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Profiles in Oncology Social Media: Richard Just, MD, @chemosabe1

Butcher, Lola

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000410904.86896.62
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Twitter Bio:

“A 36-year practitioner & advocate of community hematology and oncology. Now sharing thoughts, and musings about life, health, sickness and what matters.”

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“This Week In Oncology ( is a broadcast series on Wednesdays at 1 pm PST/4 pm EST. Board Certified in both Hematology/Oncology and Internal Medicine, Richard Just, MD,aka @chemosabe1 on Twitter, and Gregg Masters, MPH, aka @2healthguru, co-host the weekly broadcasts. The show focuses on health, wellness, social media, patient empowerment, health reform, clinical trials, and the hope and promise of evidence-based medicine in the treatment of cancer.”

Richard Just, MD, a partner in San Diego Pacific Oncology and Hematology Associates, was preparing to start an online radio program last winter when urgent heart surgery waylaid his plans.

Although the incident delayed his interviews, blog posts, and Twitter messages, it increased Dr. Just's interest in social media. His wife used CaringBridge ( to keep family and friends informed during his surgery and first postoperative days. During his recovery, she posted photographs to document his progress—and soon Dr. Just took over writing the updates.

“I loved it,” he said. “The nice thing about it was the two-way communication from colleagues, friends, and family from all over the country.”

In June, he launched “This Week in Oncology,” an Internet radio show that has featured partners and office managers in his practice as well as other physicians, patient advocates, and policy analysts.

In addition to his own blog, he also blogs occasionally for, the country's most widely read physician blog.

This interview with Dr. Just has been edited and condensed.

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How did you get started in social media?

At the ASCO Annual Meeting one year, I attended a roundtable discussion to talk about social media and how we might utilize the technology in practice. And what I learned from that initial exposure was that most oncologists—and, indeed, probably most physicians—avoid using Twitter and other social media because of the time commitment. It can be addicting.

A friend of mine, Gregg Masters, agreed to educate me and to set me up on TweetDeck so I can follow whoever is pertinent to my interests, avoiding a constant stream of tweets and creating some order out of chaos.



Gregg and I formed a partnership in which he handles technical and business aspects and I take care of the clinical component. This arrangement has worked out beautifully, allowing me time to practice oncology as well as devote adequate time to this new venture.

#7 in a Continuing Series

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You make it look easy to be a radio host. How does “This Week in Oncology” get put together?

Currently, we're using Blog Talk Radio (, which is free. The program is limited to half an hour, but we're finding that is not adequate. We are probably going to have to expand to an hour in the very near future.

Gregg is at his office in Carlsbad, I'm at my home in Escondido, and we are connected by Skype. The interviewees can either phone in, which they have all done, or they could connect by Skype as well. So far we have not been adding the visual element, but that will be next after we get more experience with the audio.

We are trying to get topics that might interest a number of people and trying to translate what's going on in oncology for patients and their families. I am sort of a “doctor navigator,” if you will, through the mass of information that is out there.

I know that I'm being successful to some extent in that one of our clinical research coordinators stopped me last week and said how much he really enjoyed the blog and podcasts. He said that he appreciated the fact that I'm not talking just to doctors, but to everybody.

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How much time do you devote to social media?

I am working part-time, which is supposed to be three half days a week. I usually spend every Monday and some of Sunday writing blogs. The rest of the time I'm in and out of Twitter, via my iPhone or iPad, looking at various tweets and communications. So, I would say it's probably at least two full days.

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Where do you think social media has the most potential to advance cancer treatment?

Social media is really going to be big in the area of research. An example recently published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2011;86:845-850) chronicled a woman's story with a rare condition called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection—SCAD—who went online searching for people with the same condition. She started a website and a second woman in another part of the country with the same condition found her.

The two hooked up and realized that there is no information about how prevalent the condition is, there is no standard treatment, and there's no research being conducted. Subsequently, they found a researcher at the Mayo Clinic who was interested in compiling a database of potential subjects that could be studied to try to answer all of these questions.

So here is an avenue of obtaining information from patient websites to advance research. It is now mainly thought of for rare tumors or conditions. But there is no reason why various aspects of breast cancer— like the subset of patients with dense breasts on mammography—couldn't be studied from a database that is assembled from patients who have a vested interest in their own health and are more than willing to become subjects of clinical trials.

In my roles as chairman of my local hospitals' investigational review committee for 23 years and medical director of our research institute, I find this avenue to enhance patient accrual to clinical trials very exciting.

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Do you see a role for social media in clinical practice?

We have some projects that we're coming up with. One is @TumorBoard, a virtual vs. typical hospital-based experience. This would fulfill a need that I have seen over the years. You are sitting in the office, seeing a very complicated, unusual case, and it would be nice to be able to connect with some expert in real time and get an opinion that you can work with within 24-36 hours at most.

We have obtained several domain names and are actively exploring sponsors and infrastructure partners to allow for educational review of cases in real time.

This is all just in the process of being formulated, but we hope to have a global distribution of physicians who would be categorized as experts for various tumors and we could refer cases to them.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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