Fellows-in-Training: Is Facebook the New Textbook?

As 2013 arrives, I resort to my usual January behavior of reflecting upon the year gone by and looking ahead to make some New Year's resolutions—things that I hope to change or incorporate into my life. Usually by March, I have broken all these and reverted back to my usual bad habits. Strangely enough, this past year was different!

In January 2012, I had resolved to read more in order to increase my knowledge base and stay current with the newest literature. Looking back now, I am surprised to see that, despite starting my first year of cardiology fellowship (perhaps the most demanding year of my life), I actually did read more and was able to stay on top of the latest happenings in the world of cardiology. I had to wonder how I managed to pull this off, especially since I failed to consistently keep all my other resolutions!

What Went Right?
As any scientist who is surprised by the findings of a study would do, I started by analyzing the methodology of the experiment. What were the variables of the experiment that may have been different? I realized that, due to my busy schedule, I had become much more dependent on information coming to me rather than me seeking it out. In the past, I would sit down on a Saturday morning and read through a magazine or journal or spend a few hours browsing the headlines on my computer while I sipped my latte. Now, time was tight and in order to stay afloat, I adopted a more egocentric learning style. If something was important, I expected someone to tell me rather than discovering it on my own (kind of like never giving nodal agents to someone in rapid AF with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome!).

This is where I discovered that Facebook had, in a way, evolved into my new textbook. Not only was it a way for me to keep updated on what my friends were up to, but I also realized that I started depending on it to keep updated in the scientific community. The JACC Journals Facebook page, which I had "liked" when I first saw the posts about interesting JACC articles and editorials from the ACC in my news feed, thus became a cornerstone of my ongoing education in contemporary cardiology, from imaging to cardiovascular interventions to tips on how to revise a manuscript from Editor-in-Chief Anthony DeMaria, MD. And, if something tickled my fancy, I could just click on the link and have it pop up right there on my iPhone. I once did this on rounds while we were discussing how to manage a complex patient and really blew the socks off my attending! I cited something from an online-ahead-of-print article from JACC, pulled up the PDF right there, and emailed it to my team.

After this incident, and after realizing that I was expanding my knowledge base without going out of my way to read through journals, I found myself scanning Facebook regularly for posts from JACC Journals (usually while waiting for the world's slowest elevators, which are at the UCSF Moffitt hospital). The content on the page is incredible: links to online publications ahead of print; tidbits of information on academic manuscript preparation; "Heart Minutes," which are video clips summarizing major articles; interviews with authors on their studies; behind-the-scene posts on interesting happenings at the College; free notable review articles; and much, much more.

A Little Help from My Friends
Importantly, it's a lot of fun to transform an isolating activity like reading an article alone at home on a Saturday morning into an interactive online discussion with not only your friends from other programs, but with cardiologists all over the world. The JACC Journals page has an international presence on Facebook, with thousands of members from countries all over the world, including Asia and Europe. It's great to see the comments others leave on a post or see if someone you know "likes" something that you like.

I have encouraged all my friends to "like" the JACC Journals page and to visit it regularly for posts. It's an easy way to allow social media, which most of us access every day, to seamlessly integrate important academic information into our hectic lives. After all, science shows that learning occurs best when there is emotion attached to the facts we learn. Therefore, by learning through social media like Facebook, we are probably much more likely to remember what we read. Thanks to my "friend," JACC Journals, I don't have to make (or break) the resolution to read more again this year.

Payal Kohli, MD, graduated from MIT and received her MD from Harvard Medical School. She completed her internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and was a research fellow at the TIMI Study Group. Dr. Kohli is now a clinical fellow at the University of California, San Francisco.

Keywords: Social Media, Knowledge Bases, Cardiology, Reading, Habits

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