s in Health Services Research and is focused on surgical outcomes and quality improvement in Gastrointestinal Cancer Surgery. She tweets. You can follow her @heatheryeomd.
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.