Thea James, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at BU School of...
Medical Schools Using Social Media for Faculty Development
Physicians and scientists at academic medical centers face many competing demands for their time. Efforts to help them improve their teaching or scholarship traditionally have taken place in face-to-face lunchtime workshops. As clinical volume and the difficulty of obtaining external funding increases, faculty members have less opportunities to devote to their own professional development.
Researchers from BUSM and BUSPH surveyed the websites of all 154 accredited medical schools in the U.S. and Canada to locate examples where medical schools have used social media to engage with faculty in a virtual environment. Their findings were recently reported in Medical Education Online.
The researchers found 22 medical schools (14.3 percent) employed at least one social media technology tool in support of faculty development. In total, 40 instances of social media tools were identified — the most popular platforms being Facebook (nine institutions), Twitter (eight institutions) and blogs (eight institutions). Four medical schools have developed integrated strategies to engage faculty in online communities. “Our results show that only a few medical schools, including BUSM, are experimenting with online tools to boost faculty productivity and effectiveness,” said senior author Christopher Shanahan, MD, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM.
According to the researchers, although relatively few medical schools have embraced social media to promote faculty development, the present range of such uses demonstrates the flexibility and affordability of the tools. “The most popular tools incorporate well into faculty members’ existing use of technology and require minimal additional effort,” added Shanahan. The researchers believe more research into the benefits of engaging faculty through social media may help overcome hesitation to invest in new technologies.