Name: Amy Hessler, DO
Place of work and city: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Subspecialty: Clinical Epilepsy, Women's Neurology
Years on Facebook: 10 years
WHY DID YOU JOIN THE WOMEN NEUROLOGISTS GROUP (WNG) ON FACEBOOK?
I joined WNG in December 2015. As a spin off from the Physician Moms Group (PMG), I was looking for a group of neurology physician moms. Kathrin LaFaver and I both became active on WNG and were asked to take over as co-administrators. In our roles as administrators, we decided to open the group to all female neurologists and have seen the group grow from 700 members in December 2016 to currently 2200 members this month.
WHAT DOES THE FACEBOOK GROUP ELICIT THAT OTHER KINDS OF NETWORKING DOES NOT?
We cheer for each other and support one another. As an example, a group of six of us cheered each other on as we were the last group to take the written neurology recertification. Each day, someone on PMG posted an encouraging message for those ladies taking their recertification that day. It was so much fun to cheer each other on during that stressful week and celebrate when the week was over.
WHAT KINDS OF TOPICS DO YOU POST ABOUT?
I have added posts to promote the AAN leadership program, Women Leading in Neurology. I posted an Obstetrical Neurology conference for which I am a co-director. Leading up to the AAN in LA, we organized through WNG the second annual WNG dinner. Several of us decided to organize a WNG team for the run/walk to benefit brain research. We researched and chose team “neuron leggings” available for purchase. Last week, I was just venting, “Pondering.... Why is there doctors DAY and nurses WEEK?” I knew that it was not something I could say in the hospital so I just lamented on WNG.
WHAT ARE SOME UNDERLYING THEMES/DISCUSSIONS FOR THE GROUP?
Perplexing case discussions. A safe place to vent frustrations and elicit advice. We help one another with patients and personal struggles, cheer for one another, and offer support for one another.
WHY DID YOU SELECT A CLOSED GROUP ON FACEBOOK?
We want to keep this a safe place for women neurologists to form a community. The closed group is “searchable” on FB but posts are only visible to group members. A woman neurologist interested in joining can directly request to be added and she will be prompted to answer three short questions to verify credentials by administrators. The group is open to all attending neurologist and residents.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF JOINING?
I believe strongly that community is a vital part of burnout prevention. Most women are social and being part of a safe community that understands the ups and downs of being a neurologist is amazing. We've had members comment, “my male colleague asked, ‘can't you post this on your women's neurology group?’”
In November 2018, we added two more administrators to our group as the group has grown so quickly and we have expanded our activities. Dr. Jill Farmer and Dr. Regina Troxell have joined Kathrin and I in running the group.
HOW HAS NETWORKING WITH OTHER WOMEN IN NEUROLOGY HELPED YOU?
I am developing a women's neurology program within my institution. WNG has giving me the opportunity to “virtually” meet other women across the country with similar interests. Through WNG, I met a colleague who had put together a women's neurology podcast.
WERE THERE ANY POSTS THAT HELPED YOU PROFESSIONALLY?
Recently, there was a discussion concerning using topiramate for patients with migraine headaches and strategies to continue to use the medication if it is working effectively but the patient has a history of nephrolithiasis. I have asked members for referral suggestions for several of my patients who are relocating and easily found them a new neurologists. 2019 is going to be an exciting year for WNG. Kathrin LaFaver led the effort in the summer of 2018 to offer free CME sponsored by the American Physician Institue. Jill Farmer has taken the lead to organize an Maintenance of Certification retreat weekend, “WNG Updates in Neurology” in Scottsdale, AZ, also sponsored by the American Physician Institute. The event surpassed our expectations and sold out almost immediately. Also, Regina Troxell is working on a mentorship project for the group.
ARE THERE ANY POSTS YOU REGRETTED?
No. Kathrin has taken on the role of “enforcer” and attempts to keep all posts HIPAA compliant. PMG, now 71k members strong, has developed very strict rules and we have looked to them as a model to maintain a supportive, yet uplifting community. Kathrin and I have discussed controversial posts and have taken them down on rare occasion.
ARE YOU A MEMBER OF ANY OTHER FACEBOOK GROUPS?
Yes. Physician Mom's Group (71k), Dual Physician Families, Doc Moms of Kentucky (administrator), Christian Physician Mommies, Wellness for Physician Moms, Doctor Moms of Gifted Kids, and Physician Women in Leadership.
WHAT DISTINGUISHES THE WNG FROM OTHER NETWORKING GROUPS YOU PARTICIPATE IN?
WNG members understand what it means to be a neurologist, both the good and the bad. Members have connected with one another to further a research project, find a new practice location, get expert advice to better care for patients, and to vent frustrations.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE READERS TO KNOW ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA?
Social media is a powerful tool. When social media is used carefully it can be a helpful for burnout prevention. WNG allows members to feel they are part of a larger community rather than isolated within the often frustrating politics of individual practice locations. At the national meeting in LA, several of us, including Kathrin and myself, were asked to participate in an experiential learning area presentation, “Burnout Mitigation: What's in your Toolbox.” I addressed social media and highlighted WNG in particular. I feel strongly that I have personally combatted burnout with my WNG involvement and believe that is why our group has tripled in size within the last two years!!!
—As told to Orly Avitzur, MD, MBA, FAAN @OrlyA
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