From Twitter Friends to a Global Network of Early Career WIC
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit last year, we all gradually learned to embrace the new normal of virtual meetings, Zoom interviews and webinars. As we adapted to this phenomenal shift to everything virtual, social media and particularly Twitter, emerged as a versatile platform for networking, discussion and camaraderie between colleagues.
In fact, published data show that the women in cardiology (WIC) Twitter network has grown substantially over the last few years, with discussions being primarily driven by female physicians, among whom are trainees and early careers. These discussions have spanned a wide range of topics including professional development, mentorship, less than full-time training, radiation safety, challenges in pregnancy, parenting and childcare.
Indeed, many of these challenges are particularly unique to trainees, fellows and early career WIC, and it was in the midst of one such discussion on Twitter in May 2020 that we connected as young women in cardiology. We were all in training – at almost similar stages of our careers and shared the same passion for cardiology, advocacy for WIC and pursuing solutions to our challenges. Needless to say, there was an immediate connection. Coming from six different continents from across the globe, these Twitter chats led to a WhatsApp group followed by a Zoom meeting, where we conversed with ease like old friends, and the network of Global WIC Early Careers (@global_wic) was born.
As trainees and early career WIC ourselves, we feel we are best positioned to not only identify the precise challenges we encounter, but also to reach out to our international peers at similar stages in their careers, to share our experiences and learn from each other, as we strive to identify solutions to our respective challenges in our home countries and regions. Increasingly, we have come to realize that our strength lies in our diversity.
On a more professional level, our collaboration has been a fantastic learning opportunity in organization and leadership, advocacy, delivering deadlines responsibly, troubleshooting and importantly, the value of teamwork. We have organized webinars and published papers together. We have overcome the challenges of working across six different time zones and successfully hosted global case and essay competitions, and didactic talks on research, all of which have the consistent underlying theme of advocating for and showcasing the talent of WIC. In doing so, we have been fortunate to have received mentorship of more senior WIC, including the ACC WIC Communications group, and have been able to expand our network to collaborate with more friends and colleagues from across the globe.
But perhaps what we value the most is the cross-border friendships we have made, and the absolute candor with which we can discuss challenges. Not one of us has met the other in real life, and yet we have shared with each other our training pathways, mentorship journeys, and as the pandemic took a turn for the worse, commiserated with each other over family worries and workplace issues. We have celebrated our achievements, professional and personal. Importantly, being a minority in a largely male-dominated specialty, there are many benefits to such informal networks, ranging from sharing potential opportunities to recommending connections for a particular project. In effect, we have developed a "peer mentorship" among ourselves, and collectively, we bring to the table far more than each of us could ever have done, individually.
The "raft of otters," a model discussed by Jessica Piazza and Dara Kass in their book Olivia Otter Builds Her Raft, has been frequently alluded to in description of WIC, particularly relating to a tight-knit circle for mutual support and teamwork. Networking is crucial to reaching out for such support, mentorship and sponsorship; especially in contemporary times, social media and indeed #CardioTwitter have proven to be phenomenal assets.
In just over a year, the Global WIC Twitter handle has over a thousand followers, and we are discussing plans for our next project as I write this. I am so grateful to have connected with WIC from across the globe and am inspired by the energy and upliftment we instill in each other every day. We have kept each other afloat in the best of times and the worst of times, a true testament to the "raft of otters."
This piece was authored by F. Aaysha Cader, MBBS, MD, MRCP (@aayshacader). The core team of Global WIC Early Careers comprises of Sarah Birkhoelzer, DR; Aaysha Cader, MBBS, MD, MRCP; Sabeeda Kadavath, MD; Louise Segan, MBBS; Nafisa El Sammani, DR; and Paola Morejon, MD. Our Twitter handle is @global_wic.
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