Kevin Pho, MD Talks Med School Admissions and Social Media with InGenius Prep

Deborah

Kevin Pho, MD is an internal medicine physician and co-author of Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. He is founder and editor of KevinMD.com.

InGenius Prep: Can I hurt my medical school application chances by being involved in social media?

KevinMD: It’s unlikely that simply being involved with social media alone will hurt your medical school application chances.  After all, the majority of your peers will already be on Facebook, Twitter, or have a blog already.

However, if there is evidence of unprofessional behavior that reflects poorly on you, it will hurt your chances.  Examples include foul language, lewd pictures, or inappropriate Twitter handles.  Even if the evidence is deleted, some may remain on the Web forever on search engine archives.  So it’s best to think before hitting “send” on a social network.

Admission committees regularly comb through social media profiles, so remember that whatever you say and do before medical school can haunt you when you apply.

InGenius Prep: Is there a way I can use social media to improve my medical school application?

KevinMD: If you begin to use social media in a way that responsible physicians do, it can be positive. With the deluge of faulty medical information online, I advise doctors to be curators of health on the Web, and share articles and stories with reliable health information.

Another way doctors can use social media is to speak about our health system.  Advocate change that can help patients: highlight the increasing cost of care or the plight of the uninsured, for instance.

Taking an interest in doing this before medical training can emphasize some of the positive aspects of social media in medicine and will reflect well on you.

InGenius Prep: How receptive is the medical community to social media usage?

KevinMD: A growing minority of physicians are starting to see the benefits of social media.  Not only do more realize that social media can educate patients and make their voices heard, as mentioned above, they also are beginning to use social media to define their online reputations.  Social media platforms get ranked high on Google searches, and physicians who have LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube profiles have an advantage when establishing their Web presence.  That’s important, since more patients are using Google to research their doctors.

InGenius Prep: How do I get rid of undesirable content on the Internet?  What if it is something I did not post myself?

Kevin: The first step is to monitor your online reputation.  Google yourself, or if you want to automate the process, set up a Google Alert for your name.  Search for your name on the major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Then ask yourself, “Are there any pictures or content that I would feel comfortable showing to an admissions committee?”  Delete any offending content.

On Facebook, there’s an added step.  Your friends can “tag” you on undesirable pictures, associating you with those pictures.  Ask them to untag you.

If someone else posts offending content, and won’t take it down, the next best step is to marginalize the content by pushing it down on the search result page. That means creating content that ranks higher.  Responsible engagement of social media platforms can do this, so make sure that you’re appropriately utilizing all the social media tools available to you.

InGenius Prep: As future physicians, what is the best advice you could give premedical students regarding the use of social media in their day to day lives and in their future professional careers?

KevinMD: Your online reputation is your reputation in the community.  More patients are finding their doctors online, and so you better know what comes up on a Google search for your name.  When you become a doctor, physician rating sites will create public profiles for you -- whether you want one or not -- which allow patients to rate you online.  So it’s better to define yourself positively on the Web before someone else does.  Using social media in a responsible manner is a powerful way to do so, and establish your online presence.

If you’re applying to medical school and would like to learn more about managing your online reputation, be sure to check out Kevin’s book Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation.

 

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