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« If A Surgeon Can Write A Book or Two, So Can You | Main | Bigger Isn't Better; Better is Better »

A Physician’s Journey To Social Media & Blogging

By Richard C. Senelick MD

A Physician’s Journey to Social Media and Blogging

A physician’s life often seems to be programmed. We go from college to medical school to internship to residency to fellowship to practice in a seamless path. Twelve to fifteen years go by without too many questions for we are consumed with the educational process and the brass ring at the end of this marathon event. Another straight line seems ahead of us as we pursue our career.

But, are our lives as physician’s really such a straight line or are they influenced by minor events that have major influences on the paths we travel? Life is like a novel where minor or serendipitous events take us in a different direction until another such event pushes us down another path. Most of the major decisions in our lives seem to be made with inadequate information- the decision to marry someone, become a physician, and choose a specialty.  Who really knows what marriage or a particular career will be like?

A Serendipitous Meeting

I had been in practice 35 years, written eight books and produced multiple DVDs. ( I enjoyed lecturing and writing, but again felt that itch to take that little fork in the road that might open new doors and get the creative juices flowing again.  I am a firm believer in reinventing oneself every 5-10 years. I received an email flyer for Dr. Julie Silver’s course at Harvard on “Publishing Books, Memoirs and Other Creative Nonfiction". I can’t tell you exactly why I signed up, but it seemed like a good diversion from the usual meetings on Stroke, Brain Injury and Rehabilitation. I already had a distribution system for my books, wasn’t looking for an agent, but some intangible nagging resonated with that “fork in the road” part of my brain. It was March 2010 and winter had descended on Boston, with winds blowing the snow horizontally. This was perfect weather to settle in for a meeting and avoid the temptation to walk along Newbury Street and sit at a café with my new iPad. I am famous for not being able to sit longer than 2-3 hours at a meeting. So, I took my usual spot in the last row, convenient for the quick escape. What followed were 2 ½ days that became one of those critical forks in the road for me.

Social What?

I was having a great time and getting all kinds of good information on writing, publishing and meeting people, but nothing seemed to be happening that would make a major difference in my career. It is not unusual for me to blow off the last morning of a 2 ½ day meeting, but my curiosity was piqued by a talk on Social Media by Rusty Shelton of Shelton Interactive. I had a “facebook” account I never used, but didn’t have a website, know how to “tweet” and had never commented on a blog, let alone written one. 

I am your typical cynical neurologist, so I sat in the back of the room with my arms folded as Rusty Shelton started his pitch for the new order of social media and publishing. It is not an understatement to say it was a true epiphany and resonated throughout my body. I instantly “got” social media and saw that door that only needed to be opened. It usually took me a year to write a book and then it was only seen by a limited number of people. Even worse that book might be out of date in six months. 
It became clear. My books were meant to educate healthcare professionals, people with disabilities and their families. With a website and a blog I could instantly disseminate information, keep it up to date, communicate with colleagues, people in need and get instant gratification. I also realized that all of my magazines and newspapers were getting thinner and that I was getting 90% of my information from the Internet. I no longer went to the medical school library weekly to sit in the stacks, but the stacks came to me on my computer screen. If I wanted to be part of mainstream society and contribute on an international level the remainder of my life, I had better get on board the social media train or be left at the station.

It is a little less than a year since Julie Silver’s course presented me with a new fork in the road. With Rusty Shelton at my side, we have developed a website, with books, articles and an active blog. We developed a professional “facebook” page ( and I am even starting to use Twitter. (  Interviews and other writing opportunities have followed. It wasn’t much later that I received a major opportunity to blog for the Huffington Post ( which has been more fun than I can remember. I have been asked to guest blog on other people’s websites and am getting fully integrated into social media. Not only has it been invigorating, it has allowed me to play a role in the national dialogue that will ultimately impact providers, patients and their families.

No matter what you are thinking of writing, social media and the opportunities it provides should be a major part of your plan. Thanks to Dr. Silver’s course, it is now a major part of mine.

About: Richard C. Senelick MD is a neurologist who serves as the  Medical Director of RIOSA, The Rehabilitation Institute of San Antonio, and Editor in Chief of HealthSouth Press, the publishing arm of one of the nation’s largest hospital systems. He is a frequent lecturer on both a national and international level. Dr. Senelick writes a regular Blog for the Huffington Post.  Amongst his many books and publications, he has authored Living with Stroke: A Guide for Families, Living with Brain Injury: A Guide for Families, The Spinal Cord Injury Handbook, and Beyond Please and Thank You: The Disability Awareness Handbook.

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Reader Comments (2)

It's inspiring to hear of your immersion and success in social media, Richard. I'm curious how much time you put in per week and whether you have anyone helping you and in what way. I have an intern starting in a couple of weeks and am working with another recent graduate and am thinking they can help with social media. I'd love to hear more about your experiences as well as other readers. I certainly want to maintain control of my social media, but I'm thinking there are creative ways to get help!

Jan 10 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Tener

There are physicians I know who connect with their patients through Facebook and Twitter not only about medical concerns but some would do it to court and flirt with their patients--which is a hell no! no! That's just so unprofessional!

While there are also physicians who make use of social media to express their thoughts to the world or perhaps to de-stress.

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