Six Reasons Why (I) Doctors Blog…

Patients frequently ask where they can find on-line information about their health. Despite its vastness, or maybe because of it, the Internet frequently confuses patients. They search for the real story, but often find generic, carefully edited textbook speak. Questions remain: What do those on the inside say?

In helping patients navigate this e-morass, I have a conflict. For it is true: I contribute to the vastness.

I am a doctor blogger.

Alas.

A blog? Really? I thought doctors were serious? And blogs were where moms vent, politicos rant and athletes drone on about nothing in particular. Or worse, aren’t health blogs just e-platforms where modern-day charlatans peddle elixirs of youth?

Why would I read a doctor’s blog? Could a doctor I don’t know help me? And for that matter, why do you, Dr. John Mandrola, write a blog?

Ah. It’s a tough question. In fact, for the past two years I have mostly ignored the question. I just write, and don’t know why exactly.

But enough already, I had to have an answer as to why I wedded myself to this blog. It was time to take action. I needed a plan.

First, I asked other doctor-bloggers to let me in on their motivation. (It turns out that they are an agreeable and extroverted lot.) Second, I forced myself to finish one Power Point slide. I entitled it, Medial Blogging…For me.

Boom. Done. Answer acquired.

Here are the top six reasons why I and other doctors choose to author medical blogs:

The Practice of Medicine inspires

Doctors feel compelled to write because they are passionate about what they do. For most doctors, Medicine plays out like a roller coaster—ups, downs and plenty of whooshes. It’s rarely dull. Those who write love doctoring; we want it to be better, we need to tell the stories; we hope that doing so might help others. It matters. Helping others is our creed.

I write about Medicine because it so often brings out my ‘gee-whiz’ self. It’s like a beautiful race that begs for a race report.

To educate

The motivation to educate creates a win-win for all involved. For in teaching both the student (reader) and the teacher (doctor) learn. Sure, a discerning Internet reader has to verify, weigh and consider an author’s motive when reading a blog. But I ask you: when aren’t these judgments necessary when reading?

Remember how much you retained about a topic after giving a presentation? That’s what a blog does. It is astounding how much I have learned in the quest to talk smartly about medical science. Without doubt, this blog has made me a more informed doctor. (That being super-informed sometimes makes it harder to be sure of recommendations is matter for another post.)

To better mankind

Gooey, I know. But it’s true. As a whole, doctors are insanely competitive. Many of us measure our self-worth in how much we help people. In writing and publishing we aim to help in the plural. Really, we think this way.

For instance, I like to write about the paradox of being a heart doctor: Here we are every day using skills and technology to save people from a disease that could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes. As a cyclist, I have learned that success depends on making these healthy choices. How can I not shout about this? Might my words inspire people to help themselves? And if so, imagine the nobleness of that.

To give a look behind the curtain

One of the most famous medical bloggers, Dr. Kevin Pho, a primary care doctor and author of Kevin MD spoke of his aim to pull the curtain back…”By shining a light on physicians’ frustrations that the mainstream media may ignore, perhaps we can get one step closer to resolving these issues.”

Writing forthrightly about the unintended consequences of well-meaning policies seems…well…pretty important.

To archive useful information

In the old-days, doctors often penned (literally) notebooks. These exhaustive notes rarely helped anyone other than the author. My epic notes from training collect dust in a basement. Social media has transformed and expanded the usefulness of our notes.

Dr. Ves Dimov, a University of Chicago allergist likens his Casesblog to a digital notebook. He hopes his e-notes educate both doctor and patient. Dr. Mike Cadogan, author of Life in the Fast Lane says his blog allows a way to archive his thoughts.

Reading the thoughts and notebooks of real doctors seems pretty useful to me. I would have loved to read the blog of a shoulder surgeon when researching my surgery. The confusion surrounding complicated diseases (cancer and atrial fib, for example) lends itself well to candid words from those in the know.

To display our humanness

My friend, Wes Fisher uses his blog, Dr Wes, as therapy. Thus far, and hopefully far into the future, computers have not replaced humans as the best caregivers. But humans come with flaws. Though doctors seek perfection, we tire, become frustrated, make mistakes, and harbor regrets. We are you. We are human. We like therapeutic stuff too.

The intensely human experience of doctoring inspires me to write. I want to tell you about all the cool stuff. I want to tell you about the human heart. Not just the one that pumps; the one that feels, and loves and grieves.

There you have it: six answers to the why-do-I-blog question. Finally. It’s done. Now I know.

So go ahead. Take a look at a doctor blog. Try adding the word ‘blog’ to your next Google search. You might discover a treasure of helpful words.

Or in my case, a typo.

Grin.

JMM

P.S. I left out narcissism. Doctors aren’t self-absorbed. Double grin!

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for the wonderful post and sharing insights, John.

    Blogging “To better mankind” is beyond reach for me, I think. However, I hope that my blogs helped “To educate” at least some of the readers who flipped through more than 8 million pages since 2005…

    Doctors are highly-qualified experts who limit their impact only to patients they see – if they don’t publish, give lectures – and blog. In most cases, benefits far outweigh the risk and doctors should be encouraged to at least give it a try.

    I tried to describe a practical and time-efficient approach here:

    Social media in medicine: How to be a Twitter superstar and help your patients and your practice

    http://casesblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/social-media-in-medicine-how-to-be.html

    Blogging also keeps you grounded and humble. Critical comments prompt you to back your clinical opinion, expressed in a blog post, with solid scientific references and that’s a good thing.

    P.S. Just one small correction. I worked at Cleveland Clinic until 2008, and now I’m on staff at the University of Chicago where I am an Allergist/Immunologist and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine.

  2. Betsy says

    To John M and also To All Blogging Doctors…

    Thank you for taking the time out of your crazy busy lives to discuss, educate, inform (not necessarily the same as educate), and give us a peek behind that curtain hiding the Wizard (I won’t make a humorous Dr. Oz comment here…I’ll let you do that).

    Your human-ness is refreshing. I don’t see it often, but when I do, It stays with me for a long time.

    A number of years ago, I worked in the lab (situated near the emergency room) of a small hospital. On a particular day, a very bad MVA came in. A 16 year old girl lay on her deathbed. They called her mother (who worked as a ward clerk there) to come to the ER stat. We could here her screaming from the ER through the heavy closed doors of the lab. Later, the ER doctor came to the lab to acknowledge that we, too, were affected by this tragedy and that he and others would be there for us if we wanted to talk.

    I never forgot his human-ness in the face of that devastating trauma.

  3. says

    You beat me to it John. I was about to write this one! I sometimes that this world of almost infinite choice leads to more anxiety than calm – many of my patients and even I am overwhelmed with the roar of information. We (medical bloggers) try and filter, interpret, digest and communicate it for our patients and make it relevant. The act of doing so makes us think more deeply about what we really believe and allows us (me anyway) to be more articulate than we are in the real world. It also allows us to have some fun that we can’t always have at the coalface of medical care. Starting a blog has been the most rewarding thing I have done professionally in years. Thanks for your insights.

  4. says

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