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Should Medical School Applications Mention Social Media?

I have a friend actively involved in social health applying for medical school. She reached out to ask me how much should she make of her social media involvement? Will the mention of participation on a SXSW panel or the start of a social community help or hurt her application?

Actually a good question. Some academics, after all, see social media as a waste of time, but many are curious about it.  The really smart ones understand its potential power. So as a medical school applicant you can see how this could work for you or against you.

While initially I thought that positioning yourself as a social health innovator could be something of a liability, I think the potential upside outweighs risk. But like so many things, it’s all in how you set it up.

If you’re face-to-face in an interview you need to be prepared with the reality of the skeptics.  Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Be prepared to educate. Remember that academic medicine is painfully stuck in 1.0. Most ivory tower physicians believe the web is an outbound information source for meddling patients. No interviewer likes to look stupid so be prepared to gently define the basics social media and its role in health.

Drop names. One way to educate is to have a handful of great illustrations that draw from the social innovation of reputable institutions. For example, study the Mayo Clinic’s use of social platforms and how they’re changing patient care.

Make a research connection. In academia, research sells. Don’t be afraid to sell the potential goldmine of clinical research centered about health 2.0. Be prepared to fluently detail a couple of potential studies centered in social communities.

Don’t be a cheerleader. While you may be a fanatic you need to professionally control your passion. Extreme views are likely to be looked at with skepticism. When I brought the question of social media and medical school applications on iMedExchange (physician only social platform) JP Santiago, a family practitioner, from Dallas made the great point you should be able to detail the pitfalls of social media in health — be able to tell both sides of the story. And he should know –- he interviews applicants for UT Southwestern.

Avoid social media lingo. Insider jargon will only separate you from your interviewer and it may very well lead to a “pass” when applications are reviewed.

When in doubt, bring it back to the patient. Even the most pompous paternalist wants to believe he’s there for no one other than the patient. Positioning social health as the next great bridge from doctor to patient is not only spot-on but compelling and likely to create memorable attention in the minds of an interviewer.

Remember that your passion for social health is something that sets you apart. It has the potential to showcase who you are and what you represent. But despite your passion, you won’t be able to promote social health as a physician if you can’t reach the first step of getting into medical school.

Be smart about how you pitch yourself. Think ahead, sell what you’ve done, differentiate yourself, be visionary, don’t preach, and make yourself irresistible.

I’ll see you in the doctor’s lounge.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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