Dear Medical Students Not on Twitter




Welcome to what is, hopefully, the first of many posts.


I was graciously invited to contribute to SheMD by Her founding females, Dr. Melissa Parsons and Dr. Lexie Mannix. I’ve never met either in person. Both are Emergency Medicine physicians thousands of miles away, but distance has never mattered very much to me.


I’m what admissions committees classify as a “non-traditional” applicant. I completed my baccalaureate degree several years ago and am now applying to medical school. My first job out of college was in a Community Health research lab. We were paid eleven dollars an hour and expected to work 28 hours per week without benefits. I waited tables at the bar down the street from our building until I gained enough experience to apply to a Research Coordinator position with health insurance. Two years have passed since then, and I am now the Lead Research Coordinator in a Pediatric Division of Critical Care.


I’m a bit shy of twenty five and a half years of age right now. I was a tween when Myspace launched; my best friend and I taught each other HTML so we could reconfigure our profiles and embed images and music in the background. Facebook was rolled out while I was in middle school, but really hit its stride as I entered high school, and I created my first Twitter account my second week of university. You could say that social media raised me.


My generation is the next generation of physicians, nurses, PAs, and pharmacists. We were raised in a world where society expected us to document our entire existence online. We share our failures and successes with the world. We taught ourselves to navigate complex software systems and operationalize them to our advantage. Our problem-solving prowess is the progeny of our years of outsmarting the newest and latest technology until something more complex came along. I went from playing Rush Hour with plastic cars at age six to coding websites at age sixteen.


It is likely because of all of this, and my nontraditional trajectory, that I am often the youngest staff member in most medical spaces, which means I am the official/unofficial Youth Consultant of the office. When it was revealed (by me) in a staff meeting that many research labs and academic conferences were utilizing Twitter to disseminate their findings and pertinent information, it became my responsibility to garner an Internet presence. As a reasonably confident, caffeinated young woman, I felt up to this challenge and immediately created an account for our lab.


I do not remember exactly what I expected to find on medical Twitter (#medtwitter), but whatever I was expecting was certainly surpassed by what I found. I quickly scrapped my personal Twitter account, which was mostly Star Wars and Northwestern Football but with the odd PG-13 word that I wouldn’t want admission committees to see, and was reborn as @traependergrast: pre-medical student, scientist, advocate, cat mom, and Star Wars nerd.


As a research coordinator, my experiences were restricted to very specific realms of medicine (just obstetrics, just epidemiology, just pediatrics). I was itching for more, and #medtwitter definitely did not disappoint. I learned about gender bias from Dr. Esther Choo (@choo_ek), the illusions of pseudoscience from Dr. Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter), the magic of nursing from Mitochondrial Eve (@BrowofJustice), the best of medical education from Dr. Seth Treuger (@MDaware), and the beauty of prehospital medicine from Dr. Minh Le Cong (@ketaminh).


It’s my opinion that people underestimate the power of medical Twitter. For generations, the only contact pre-medical students had with medicine was the fiction of television dramas or the odd shadowing experience. I can log onto my computer at any time of the day and read about personal accounts of wellness, burnout, residency, applications, interviews, service, weekends on call, loss, grief, and trauma. We’re demystifing what it means to be a part of the medical community because we are living it and documenting it for the world to see. Welcome to the future of the adjunct to medical training, where doctors and nurses are no longer dispassionate enigmas; we’re humans with online lives, dog pictures, and grief that we need to process.


I will talk more about my experience and empowerment via #medtwitter in subsequent posts and would like to close by, again, welcoming you along this journey with me. I’ll be documenting life as a #WomaninMedicine from the start (medical school interviews begin in September for me) to what is hopefully a long and illustrious career; and I will be doing it online to share with the world.

Welcome to my medical career.


Sincerely,

Tricia Rae Pendergrast

Prospective Medical Student, Principal Investigator, Muffin Connoisseur, and Feminist

@traependergrast


***Congratulations to Tricia for her acceptance into medical school. Can't wait to see the amazing things she accomplishes (and hear about them on twitter).

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