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Butcher, Lola

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000372162.55723.a5
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Past President of American Association for Cancer Research, Cancer Researcher, and Provost/EVP of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston

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M.D. Anderson at iTunes U

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“I mostly use Twitter myself. We have our Cancerwise blog here that many of us at M. D. Anderson contribute to, and I use Twitter to point people to things that are posted on the blog. We have a site on iTunes and I have done several podcasts on topics related to cancer research, cancer funding, and other things.”

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Tweeting Habits:

“Since I started to use Twitter in April 2009, I've had about 400 tweets. It is something I try to do once or twice a day, and I spend probably as much as 30 minutes a day on it. I follow about 190 people. I follow the other cancer centers. I follow Oncology Times, as well as Nature and Science. There are some advocacy organizations that I follow, along with The New York Times and other general interest sources.”

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Who's Reading Him:

“I have about 360 followers, and they are mostly people who are related in some way to cancer research or the pharmaceutical industry or patient advocates or survivors who are interested in cancer research, so I try to pick topics of interest that might be useful for people to know about.”

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Twitter Tips:

“It's probably not sensible to follow more than 150 to 200 different people at a time because you will get information overload. You have to be very selective about the people you choose to follow because that determines the information that you're going to gain or lose.”



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“We've been doing podcasts now for almost a year, and we have a few different purposes for them. When one of our faculty publishes an important paper, we have found that a podcast in which we walk through the major points of the paper and the impact that the findings may have makes it easier for people—especially the lay public—to understand the significance of the research and the next steps.

“Then, in my role as the provost and executive vice president of the M. D. Anderson system, we do a podcast each month on topics ranging from promotion and tenure to how to prepare your annual budget. This usually involves me and one or two other individuals discussing an important topic for our medical staff. We did one recently about our shared core facilities and what they offer and what they don't offer and how to best utilize them. We try to make the podcasts no more than five or 10 minutes long. We want them to give useful information that somebody can listen to when they're in the line at Starbucks waiting on a latte.”

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Who Helps:

“When we decide on an [administrative] topic for a podcast, the communications person on my staff comes up with an outline of what the dialogue should cover. For podcasts about our research publications, a member of the communications group creates a list of questions to ask the investigator. We have an audio studio that is set up for recording. The sound technician can do some editorial digital edits, but we usually leave them pretty much the way they're recorded.”

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In Summary:

“If you have a certain area that you're interested in—for me, it's cancer, basically—and focus on that segment for either blogging or for the other social media, it can be manageable and it can also be educational. I have learned some important things through Twitter that I don't think I would have picked up in other ways.

I think it's very innovative to share information that can be educational and can help you think about what you're doing in your daily work duties in a positive way. But you have to manage it properly so it doesn't become a time sink.

The technical aspects of it are pretty minor. Anybody who uses e-mail or any other form of electronic data transmission should be able to manage the social media.

Another concern that people might have is that when you release information on the Internet, everybody is reading your thoughts and it could lead to some other bad outcome. I have not experienced that. The kind of information that I focus on is in the professional research or administration arena. When you start putting stuff out there about your favorite color and personal information, that's a whole different ballgame.

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Twitter How-To

Twitter is one of the easiest forms of social media to use. Go to and click on the “Getting Started” link, or the Help” link at the bottom of the screen. The word is in tiny type, but the link is big in its usefulness.

Click on “How to Sign Up on Twitter” for a step-by-step guide to create a Twitter account. It will take less than two minutes.

Follow the instructions for creating a username and password; skip the information about finding sources that interest you and inviting others to join Twitter. That can happen later.

Return to the “Getting Started” page and click on “Posting a Twitter update or ‘tweet.’” Nobody is following you yet, so there is no pressure for your public debut. Proceed through the steps to make your first Twitter update. That will take less than 30 seconds; your first tweet will appear on your Twitter home page and on your profile page.

Return to the “Getting Started” page and click on “What is following?” As you will see, “following” means receiving updates from people or organizations of interest to you. Assuming you are interested in health topics, click on “Find People” at the top of your Twitter home page and then on “Browse Suggestions.” Scroll through the list; when you see an organization that intrigues you, click “follow.”

As soon as you start following people, many of them will start following you back. Soon, you will want to “retweet” and send “direct messages” and create “lists”—all things that have a specific meaning in the Twitter world. Some things are intuitive—when your cursor hovers over a “tweet” on your Twitter home page, the “retweet” button automatically appears—but others are not. Return to the “Getting Started” page as the first place to search for help.


© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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