I recently read an article in Vascular Specialist regarding the new age of the “vascular surgery influencer” that discussed how the world of social media has invaded our “once-sane” specialty. While I assume the article was meant to raise awareness of the overuse of social media platforms and how it can violate HIPAA rights, it felt like a personal attack to all who use social media for vascular surgery and neglected all the positive attributes that these platforms have to offer.
I have been in practice for just over two years now. I am by no means an expert vascular surgeon. I am no complex aortic specialist. I am your everyday vascular surgeon. Over the last two years, I have experienced, like all new vascular surgeons, successes—but also failures. While there are many successful revascularizations, the cases that have stuck with me more have been the defeats. All surgeons have these experiences.
We all like to discuss the topic of burnout and our mental health, and we all share our opinions on the matter, but it is not often that we have a good resource to manage these things. For me, social media is my resource. It is an outlet where I can share my stories, and share my victories. And I have also discovered that I do like a little validation, or a “pat on the back.” They are a reminder that while this specialty is exhausting and filled with tribulation, victories do occur, and they are nice to share with people. Because one thing I have learned as an attending is that I do not always have people with whom to share this.
As a trainee, I was always surrounded by my colleagues in our call room. Our vent sessions—sharing our successful cases and our failures—were a daily occurrence. It was a great place to learn as well: impromptu M&M conference was held every lunchtime. I miss that collegiality as an attending. While I am fortunate to have two great partners who are very supportive, at the same time they have their own lives. We do not often sit in a call room and discuss our cases. We have families to go home to. And at the end of the day, the last thing we want to discuss when we go home is vascular surgery.
So, for me, social media is that outlet. It is my “call room” that I visit to find colleagues to share my successes and have them congratulate. It is also the place I can share my failures with those who understand and can benefit from my mistakes, and where I can learn from others. I believe we are fortunate to have a social media presence in the internet era, where surgeons can still stay connected and learn from each other in an ever-evolving field, despite being miles apart. I believe there is a role for validation; there is solace to know that we are not alone when we face those specialty hardships.
Of course, there are issues of overuse and HIPAA compliance, which are important matters. As with any tool, these outlets can be misused, and we should know their limitations. However, that does not mean we should abandon social media completely. Instead, should we not embrace the future of our specialty, and help guide its presence in social medial? I doubt I am the only one out there who seeks a little validation from time to time.
Vincent Noori, MD
Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore