Do medical schools look at a candidate's social media? Yes, they most certainly do, and they are forthright about it. Dr. Scott M. Rodgers, Associate Dean for Medical Student Affairs at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine advises that "Every student should assume that admissions committees DO look up applicants online and sometimes come across information about people that can either hurt or help a candidate."Barbara Fuller, the Director of Admissions at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University echoes that advice. Ms. Fuller says, "Students on the admissions committee are more tech savvy and actually have been responsible for presenting information on candidates — acquired through internet searches— that changed an acceptance to a rejection. As an applicant, you are responsible for the ‘public face' that the connected world sees."
Doctors are trusted with life and death decisions, being a doctor requires the utmost discretion, professionalism, and good judgment. These character traits are the hallmarks of a good physician, why wouldn't schools look at social media? The doctors produced by medical schools are an extension of that school's image, and medical schools want that image to remain untarnished. Furthermore, doctors will most certainly be scrutinized by their social media presence when they start practicing, so their understanding of proactive social media use is essential.
We know that social media can have an adverse impact on medical school admissions. However, social media doesn't have to be a negative, Dr. Rogers credits social media as being a decisive factor to consider in the admissions decision, "An applicant should not make the assumption that everything online is necessarily bad and should be removed. For example, if a student led a major service activity at his or her university, and a story about it appeared in the online university newspaper, that is a very good thing!"
Medical Schools are selective and with competition comes the concept of differentiating yourself. The AAMC puts it into perspective, "Before an interview, you probably spend a lot of time (and money) picking out the perfect outfit. You want to look the part—poised, confident, and professional. How people see you when you stand before them is important, but what about how people see you when you don't see them? When people search for you online, read your comments, or view your Facebook page, what are you revealing or telling them?" Prospective applicants need to “look the part” on social media. On social media, an applicant's digital image needs to be maintained with the effectiveness of an established doctor, if not, there are scores of other candidates who fit the bill.
The AAMC encourages medical students to be active on social media citing Twitter as, "a great way to get up to speed on late breaking medical school news. Twitter not only gives you the most up-to-the-minute information, it connects you directly with amazing application resources and medical school admissions experts."
They don't stop with Twitter, the AAMC refers to Facebook as your friend and encourages applicants to learn more about medical schools they are interested in attending through Facebook as well as connecting with other applicants and current students.
The benefits of being a savvy social media user do not end at your medical school acceptance, they continue throughout your career and can provide the following:
Increase media opportunities – Journalists utilize LinkedIn to find experts when looking for quotes or a medical expert, social media is the easiest way to find what they are looking for if you are not on and optimized you miss out.
Enhance specialty practice areas – Most doctors have a specialty or an area of interest, publishing research and sharing newsworthy topics on social media platforms improves your area of expertise and standing as a thought leader.
Maximize reach – There is no other place like social media in terms of the size of the audience, with over 2 billion people on Facebook alone, social media allows users to connect with people and opportunities around the globe.
Speaking prospects – Associations and companies utilize speakers for their employees and as a benefit for their members, guess where they go to find experts? Social media.
The same skills and education that are required to do anything well apply to social media. Because you have a username and can successfully log on does not mean that your social media image is compelling. Curating your online image should be done with the same thoughtful attention that you would apply to your medical school applications or employment opportunities, it will pay off!