Pathology pioneers are pushing the envelope and finding untapped ways to engage, connect and collaborate with the global pathology community through social media. One such platform, Twitter, has brought the pathologist out from behind the microscope into the social media spotlight. With its own well-established hashtag (#pathtwitter), the pathology community and their microscopes have taken Twitter by storm, sharing knowledge and expertise through annotated images, interesting cases and diagnosis discoveries all packaged into tidy 280-character tweets.
In this three-part social media series, we’ll cover popular Twitter trends which serve as avenues of global connection between pathologists of all specialties. This strong sense of community is due to live-tweeting at conferences, Twitter Chats led by journals and associations, and an international, multi-institutional study conducted entirely over Twitter. In part three we’ll answer an intriguing question: what if Twitter collaboration could be even more effective? But first, sit back, relax and let us take you on a journey through the pathology Twitter-sphere where collaboration, community and connection are just one tweet away.
The popularity of live-tweeting among pathologists can be pinpointed to 2015 when the first official United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP) annual meeting live-tweet group took place.1 Dr. Jerad Gardner (@JMGardnerMD) tweeted a “call to action” among regular pathologist users of Twitter asking for volunteers who were interested in live-tweeting the upcoming USCAP 2015 annual meeting. This invitation was greeted with enthusiastic approval, and a group of Twitter users was formed. The 24-member live-tweet group, which the group dubbed #InSituPathologists, was composed of 11 academic pathologists, 3 private practice pathologists, 8 pathology trainees, 1 senior medical student pursuing pathology residency, and 1 breast cancer survivor and patient advocate. Add to that, 10 different pathology subspecialties were represented including bone and soft tissue, head and neck, hematopathology and genitourinary. USCAP attendees were encouraged to follow live-tweets using the conference specific #USCAP2015 hashtag as well as tweet their own experiences during the conference. This sparked an instant sense of community and camaraderie even though participants were at a large conference with pathologists from different backgrounds and varying levels of expertise.
The results were phenomenal. The 6,524 #USCAP2015 tweets created 5,869,323 unique impressions (the number of times tweets were delivered to the Twitter streams of other users) over a 13-day time span encompassing the dates of the annual meeting and a total of 662 individual Twitter users posted tweets using the conference hashtag. The dissemination of #USCAP2015-tagged tweets continued past the conference with an additional 566,246 unique impressions and 909 tweets using the #USCAP2015 hashtag occurring in the days immediately after the meeting ended.2 This wasn’t a great idea that slowly fizzled out; this was a revolution in how conferences are experienced before, during and after the event. It’s fair to say USCAP 2015 began before day one of the conference. With Dr. Gardner’s one tweet preceding the conference, he helped to organize an army of communicators who inspired thousands of tweets resulting in millions of impressions. That’s the power of Twitter. That’s the power of one tweet.
Fast forward to 2016. In preparation for the 2016 USCAP annual meeting, it quickly became apparent that there was an enormous increase in interest in Twitter among pathologists attending. As it did in 2015, USCAP 2016 began before day one of the conference, with buzzing pathologists excited and ready to tweet, connecting with one another well before the conference even began. Somewhere in the range of 200–300 pathologists on Twitter indicated a willingness to live-tweet the #USCAP2016 meeting. During the time period of the 2016 meeting, there were nearly 19,000 tweets, made by over 1,200 different users, which had the potential to be viewed over 28.5 million times.3 Yes, we said 28.5 million. Talk about reach!
So what resonated with people? It certainly helped that the 2015 #InSituPathologists cohort was composed of social media superstars like Dr. Gardner, Dr. Timothy Craig Allen (@TimAllenMDJD) and Dr. Sara Jiang (@Sara_Jiang) -- to name a few. With over 40,000 Twitter followers between just these three pathologists, their influence alone generated interest in content. Also, the content was as unique as its readers. Because of the diversity of the #InSituPathologists groups, including senior academic pathologists, younger subspecialty practicing pathologists, trainees, and patient care advocates, a broader variety of opinions and topics of discussion were generated in the USCAP tweets, thus appealing to a potentially wider audience. Live-tweeting increased the learning opportunities for pathologists at the conference by allowing them to “attend” concurrent lectures they would have otherwise missed by following the live-tweets. A great advantage to live-tweeting is the learning opportunity offered to the many international pathologists and pathology trainees who do not have the opportunity to directly attend USCAP. Through Twitter, these participants can continue to enhance their own professional knowledge in a way that may not have been possible otherwise. In addition, the use of the conference- and diagnosis-specific hashtags allowed informative, timely and pertinent information from USCAP to reach clinical colleagues in other specialties.4
It’s now commonplace for pathology conferences to have their own hashtags for participants to share photos taken with their colleagues (some of whom they’ve never met before except for Twitter exchanges), images of particularly interesting cases and key takeaways from sessions. The Digital Pathology Association’s (@dpatweet) annual Pathology Visions Conference has its hashtag #PathVisions20 ready to go. We can’t wait to hear about the live-tweeting success that is sure to come. We’ll be right there tweeting alongside you!
In part two of our Twitter tour, we’ll talk about journals and associations utilizing Twitter chats to engage pathologists. We’ll also cover the most novel use of Twitter yet, #EBUSTwitter, the multi-international, multi-institutional study conducted entirely over Twitter.
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1-3 Cohen D, Allen TC, Balci S, Cagle PT, Teruya-Feldstein J, Fine SW, et al. #InSituPathologists: how the #USCAP2015 meeting went viral on twitter and founded the social media movement for the United States and Canadian academy of pathology. Mod Pathol. 2017;30(2):160–168.
4 Katz MS, Utengen A, Anderson PF et al. Disease-specific hashtags for online communication about cancer care. JAMA Oncol 2016;2:392–394.