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CMA president leading way with social media

Canadian Medical Association President Chris Simpson considers Twitter and other forms of social media so important that he closed two of his recent speeches with specific reference to their value.

Speaking at both the International Conference on Physician Health in London, UK, and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) annual meeting in Kingston, ON, Simpson discussed how valuable he finds social media and why he thinks other physicians should follow his example.

“I think for leaders it (Twitter) is a tremendous resource,” said Simpson in a recent YouTube video. “It allows us to have quite detailed and sophisticated discourse.”

In support of this perspective, the CMA has recently become one of the only medical organizations in the world to offer its members an online learning module to inform them on how to use social media professionally.

The course provides a rationale for why physicians should consider using Twitter and other social media tools and platforms, and tips on how to use these tools safely and effectively. The online module is available at no cost to CMA members.

“This is a very effective resource,” said Dr. Alireza Jalali, professor of anatomy at the University of Ottawa and social media lead for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In addition to referencing Jalali, who has produced a popular video for the Royal College on how and why physicians should use social media, the CMA course also quotes international experts such as Dr. Farris Timimi, a cardiologist and medical director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, and Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and a leading physician commentator on social media.

While the most recent CMA research shows few Canadian physicians are following the example of Simpson and Jalali, medical students appreciate the importance of learning how to use social media in education and practice.

Echoing Simpson’s comments Ali Damji, a second-year medical student at the University of Toronto and an Ontario regional representative for the CFMS, notes “there is a lot of value in social media. It provides future physicians with an avenue to engage in health promotion, education and advocacy with the communities we serve outside of hospitals, clinics and other traditional institutions.”

Canada is proving a leader in evaluating the role of social media in education. An upcoming symposium immediately prior to the International Conference on Residency Education in Toronto later this month is being billed as a summit specifically on that topic.

Another sign of the growing importance of social media and digital communications is the fact that the Canadian Medical Protective Association is dedicating a special issue of its magazine CMPA Perspective this month to how digital communications is changing health care.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.