Social Media and Ophthalmology Education/Marketing: Lessons Learned

During this year’s American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting, Dr. Jay Sridhar worked with Dr. Usiwoma “MentorMeMD” Abugo, Dr. Steven “EyeSteve” Christiansen, Dr. Rahul Khurana, and Dr. Matthew Weed to deliver a course entitled “Online Content Creation for Ophthalmology Education and Marketing.” Throughout this talk, each panelist discussed their take on the use of social media in the medical field, including tips and tricks to maximize benefit and avoid pitfalls. Today, we wanted to discuss a few of the most salient points from the course, so that you may also enjoy the world of social media:

1.    Social media presence is an important consideration for all medical professionals.

I always thought of social media as a dichotomy between two realms: (1) personal use to keep in touch with family, friends, and colleagues, and (2) professional use for business advertisement and “promoting” to generate advertising revenue. I participate in both of these realms to some degree, with a personal presence to interact with old friends and fellow classmates and a professional presence posting updates for Straight from the Cutter’s Mouth. However, I never thought of myself as a “promoter” and I never considered how both realms apply to all individuals, even those not involved with a medical podcast.

During the course, the panelists discussed the importance of social media for all medical providers. One does not need to be the producer of a podcast or a medical blog for this to be true. Instead, the simple creation of a Google+ profile (and updating your current location of practice on this profile) allows your patients to find your correct contact information when they search for your name. Setting up a Google Alert for your name notifies you when a new post is made about you online, and allows you to respond as needed. Finally, your current place of employment may have a large online presence, but growing your individual presence (if not contractually prohibited) can benefit you if you move to another practice or university.

2.    Private and professional social media accounts should remain separate. 

Although a “personal” touch can add a lot to your professional postings, one’s private and professional lives should generally remain separate on social media. Your patients certainly may enjoy seeing pictures from your recent vacation and your family may look forward to posts about medical topics, but separation of these realms allows one to be selective about what is shared to either group. Along those lines…

3.    When sharing a post, you can be selective about whose feeds it will reach.

For example, Facebook allows one to create “Friend Lists” – subgroups from your overall friends list – that make it simple to select who will see your post. Prior to publishing a post it can be helpful to check its privacy settings, choosing whether to share this to your entire friends list or only to one of your “Lists”. Dr. Weed uses this tactic on his personal Facebook; although he enjoys sharing interesting medical findings, papers, or current events, he feels that these may not appeal to all of his high school friends and so chooses to limit these to a “List” containing only his ophthalmology colleagues.

4.    The best social media post takes into account its audience.

A social media post should always consider its intended audience. Some content creators choose to cater their posts to patients only, others to medical professionals, and others to a mixture of the two. Although it may seem difficult to create a post that is interesting to a medical professional and the general public alike, this can help to broaden the reach of your online presence. By combining correct medical terminology (which allows the professional to think “this person knows what he/she is talking about”) with simple explanations (which exposes the patient to terms he/she may hear in the clinic or online), a post can benefit both groups. Since audience attention span may be limited, posts should be short and should include multimedia whenever possible. Finally, Dr. Weed’s recommendation was to keep an “eye” on the media: whenever a topic arises in popular culture (such as the “what color dress is this?” viral post) that can apply to ophthalmology, this is a perfect topic for a post!

5.    Finally, always remain cognizant of HIPAA and the legal aspects of what you post.

Fortunately, ophthalmology is a field where the part we care about the most does not require an identifiable image, with a full view of a patient’s face. For Dr. Abugo, social media is important because many of her patients desire “before & after” images to see a sample of her work. Even in these cases where the image is not identifiable, Dr. Christiansen suggests making a habit of obtaining patient consent before posting. When he sees a medical post on social media, he feels much more comfortable when he sees “posted with patient permission” within the description, as this demonstrates respect for the patient. Even better, he enjoys posts made by patients, such as post-op photos with the physician that thank him/her for a job well-done. When a patient chooses to post something on their own social media accounts, not only are you reaching your followers who already know and like you but, perhaps more importantly, you are reaching his/her family and friends who are unknown of yet to you.

- Michael Venincasa

Dr. Usiwoma “MentorMeMD” Abugo:

Dr. Steven “EyeSteve” Christiansen:

Dr. Rahul Khurana:

Dr. Matthew Weed:

Jayanth SridharComment
In Honor of 130: Twelve For Easy Listening

Picking favorite episodes for our production team is like choosing between our children. Each of our episodes features tremendous guests who make re-listening to episodes enjoyable. Still, we tasked each member of our team with picking the first three episodes that come to mind when they think of our podcast. Without further ado, here are the team’s thoughts:

Louie Cai

Here are my three:

1. Episode 31: Loss of Vision after Intravitreal Injections for "Stem Cells", Journal Club and Dr. Matthew Weed

I think this episode first showed how important it is for us to prevent the spread of medical misinformation. Whether through videos, articles, or podcasts, we have a duty not to just the patients that see us, but also to the community in which we live. Social media, when used correctly, can be a powerful tool to share information, collaborate, and educate the public.

2. Episode 36: The Legacy of Dr. William Tasman

I've listened to this episode multiple times. It speaks to me on a very personal level. For me, Dr. Tasman's legacy is something I want to continuously aspire towards. His emphasis on good character, first and foremost, inspires me to keep my priorities straight in life. Actually, I think I put this episode on while walking around Philly the night before my Wills interview.

3. Episode 64: Yag Laser for Floaters, Journal Club

I get asked about floaters all the time in the hospital. I love this journal club episode, especially the article selection and how balanced the discussion was evaluating the pros/cons of Yag laser. The eye institute in my city just got a new Yag laser for floaters, so I sounded exceptionally informed when my attendings asked me if I've "heard of the procedure." :)

Angela Chang

1. Episode 122: Starting in Clinical Research in Private Practice with Dr. Arshad Khanani

Putting together a clinical trial, especially in private practices, comes with many challenges. In this episode, we get to trace back with Dr. Khanani as he shares how he built up a successful clinical research division at his practice.

2. Episode 96: Dr. Mark Blumenkranz Discusses Working with Industry, Academic Chair Selection and Work Demands, and Pattern-Scanning Laser

It’s always fascinating to hear physicians talk about the events and influences in their lives that got them to where they are today, such as is the case here with Dr. Blumenkranz, who has led such an interesting, diverse, and distinguished career in both the medical and business worlds.

3. Episode 72: Literature and Medicine, Dr. Andrew Lam and Dr. Emily Silverman

As a literature enthusiast, I really enjoyed hearing about how Drs. Lam and Silverman have incorporated medicine into their passion for writing.

Mike Venincasa

1. Episode 71: Dr. Allen Ho and Fran Fulton Discuss the ARGUS Device from the Patient's Perspective

We talk a lot about technological advances and how they can improve the lives of our patients, and in this episode we were able to see that first-hand. Especially for a device where one has to basically “re-learn” to see, it was fascinating to hear about Ms. Fulton’s experience.

2. Episode 89: Ophthalmology Match Q&A Group Discussion

As a fourth-year student applying for ophthalmology residency, the post-match panels have always been extremely helpful for me. This particular episode is special since it features our own Louie Cai! I enjoyed hearing about the students’ experiences and their advice was extremely helpful.

3. Episode 54: Starting Surgical Retina Fellowship Mailbag Panel

As a medical student, we think a lot about what life will be like as a resident; this episode was interesting to me as it took things one step further to delve into the differences between residency and fellowship, and how to best balance your time (and protect your back!).

Jay Sridhar

Despite asking our team the tough questions I almost copped out and said my favorite episodes were all of the journal clubs, physician interviews, and non-physician interviews. But here are the first 3 that came to mind when thinking about the podcast. If I wanted someone who had never heard an episode to understand what we try to do, these are the 3 I would pick in no particular order (note: Mike already mentioned Episode 71 so to be unique I excluded it from list).

1. Episode 50: Medicare Fraud in Florida, Legal Case Discussion with Dr. Julia Haller

Dr. Haller is a brilliant physician and storyteller and the insights she gives regarding the details of this sad case of Medicare fraud make this a must-listen for me.

2. Episode 87: Masterpiece Retina Part Three with Dr. Ajay Kuriyan and Dr. Will Parke

Each Masterpiece Retina is like listening to an XM Radio station that only plays “the best of”. Dr. Will Parke handpicks these interesting and relevant articles from the past for discussion; while each of the three editions were educational, the third one was the first one that comes to mind for me.

3. Episode 120: Subretinal Surgery, Gene Therapy, and More with Dr. Ninel Gregori

I do most of the interviews for the show over the phone for logistical reasons. When I get the chance to sit-down in person with a wonderful physician and hear their story the product is at its most organic. Dr. Gregori was the first retinal surgeon I ever saw operate and this episode, beginning with a discussion of her childhood growing up in the Soviet Union and ending with her experiences with gene therapy and staffing vitreoretinal fellows in the OR, is what the podcast is all about.

Whether you are a long-time listener or a newcomer to our podcast, we hope that this list helps you to relive your favorite episodes or provides you with an enjoyable introduction to our contact. As always, we appreciate every one of you, and we thank you for all of your support.


Straight from the Cutter’s Mouth

Jayanth SridharComment
Paging Dr. Ping Pong

Thursday is one of my favorite days. Thursday is ping pong club. 5 to 8PM, sometimes later if we're finishing a close match. My alarm rings before dawn, and I drowsily get ready for the day. Planning ahead, I wear my gym clothes underneath my shirt and white coat so I won't have to change later. I'm on long call today, so in the best case scenario, I'll be only an hour late. I'm fine with that. I'll take any opportunity to play. 

I'm one of the few lucky interns who started on an inpatient hospital service. This month, I've gone through a lot of 'firsts.'  Admitting my first patient, discharging my first patient, and then having my first patient come back to be readmitted (I might have discharged her a little prematurely).

I never completely appreciated in medical school how difficult the practice of medicine is in real life. It's an art and science filled with so much uncertainty. I never feel like I have enough time. I need more time to examine the patient, more time to think through the plan, and more time to SLEEP. It's impossible to be a perfectionist; there's just so much to do. More orders to enter, more notes to write, more consults to call. The sense of urgency makes even small moments of idleness feel like time being wasted.

And it just gets worse. Once I could manage 4 patients, my cap increased to 5, then 6, and now 7. Senior residents carry 16 patients at once. Attending physicians don't even have a cap; they just carry as many patients as possible. Of course we'll get better with time, but no matter how much we improve, we'll never have more than 24 hours in a day. 

Spending time with patients is the most fundamental aspect of being a physician.  There's no better feeling then to have the ability and opportunity to provide hope to those in need. Yet this aspect of medicine is often the first to be sacrificed. Unfortunately, physicians in hospitals don't get reimbursed for extra time spent with patients. They're paid for diagnoses made and procedures performed. 

At my first feedback session, my attending criticized me for spending too long taking patient histories. He explained that down the line, I'll never have more than 10 minutes with each patient , and it would be better to get into the habit now. But it's not that I can't be more efficient, it's that I choose not to. Being efficient just means asking fewer questions and cutting off the patient more often. We save time by being less thorough.

It's 7PM, and I'm I'm still wrapping up my last few progress notes. Just as I finish and start to pack up, my phone rings - it's a nurse from the second floor. The husband of one of my patients is here. He and his wife have a few questions. 

I'll make it to ping pong next week. 

- Written by Louie Cai, a new intern at a community hospital in Florida


Jayanth SridharComment
Ophthalmology Residency Rank List Pearls
  "The simplest way to approach the process is to rank the programs in the order  you  prefer, not in the order of likelihood you think you have of being ranked highly by a given program."              -Jay Sridhar

"The simplest way to approach the process is to rank the programs in the order you prefer, not in the order of likelihood you think you have of being ranked highly by a given program."

          -Jay Sridhar

Happy new year! With January comes resolutions, new Star Wars wall calendars, and yes, ophthalmology residency rank lists. While every applicant’s situation is unique, here are some general pearls of factors to consider when finalizing your rank list:

1)    Rank it the way you want it: The match system was designed to err in favor of the applicant. While there is a Nobel-prize winning explanation of the algorithm somewhere out there, the simplest way to approach the process is to rank the programs in the order you prefer, not in the order of likelihood you think you have of being ranked highly by a given program. This should probably be points 1, 2, and 3.

2)    There can only be one #1: It may be helpful to notify the program you are ranking #1 of that fact. Although the system was designed for both applicants and programs to make independent rank lists with their preferred order, some programs do like to rank applicants highly who are ranking them highly. However, avoid the worst mistake of all: telling multiple programs that they are your one and only true love. Ophthalmology is a small world and cross-talk between program directors will very likely result in you getting tangled in the very web of lies you have weaved. Plus it’s plain dishonest even if you somehow do not get caught.

3)    You rank it, you bought it: Once again, remember how the rank system works. You could theoretically end up at any program you rank, including the last program on your list. That means that if you absolutely will not go to a program you interviewed at for some reason DO NOT RANK IT. It is unprofessional and bad form to rank a program and then drop out because you were unhappy to match there. On the other hand, you better have a really good reason for not ranking a program, because that is essentially a statement to yourself that you would rather not match at all than go to that program. Think long and hard before going down that road.

4)    Four Factors to Consider: Dr. Ruben Sanchez wrote a great article years ago about the top ten factors to weigh when making a rank list for ophthalmology. They were in no particular order: personal goals, family, culture of program, location, program size, surgical numbers and clinical variety, laser experience for residents, call schedule, benefits, and research opportunities. To give a different perspective, I think to simplify there are four major factors when deciding how to construct a rank list.

First is the clinical experience which encompasses all the medical and surgical aspects including volume and variety. Second is the culture and ‘gut feeling’ a program gives you when you spend a day there. We spend a significant amount of time as applicants and interviewers talking about these two points and I am sure you have a good idea how all the programs you saw stack up. Third is what is best for you and your life in terms of family, friends, significant other, location, etc. This is often not discussed at all during interviews but is critical, because personal factors can lead to great happiness or unhappiness. An unhappy resident even in the ‘best’ program can be much less successful and productive than a happy resident in a ‘lesser’ program.

The fourth and final factor which requires a deal of introspection is the learning style of a given program. There is a spectrum of educational philosophy ranging from the autonomous program with higher volume but perhaps less direct one-on-one supervision to the less busy program with stepwise progression in autonomy and skills. Of course, like with any spectrum, there are a wide range of styles across the spectrum which incorporate different levels of autonomy and more hands-on teaching. Still, get a sense of how you like to learn and what makes you personally comfortable. Does autonomy stimulate and excite you or make you feel uncomfortable and unsupported? Does more observation and hands-on teaching make you feel structured or stifled? There is no right or wrong answer to the question overall, just a right answer for you. Once you know how you prefer to learn based on your medical school experiences that can help decide between programs of a similar caliber with different philosophies.

5)    Remember your running rank list: Hopefully you made a running rank list as you went from interview to interview. Even if you did not, you have notes or thoughts jotted down somewhere capturing your immediate reaction to an interview day. While emotions can cloud practical thinking, do not completely neglect those aforementioned gut feelings in favor of on-paper programs strengths and weaknesses. Your running rank list should be not wholly different than your final rank list, which you will only construct after you…

6)    Consult with your mentor(s): Show your rank list to your mentor(s). They will rarely make drastic changes but can give you insights into nuances between places or find out information for you that may help you finalize that rank list.

7)    Put it in early: Put your rank list in at least a few days ahead of the deadline to avoid technical difficulties, and avoid the temptation to fiddle with it. Now congratulations! One more week until the best day of your medical school career: Match Day.

I hope these tips are helpful this year and in the years to come. Best of luck!

               Jay Sridhar

Jayanth SridharComment
Two Very Different Trips, One Very Similar Message
  "Though we use quantifiable outcomes and definitions so that our research and science is sound, let us never forget the most important outcome is to patient lives, because our patients are our families, our friends, and ourselves."   ####################################   

"Though we use quantifiable outcomes and definitions so that our research and science is sound, let us never forget the most important outcome is to patient lives, because our patients are our families, our friends, and ourselves."



My two most recent trips took me to opposite sides of the world. Towards the end of October, I spent some time with my grandparents in India, and in early November, I traveled to New Orleans for the American Academy of Ophthalmology  (AAO) meeting and Retina Subspecialty Day. I enjoyed good food and excellent company on both journeys, and also had the opportunity to see modern ophthalmology from two very different perspectives.

On one hand, AAO and the Retina Subspecialty Day represent the culmination of innovations that drive our field forward. There we learn about the science that will define our recommendations - whether multiyear randomized controlled trials showed differences between pro re nata (PRN) and fixed-interval dosing of anti-vascular endothelial factor (VEGF) agents, what an IRIS registry database retrospective chart review revealed about outcomes of scleral buckling versus pars plana vitrectomy for rhegmatogenous retinal detachment, or whether that phase 3 trial of the newest age for dry age-related macular degeneration and geographic atrophy showed efficacy. Behind the scenes, the connections and relationships between motivated and hyper-intelligent physicians (not me!) stimulate innovation and progress in the form of new project ideas and collaborations. This side of ophthalmology we deal with extensively on the podcast, and it is no doubt invaluable.

On the other hand, in India I was placed on the patient side of the fence. By becoming the unofficial retina consultant for multiple relatives, I had to take a step back and remember why on an individual human level we do these exhaustive and detailed research endeavors to define treatment options and strategies. Moreover, it was also a reminder to recognize that what the physician views as success is not always appreciated the same way by the patient.

For example, one family friend spent an hour with me reviewing OCT scan results that documented his progress over months as he received treatment with anti-VEGF and then steroid injections for macular edema due to a central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO). Medically speaking, he had a great response to steroid treatment: complete resolution of macular edema and significant visual acuity improvement from 20/400 to 20/40. However, over the course of the conversation, I began to realize that while he was thankful for his treatments, he was frustrated with being possibly married to injections simply to maintain a level of vision which he felt was only 80% of his original vision. Though we have made significant advances in the era of anti-VEGF drugs that have given these patients a chance at better vision, we must continue to strive for more - drugs that last longer, agents that do not require injection, and ultimately a treatment that completely restores the function of damaged retina.

Later on, I had another long conversation with my 90-year-old great-uncle who has advanced dry age-related macular degeneration with geographic atrophy. In a clinical trial database or a quickly reviewed chart, his visual function would be reported with numbers such as “20/400 visual acuity” or “OCT central retinal thickness of 200 micrometers.” In person, however, his functioning is much more nuanced. While he does have ambulatory vision that allows him to independently navigate his house without falling, his devastatingly frustrating eyesight prevents him from reading the books he used to spend hours reading. This is a story that the numbers and studies will never be able to tell. Like many informed patients in this information age though, he has kept his ear to the ground. He asked me astute questions about intravitreal lampalizumab, an anti-complement factor D agent under investigation for dry AMD, which unfortunately did not meet efficacy in a recent phase 3 study. When I and other retinal specialists speak on the podcast about the disappointing results of a study, we are sincere, but one really gets a taste of tangible regret when speaking with a human being hoping only to see again. Despite not qualifying for many clinical trials due to his advanced disease, my great-uncle remains optimistic. He sees every victory against AMD as one more step towards regaining the sense he regards as most critical to his identity.  

Perhaps others never lose having a balanced perspective, but as retinal specialists, it is easy to forget why we do what we do in the daily grind of clinic, research, and teaching. We review charts and publish not only to repair retinas, but also so that someone’s brother can see to play with his nephews and nieces. We support studies of new dry AMD drugs to not only to decrease the area of atrophy on autofluoresence pictures, but also so someone’s grandmother can read her newspaper (or iPad!) every morning. Though we use quantifiable outcomes and definitions so that our research and science is sound, let us never forget the most important outcome is to patient lives, because our patients are our families, our friends, and ourselves.

          -Jay Sridhar

Jayanth SridharComment