David L. Graham, MD, Medical Director for Multispecialty Clinical Research Services at Carle Physicians Group in Urbana, Illinois, was 2012-2013 Chair of ASCO's Integrated Media and Technology Committee.
As he notes in his bio info on ASCO Connection, his medical interests include genitourinary and hematologic malignancies as well as neuroendocrine tumors, but he treats patients with a wide variety of cancer types and works to increase participation in clinical trials.
How did you get started in social media?
“Going back ages ago—I think this was 2005—I started doing podcasts for our clinic. They were called Carle Cast and they are still online (carlecast.com). I did interviews with our physicians in the clinic who work in different areas. This was a do-it-yourself proposition; I recorded them myself, I edited them, I put them online, did the iTunes listing, and everything else.
“I had started listening to podcasts when they were first emerging, and I saw a potential niche for getting relatively expert information out there in an easy way for laypeople to understand. And I was doing the interviews in areas that I am not an expert in, so I could ask the physicians questions and get them to explain things at more of a layperson's level.”
How did you become an ASCO Connection blogger?
“I had assumed that the ASCO Connection bloggers were invited to blog because they had a special level of expertise on a topic. But through my work on the Integrated Media and Technology Committee, I was quickly dissuaded of that idea. The reality is that almost all ASCO members have valid ideas that are important to get out there and to think about.
“I come up with ideas that strike me as something I want to talk about—Recent topics have ranged from how to talk with a chef about local food to the inevitability of death. One of the nice things about the ASCO Connection blogs is that nobody is holding us to a schedule to do anything. ASCO completely realizes that this is something we do as a passion and is happy for whatever we can give them. I try to do one a month; sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less.”
How do you work social media into your day?
I think there's a real worry amongst physicians that it will become a huge time-sink real quickly, but that absolutely does not have to be the case at all. You can get the benefits of social media in oncology, in all honesty, without ever actually having to contribute on your own. You can simply find a collection of people to follow on Twitter or follow on the blogs and take in tons of information.
“For that matter, even when it comes to taking the next step and contributing to the social media universe, you can do that without chewing up so much of your day that you are giving up work responsibilities, or family, or anything like this. I am typically following a number of medical stories that are important to me, and I will get emails about these topics or find information because I am actively looking for it. If there is something that really strikes me, I will put up a link on Twitter about that. For example, there was a federal appellate court decision that scientific articles are protected by the First Amendment, so I tweeted a link to a story about that.
“I would never sit down and spend an hour on Twitter. But if I have a few minutes between patients and my dictations are caught up, I scroll through the Twitter feed to see what's going on.
“Some people may think they have to think of something witty to put down in 140 characters if they are going to use Twitter, but that is not the case. The easiest way to dip your toe in the water is, if you read a news story online that makes you think, ‘This is big; people should know about this.’
“Almost every article online now has a button on the page to tweet the article. All you have to do is click the button and you've done it. It's that easy.”
How do you use Twitter at professional meetings?
“When I was serving on ASCO's Information Technology committee, we figured out that if a person tries really hard, he or she can get maybe 10 percent of the information presented at the annual meeting, and that means running from room to room constantly all day long. So we set up the virtual meeting (http://meetinglibrary.asco.org/vm), and almost all of ASCO's meeting content is now presented in the virtual meeting format.
“So what can help you know what is worth checking on in the virtual meeting format—whether you are at the actual meeting but in other sessions or if you are back at your home practice? That is where following the Twitter feed for any of the ASCO meetings really helps me. I can see people's reaction to the sessions they are attending. I can see real time when people are saying, 'Holy Cow, this is an amazing presentation,' and then I flag that as something I need to watch in the virtual meeting.
“This has actually made the meetings a lot less stressful because I'm not worried that I'm missing something really amazing that I need to be seeing. Twitter helps me see what I should be checking out and I know I can get access to it on the virtual meeting site.”
The full archive of Oncology Social Media Profiles can be found in this Collection on the OT website: http://bit.ly/OT-OncologySocialMediaProfiles