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Entries in Blogging (5)


To Blog or Not to Blog?

Victoria Dunckley, MD first started blogging on her own website to share information with patients and parents. When she moved her integrative psychiatry practice and opened a new office in Los Angeles, the blog helped her grow the practice. The blog also brought in consultation work with patients from all over the country, and has led to expert witness work, as well.

The posts on her blog eventually evolved into ideas for a book. When I first met Dr. Dunckley and began working with her, I suggested she pitch a blog column to Psychology Today as a way to increase her reach and national impact and meet her goal of "increasing awareness about the ill effects of screen-time."

It would also help make her book proposal for her book, Reboot Your Child's Brain, more attractive to agents and publishers. She did so and the result is her Mental Wealth Column on

At first, she blogged tangentially about her book topic with posts on topics such as misdiagnosed bipolar disorder,  how electronic screens can contribute to tics and 10 rules for safer cell phone use, so as not to give away all the information in her upcoming book. However, over time, she began to blog more specifically about electronic screens and their effects on children's brains and mental health--including what she has termed "electronic screen syndrome."

Indeed, her high profile blog posts contributed to landing a top agent and a book deal with New World Library for Reboot Your Child's Brain. Even before that book comes out, though, her blog has already helped her have a powerful impact. Dr. Dunckley reports, "I've received emails from people all over the world telling me how a particular article has helped them. Those emails make all the effort worth it! Blogging has also helped sharpen my writing skills and has led to supportive connections with like-minded individuals."

So, should you be blogging? Here are some reasons to blog and a few reasons not to:

Reasons to blog:

1. Blogging can help you reach a large group of people with your ideas and make an impact.

2. Blogging can help hone your writing skills.

3. By inviting comments you can find out more about how your audience/readers think and what they want to read about.

4. Comments and other responses to your blog can help you clarify your own ideas, explore new avenues or see things differently.

5. Your blog can attract a large audience of fans who are then interested in buying your books, attending your seminars or hiring you as a consultant.

6. Your blog can attract media attention: more and more the media are finding experts for radio and TV shows through searching the web. Your blog helps them find you as search engines like Google love CONTENT and your blog is full of relevant content.

7. Your blog can attract patients or clients to your medical practice or business. Again, search engines like Google are looking for websites with lots of relevant content. Websites with extensive blogs and tagged with appropriate "keywords" win out on Google.

8. Publishers LOVE authors who blog, especially if you are reaching a large audience.

9. Blog posts can be short--less time cnosuming than writing a magazine article, for instance.

10. Blogging is a great way to be viewed as a thought leader--and rightly so.

So, why wouldn't you blog?

a. Blogging takes some time. You will need to figure out where that time will come from and schedule it in for blogging to work.

b. You don't get paid. Sure, some people have ads on their blogs, but that can detract. In general, you don't get paid directly for blogging.

c. You may need to learn a few new skills--beyond writing, you'll need to learn wordpress and get some sense of how search engines work so you can make your posts "discoverable" on search engines like Google.

d. You'll want to blog with some consistency or it's harder to develop a consistent following of readers.

I hope none of these reasons deter you. Basic blogging skills can be learned in a day and the benefits are many--to your medical practice, your business and your own personal satisfaction.

If you want to learn more about blogging and other forms of reaching the public with your medical knowledge, join me at Harvard Medical School's CME course on writing and publishing: Achieving Healthcare Leadership and Outcomes through Writing and Publishing March 31-April 2 atthe Fairmont Copley Hotel in Boston, MA.

There, doctors who are also bloggers and published authors, as well as agents, acquisitions editors and other experts in the publishing industry, will guide you in the many writing opportunities available to doctors and others in the health professions. You'll also have many opportunities to share your ideas with us one-on-one and receive guidance for navigating this exciting arena.


The Power of a Blog to Get Your Message to the Right Audience

I remember when I first heard about blogging--the concept of everyone being able to publish was quite astounding. 

For years, I had worked hard at honing the craft of writing and figuring out how to get my work published.  Now, there was a way to circumvent all of that hard work!  Could it be too good to be true?  Is it possible, for example, for doctors with great ideas to reach people and share these ideas through a blog?

The short answer is "yes!"  The longer answer depends on what you are writing about and where you are posting it.  Many blogs go "virtually" unread.  There are really two key things to consider: 1) Matching your blog's message needs to what the viewers on that site want to read about; and, 2) Writing for a site (whether it's your own site or another site) that has readers.

With regard to the first point, matching your message to the site, it's important to know what kind of information the readers care about.  Because a lot of my work is focused on cancer rehabilitation, I like to write for blogs such as CURE Today and LiveStrong.  On those sites, I can share the need to implement cancer rehabilitation into the care continuum.  I am able to let doctors and survivors know about the fact that the American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer now requires cancer rehabilitation for the 1400+ hospitals that it accredits in the U.S.  I can explain about my work with the STAR (Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation) certifications that provide a "turn key" solution for hospitals and cancer centers to develop best practices models of survivorship care that is reimbursable and therefore a sustainable business model.  At these sites, readers are intensely interested in cancer survivorship issues--the focus of my work (   

As for the second point, insuring that there are readers, keep in mind that it is often much more rewarding to write for a smaller, focused audience than a very large, general one.  For example, I found it much easier to reach healthcare professionals about my work in cancer rehab by writing for CURE Today ( LiveStrong ( than by writing for and AOL.  Bigger audiences don't necessarily mean that your message gets to the "right" people. 

I have blogged a lot, and it's always interesting to read what people have to say.  I even sometimes use readers' comments in magazine articles that I write--to highlight a point and include someone else's "voice" in what I'm writing.  For example, I just wrote a magazine article for nurses about the need for cancer rehabilitation.  I included this comment from a blog post that I wrote:

KUDOS!!!!! Rehab for cancer survivors. I'm a registered nurse and promoted rehab for my husband after each and every bout with cancer. Our physical therapist was excellent. He not only help increase my husband's endurance and strength but bolstered his emotional spirit. As team players my husband and I pursued the quest for REHAB. His main oncologist never broached the topic. Only one physician, a surgeon, recommended a course of physical therapy. I cannot say enough about the importance of REHAB for cancer survivors.

- Posted by Joyce Hutchinson 5/11/11 12:22 PM

Blogging, like all published writing, needs to be carefully crafted for the readership.  Targeting your message to the audience is a powerful way to get it to the right people.


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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10 New Year's Physician Blogging Resolutions

I've decided to make some changes.

Blogging is new to me and, as my friends and editors will admit, I've made a lot of mistakes. So, with a chance to wipe the slate clean in the new year, here are my biggest blogging resolutions.

1. Don't use pithy, clever, one word titles for posts that a search engine will never find.

2. Keep the length of the post right. Not too long, not too short, juuuust right.

3. Know when to comment and when to post.

4. Don't write posts like term papers. They are conversations with my online readers, not a treatise

5. Set the hook in the beginning. Each post , like your elevator pitch, has 3 parts: the hook, the meat, and the call to action.

6. Invite comments from my readers.

7. Connect the dots by using streaming services and links from other social networking sites to boost readership.

8. When an idea comes, write it down. I won't be embarrassed by a 3:52AM time stamp on the posting

9. Give my readers detail, not abstract musings or theory. They read my posts to get answers

10. Thank my readers .

I encourage your comments, appreciate your interest and look forward to our conversations in 2011 at Freelance MD.

I wish you a healthy and prosperous Happy New Year.


AMA Policy: Medical Professionalism & Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogging & Physicians

A new policy on professionalism in the use of social media was adopted at the November 8th 2010 meeting of the American Medical Association. These basic guidelines represent one of the first steps by a major American physician organization to offer guidance in the appropriate use of social/new media.

It's pretty generic and basic stuff but it does recognize that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other social networks are destined to become intimately intertwined with medicine.

The Internet has created the ability for medical students and physicians to communicate and share information quickly and to reach millions of people easily.  Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication.  Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship.  Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

(a)  Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.

(b)  When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently.  Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.

(c)  If they interact with patients on the Internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines just, as they would in any other context.

(d)  To maintain appropriate professional boundaries physicians should consider separating personal and professional content online.

(e)  When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions.  If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.

(f)  Physicians must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students), and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.

Of course, Freelance MD is all over social media. Here's just a few of the places that you can 'like' or join other physicians who want intellilgent information.

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