Cardiologists educating cardiologists: The power of social media

Joe Hannan | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz | March 10, 2022

On a quiet Thursday morning at the end of the 2017 Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics conference, a single hashtag, #ORBITA, turned a sparsely attended late-breaking clinical trial session into the talk of wired cardiologists the world over. One cardiologist, publishing in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, called it the birth of “cardiology’s Fifth Estate” and the beginning of #CardioTwitter.

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In the ensuing 5 years, physicians of every specialty have taken to social media platforms new and established to educate the public and their peers. Among cardiologists, there’s an eager cohort that has made peer education via social media an integral part of their mission.

Jay Mohan, DO

Mohan (cardiology on call) boasts more than 77,000 followers. Peruse the Instagram account of this five-board-certified cardiologist and you’ll find posts that range from delightful to insightful. This fascinating video documented a myocardial infarction with ventricular free-wall rupture in progress. And this clip showed the self-expanding TAVR balloon-expandable valve in action. 

His posts also often serve as engaging tours through medical history. In this video, Mohan paid homage to Charles Hufnagel’s first implanted caged ball valve in the descending thoracic aorta. Venturing into a medical exploration of the arts, Mohan posted this story series on whether digoxin affected Vincent Van Gogh.

Hafiza Khan, MD

Khan (heart.beat.doctor) has racked up more than 56,000 Instagram followers for great reasons. First, there’s her background: UCLA and Harvard-trained cardiologist/cardiac electrophysiologist. Next, there’s the production value of her account. Check out this post on diet and lifestyle for cardiac health. Clearly, Khan knows her way around a camera and video editing software.

Finally—and most importantly—there’s her message. Khan is not afraid of tackling tough topics, or from getting personal. An advocate for women in medicine, she’s discussed the paucity of women in cardiology, burnout, ageism in medicine, and her own struggles with weight loss and cardiac health. Khan strikes the elusive, perfect social-media balance of slick videos, realism, and useful insights for patients and providers alike.

Christian Tesche, MD

Tesche (cardio_doctor) is an interventional cardiologist and an interesting Instagrammer. Any med student or resident weighing a cardiology speciality should check out his cath lab story documenting cardiac catheterization from start to finish. His education story also offers a comprehensive explanation of aortic valve stenosis. 

Cardiologists who enjoy intellectually stimulating case studies will want to explore Tesche’s account. This post explored the pathology of the rare Ortner syndrome. And this video highlighted, in minute detail, the representation of pericardial calcification. 

Rosy Thachil, MD

To sum up Thachil’s instagram account (rosythachmilmd) in a word: balance. It’s a message well-received by her more than 12,000 followers. Scan Tachil’s posts, and you realize that she has Khan’s flair for visuals, and she, too, understands that educating fellow cardiologists encompasses clinical as well as work-life balance wisdom.

For the juggling act that is the medical career, Tachil shared what has helped her in this post: Focusing on one thing at a time, learning to say “no,” delegating and asking for help, and carving out “me” time. Tachil also writes. This comprehensive post on how doctors can cultivate resilience is a standout example of the efforts she takes to help her peers.

Ali Haider, MD

Haider (yourheartdoc) is an interventional cardiologist with the attention of more than 130,000 Instagram followers. Also, he happens to hang out occasionally with Mohan. Mohan’s Instagram profile is a tremendous resource for patients as well as up-and-coming providers. Take this explainer post, for example, in which Haider breaks down a 2021 JAMA Network Open study, which found that 7,000 steps seems to be the magic number, in terms of association with lower risk of mortality. Anything more than 7,000 doesn’t appear to have an association.

Haider is a cardiologist who doesn’t just talk the talk of cardiac practice and research, but who walks the walk of healthy living. Check out his recipe stories for some heart-healthy meals. And, for those in the cardiac know who are in need of a laugh, Haider’s got memes upon memes

Getting social

If these thought-leaders have piqued your interest, a 2019 primer on social media use for cardiologists, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, offers some useful guidance. While visually oriented platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, are the current stars of the social media show, the platform with the lowest barrier to entry is Twitter. All a cardiologist needs to participate in the discourse is an internet connection and the ability to write.

Cardiologists looking to share their expertise may want to start with the free, open-access medical education tweetorials. You can find examples by searching the hashtag #FOAMEd. For academic cardiologists, note well: Your employing institutions may consider social media use when deciding on promotions and academic appointments.

Social media can be very potent when deployed around conferences and new studies, according to the JACC primer. Cardiologists can use Twitter to discuss conference proceedings, focusing on relevant hashtags. The visually inclined can use visual platforms, such as Instagram, to share abstracts and commentary, just like Haider did in this post.

If you’re new to social media, proceed with caution, the authors of the primer wrote. Remember that everything you post must be HIPAA compliant. Also, while professionalism is paramount, participation on social media is important for cardiologists: 

“It is important that CV professionals direct the content of the community, rather than allow this to be driven by others.”

Sources

Paluch AE, Gabriel KP, Fulton JE, et al. Steps per day and all-cause mortality in middle-aged adults in the coronary artery risk development in young adults study. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(9):e2124516.

Parwani P, Choi AD, Lopez-Mattei J, et al. Understanding social media. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2019;73(9):1089-1093.

Yeh RW. Academic cardiology and social media. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2018;11(4):e004736.

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