Sharing a podium with Jessica Gottlieb

Sharing a podium with Jessica Gottlieb

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Jessica Gottlieb & Irwin LimBy Dr Irwin Lim, Rheumatologist

On Monday, I was given the chance to share the stage with Jessica Gottlieb ( . Jessica's a noted "mommy blogger", residing in LA.

She flew in to Perth to speak at our Australian Rheumatology Association, at a symposium on Social Media. It's a first for our association and I was quite surprised that the room was filled with over 150 rheumatology health professionals.

I'm sure some in the room have never read a blog. I'm certain many didn't really know what a tweet involved. But they still came.

Jessica has rheumatoid arthritis. Her brief was to explain how and where online a patient given that diagnosis would try to get more information and support.

By all accounts, her rheumatologist is excellent, and she's happy with the relationship. And I'm sure that's true for many patients. But, it remains common for people/patients to supplement this relationship with search on-line. To ask Dr Google, to ask their followers or facebook friends and any variety of online communities/forums. Sometimes the advice isn't that good.

Jessica made all this clear.

What impressed me most about Jessica?

She has a very large online audience and this gives her a powerful reach. What she tweets/posts/writes influences. How she uses this clout matters.

She blogs about many different aspects of her life, including living with a chronic illness. She's used her influence to provide support. She reports what she feels and what she experiences, warts and all. Sometimes she vents, sometimes she just gets on with life.

She's actually resisted providing online medical advice. She instead tells people it's crucial to find a good rheumatologist to work with. That doesn't stop her sharing her experience & her compassion when her readers reach out.

I like that. I know I'm biased as a rheumatologist but it's an approach that's gentle and supportive, and helpful to the rheumatology community.

My talk followed and my brief was to explain to the gathered why rheumatologists should consider joining the online conversation.

I talked about what actually made me start blogging (my 1st post) after being someone who shunned social media.

I discussed the fears that I had because I thought many in the room would have similar fears (bravery is a prerequisite).

By using this platform, by engaging with a community that wants more physicians online, by helping moderate and providing balance to some of the what is written/tweeted/posted online, I told the audience that I believed I'd become a better, more effective doctor.

Our symposium was (to my relief) well received. I know some have been convinced to take their 1st steps and I know a few will be reading this.

I'm already aware of a few changes:

  • Sadly, @samwhittle (follow him here) changed his buffed twitter profile photo after being highlighted in my talk, much to the dismay of his female followers.
  • Some rheumatologists decided to google themselves to see what web profile they may or may not have.
  • 7 attendees joined twitter and followed me! More to come hopefully.
  • Another told me she was going to start a blog to help her medical students.

It's a good start.

Thanks to Abbvie, the pharmaceutical company, that conceived this symposium.

Thanks to Jessica for helping the Aussie rheumatology community tiptoe into this space.

Won't it be nice to see patients and more rheumatologists online, helping each other and working towards common goals?

Dr Irwin Lim is a rheumatologist and a director of BJC Health. You should follow him on twitter here.
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