Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: Iris Thiele Isip Tan

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This week it is my great pleasure to interview endocrinologist Iris Tan, MD, MSc, who teaches at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.  A TedX speaker, Iris is one of the co-founders of the #HealthXPH tweet chat and annual healthcare and social media conference.


Hi Iris, I’ve been an admirer of your work since I first started following you three years ago on Twitter. In that time I’ve watched your social media presence evolve and grow year-on-year. Can you tell us how you use social media in a healthcare context. 

IT: I started a Facebook page www.facebook.com/EndocrineWitch in 2012 as an experiment to see if I could get photos with short captions about health to go viral. I’ve been trying ever since! One particular post on polycystic ovary syndrome which I shared last July 2015 is still active and according to Facebook, has been seen by over 4 million people. I am continuing this Facebook page as my contribution to uplifting health literacy in endocrine disorders. There are after all less than 300 endocrinologists in the Philippines which has a population of 100 million. If you’d like to know more about this, take a look at my TedXDiliman video at https://youtu.be/MQAe_2rLb6M. All my Facebook posts are written in Filipino and archived at http://www.dokbru.endocrine-witch.net.

I co-founded the #HealthXPH tweet chat with Dr. Remo (@bonedoc), Dr. Gia Sison (@giasison) and Dr. Narciso Tapia (@cebumd) in 2014. Weekly, we discuss topics related to the practice of medicine and its intersection with technology and social media. Our format was inspired by the #HCLDR chat. In 2015, we held the first #HealthXPH healthcare and social media summit with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development. Our plenary speaker was Pat Rich (@pat_health) who came all the way from Canada. This is now an anticipated yearly event attended by medical educators, health bloggers, patients and students from various health professions. 

I began incorporating social media as part of my teaching strategy in graduate school where I teach health informatics in 2012. I subsequently won a teaching award from my university, the University of the Philippines system Gawad Pangulo for Progressive Teaching and Learning in 2015.

You mentioned your first foray into social media was using Facebook as a tool for public health. Had you been familiar with Facebook or any other social media before you used it for this purpose?

IT: I joined Facebook in 2008 because I was organizing a reunion and trying to find my high school classmates. I started my Facebook page in 2012 after seeing grumpy cat. I joined Twitter in 2010 as an assignment in graduate school. I was studying health informatics but going to the US for a week to attend the Endocrine Society meeting. To make up for my absence, my professor asked me to live tweet the conference.

I love that you were an early adopter of live-tweeting medical conferences! Is Twitter one of your favorite platforms – or do you have others?

IT: I enjoy Twitter the most because of the serendipity of meeting like-minded people through retweets and chats. I’ve found mentors on Twitter who have helped me in my professional life. Hosting the #HealthXPH tweet chat is a stimulating intellectual exercise from thinking about the topic, to writing the pre-chat blog post and moderating the discussion.

I find that maintaining my Facebook page has helped me become a better communicator at my clinic. As I write my posts in Filipino and try to avoid medical terms, it is easier now to help my patients understand complex endocrine disorders.

So endocrinology is a topic which obviously interests you. Are there any other topics you are keen to follow through social media. 

IT: I’m interested in the use of social media and technology for healthcare because of my health informatics background. Aside from #HealthXPH, I try to join the #HCLDR chat where I’ve met many of the people I follow. I lurk in diabetes chats listening to persons with diabetes at #DCDE and #DSMA. As a professor in medical school, I’m also interested in medical education. I follow #MedEd, #TEDEdChat and #FOAMEd.

You are a very experienced and expert social media user – what advice would you give to any healthcare professional who is just starting to use social media?

IT: Don’t tweet or post anything that you wouldn’t say in person. Remain professional at all times. #HealthXPH has a manifesto on maintaining medical professionalism while on social media at www.healthxph.net/manifesto.

That’s a very useful guide – thanks for sharing it with us Iris. Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

Everything you want is on the other side of fear – Jack Canfield

Thanks Iris for taking the time to share with us your experience of using social media in your work. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about how you got started and I look forward to seeing how you and your colleagues will evolve healthcare social media in the Philippines. 


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