NEOMED alumnus Mike Sevilla, M.D. ('98), uses social media every day in his practice as a family and primary care physician at the Family Practice Center of Salem (Ohio) and Salem Regional Medical Center. A practicing physician for 15 years, Dr. Sevilla has become a social media enthusiast, known for his TedX-Youngstown talk, “Change the World with Social Media,” and for his former blog, “Doctor Anonymous.”
Dr. Sevilla talked with us about how he uses social media to combat misinformation given to the public and his patients; to recruit patients; and to advocate for change. He also offered best-practice suggestions for how future physicians can use this powerful tool. While his suggestions were directed at medicine students, many apply as well to pharmacy or graduate students in the health sciences.
Q: In one of your videos, you talk about taking control of your social media footprint. How can medical students manage their social media presence before they even become physicians?
A: The first thing I tell students is to do a Google search of themselves. If something negative appears, it could be detrimental. I tell students who are interested in developing a professional social media presence to create a LinkedIn account. They can put their professional information, such as their resume and a photo, on the site so that profile pops up when a search is done.
Q: You have recommended that students create a LinkedIn account for professional use. If students have a Facebook or Twitter account, how do you recommend they make the change to using their profiles for professional use?
A: They wouldn’t have to change their accounts, but they would need to add another social media platform to what they are doing. To include Facebook or Twitter, I would recommend students leave links to articles on their FB/ Twitter page that can link to their LinkedIn page or comment on articles posted. This will let people know your medical interests, such as pediatrics or health. That way, Facebook can be used for more personal posts and LinkedIn can be used for a more professional platform.
Q: Match Day, when students find out where they have been accepted to do their residencies, is a big day for fourth-years. How can students celebrate Match Day on social media in a professional way?
A: If students would like to share their Match Day experience on Instagram or Twitter, I would have them plan ahead in thinking about what types of photos and images they want to share. For example, do they want to share photos of them arriving at this school, in the auditorium where Match Day takes place, or at the Match Day after-party? Another thing to think about before Match Day would be what the hashtags are going to be used for the event, like #MatchDay2017. I have seen students tag residency programs if they have social media accounts. The students do a great job of showing excitement.
Q: You have said you like to use social media to combat misinformation. How?
A: I post the most accurate articles and try to take the hype out of controversial issues such as vaccines and autism. It is important to point out the inaccuracies and then spread the correct information. Students can do this on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and other platforms. I also encourage students to find websites that have accurate information and direct patients to those sites. For example, I direct patients and the community to sites like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.Gov) when I have questions about immunizations and about disease outbreaks like Zika virus. I also recommend sites like WebMD, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.
Q: How do you use social media to advocate for a change in perceptions of primary care doctors?
A: That’s a great question. I want to try to convey to medical students that there are a lot of misperceptions out there when it comes to primary care. When students rotate through my clinic, I try to address them. For instance, some students believe that primary care doctors only treat the simplest problems, like the common cold. So I try to let people know the breadth and depth of family medicine and primary care practices. Despite the negativity often found in social media, my colleagues and I want to change perceptions by sending this message: We are a group of family medicine practitioners who love our patients and love primary care, and we want to tell everyone about it—whether it is our community or medical students.
Q: Do you have any final tips for medical students who may start using their social media more when they become practicing physicians?
A: I tell residents that social media can help them gain patients. Social media can be a positive way to let people know that you are starting your practice, coming back to your hometown or enjoying work in your specialty. The traditional methods of communicating through newspapers, radio, and television are not used anymore. Social media is a great way for people to know where you are and when you begin your practice.
Follow Dr. Sevilla on Twitter, @DrMikeSevilla.