Watch the AMA's daily COVID-19 update, with insights from AMA leaders and experts about the pandemic.
Featured topic and speakers
AMA Chief Experience Officer Todd Unger speaks with AMA President Patrice Harris, MD, Chief Health Equity Officer, Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH, and Senior Manager, Social Media & Community Engagement, Caitlin Ganet on leveraging social media during the COVID-19 epidemic to provide reputable and science-based information.
Learn more at the AMA COVID-19 resource center.
Unger: This is the American Medical Association's COVID-19 update.
Today we're going to talk about how physicians should leverage social media during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I'm joined today by Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the AMA, and a psychiatrist in Atlanta. Dr. Aletha Maybank, group vice president of AMA's Center for Health Equity in New York City, and Caitlin Ganet, AMA's senior manager of social media and community engagement in Chicago. I'm Todd Unger, AMA's Chief Experience Officer in Chicago.
Dr. Harris, what do you see is the physician's role in social media today, during this pandemic?
Dr. Harris: Well Todd, what a wonderful opportunity we have at this moment, at the American Medical Association, to continue to be a reputable, trusted source of information—information based on the science and the evidence.
And so we can certainly use all of our platforms, particularly social media, so we can make sure we get trusted, reputable, science-based information out there, so I'm very excited about the opportunity we have at this moment. We have been using social media to get our message out there. We will continue to do so.
Unger: Dr. Maybank, I know that you are very much a Twitter user and use many other social platforms. How are you using it differently than you'd normally would?
Dr. Maybank: Thanks Todd, honestly, I'm just on social media way more than I used to be, which, sometimes, I'm like “Oh boy, am I on this a little too much?”
But it's been a great space to just get information, up to date information, very quickly. So to get information, but I think also to share information, now, whether it's from the AMA, clearly, retweeting information, posting it on LinkedIn, sharing some stuff on Facebook. But even from other sources, getting information out, I think, has been really, really helpful. It's been really helpful for me.
I'm not on the front lines in the way that I was before when I worked at a local health department here in New York City, but I'm able to get stories and hear the stories in ways that I would have probably never thought I could hear. And some of them are very pointed.
I think the whole PPE movement really amplified the cause on social media, and I think it got the attention of many folks. Lay public, but also policy makers. So I think it's been a very important vehicle for advocacy, as well as education.
And I think, also, because stories are being shared, it's also an important vehicle for just comfort, right? And knowing that other people are out there, experiencing similar things. Other people are expressing they're afraid, and they're fearful. But at the same time, getting information from leaders that we trust, AMA being one of them, but other leaders as well, have just credible information and validation for all the things that we understand and know about science and public health.
Unger: Are there people out there—I'm sorry, yeah—
Dr. Harris: You know, Todd, before you go—that's okay—before you go to Caitlin, I just want to put a finer point on something that Dr. Maybank just said. And that is we should all perhaps turn off our filters or our notices regarding how much we're spending on social media because at this point it's probably good that we are spending more time in getting that information out there, and how critical it is to crowd source, like we need PPE and some of those, to really elevate and amplify the problems we're having.
So I just wanted to let Aletha know, and everyone know, that during this period of time, it's okay to be on social media a little bit more.
Unger: Yeah—I wanted—when we think back to the era of gun violence, one of the most effective campaigns that I saw physicians get involved with was This Is Our Lane. Is there a moment here where physicians can really use social media to shine a reality on this situation?
We've seen people doing that effectively.
Ganet: Yes, absolutely--
Dr. Maybank: Yeah, I think, ooh, sorry, yes, go ahead Caitlin.
Ganet: No, go ahead Dr. Maybank.
Dr. Maybank: Go ahead Caitlin, you go ahead.
Ganet: I actually was going to bring up Dr. Megan Renny, who was a big force behind This Is Our Lane, and everything. She's done a lot of work with one of our notable movements right now to shine a spotlight on the need for PPE, which is really driving the hashtag, #GetMePPE, and we've seen that really take off, and it has amplified the urgent messages from physicians in ways that traditional media and just person to person can't do. And when all three are working in tandem it can be really powerful.
Dr. Maybank: Yeah, I agree. Dr. Renny, she's an influencer. She has a tremendous following, and there are many folks that are out there in the doctor space.
It's really impressive to see that we have these leaders on social media that are physicians, with these strong, powerful voices, talking about a spectrum of information, but when they put something out there, so many people follow, trust, retweet and amplify. I think that's a really important role that a physician has really had over the last couple of weeks.
Identifying these influencers and connecting with them has been really important to get information out there in a credible way.
Ganet: There's a lot of people out there that are looking for that information. People on TV, they wanna hear from the experts, and that's the same on social media, too. Being able to identify who those experts are on social media is also really important, too, because there's quite a lot of people saying a lot of things, and so to get those expert voices out there is really critical.
Unger: I don't know about you all, but when I'm on social media, I do see a lot of things that are very upsetting, and sometimes running into a lot of misinformation. What's your guidance for folks as they deal with that same thing?
Dr. Harris: Well there is so much misinformation and disinformation out there, Todd, and that is all the more reason why the AMA—and other trusted sources, like Dr. Renny—is so very important.
We need to make sure that we are using social media, again, not only to get the science and evidence out there, but also to speak truths to power. That is critical in this moment. Those in leadership need to hear the voices of those who are on the front lines. Again, another exciting opportunity about the AMA, we are listening to the voices of physicians, and then putting those voices into action, and so I think that's another wonderful opportunity in this moment.
We do see a lot, and hear a lot, that's upsetting. As you know, and the audience knows, I am a psychiatrist, and so I am also laser-focused on appreciating mental health needs, the emotional needs of all of us during this time. We will certainly need to act on that, as we do our after-action review, after we get through this immediate crisis. By the way, we will get through this, together we will get through this.
But in the meantime, it will be important to take breaks from social media, particularly when we see things that are upsetting. We need to then, again, go back to those trusted sources, those who are giving us accurate information, and do other things, self-care, make sure we're eating well—as well as we can, it's okay to snack a little bit, over-snack a little bit—sleeping well, getting in motion, we need to stay active, even if that's just putting on your favorite record. Record, okay, now I'm really showing how old I am. But I'll put on Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Joy and Pain" and just dance around my house to that.
And, so, we do need to pay attention to self-care at this time. Particularly for physicians who are on the front lines, when they come home, I encourage them, meditate, take a breath and certainly practice self-care.
Dr. Maybank: To the point of the dancing and records—today, Dr. Harris participated in an essence, wellness house conversation, and it's a way that social media's being used to bring people together, to hear facts, to hear information, but also, kind of, to support each other's wellness at the same time as she's elevating. And I think that is really important.
We've seen DJs, they're on the line, and even my doctor friends, they're watching these DJ nights, and different celebrities are coming through the space. So while we're doctoring—which is absolutely critical during this time, and we have folks on the front line, and other healthcare workers—I think these spaces are really important on social media. And the spectrum of what we see happening now is absolutely incredible, and I think it's absolutely critical for our health in the long run.
Unger: Anything that you all see out there, on social media, that you find particularly comforting, motivating, inspiring?
Ganet: Yes, yesterday, actually. Not to plug the AMA channels, but to plug the AMA channels, yesterday, on Twitter, the AMA featured a lot of really heartwarming sentiments that people have sent us. They sent notes of thank you, gratitude and encouragement to physicians, and we turned them, and put them out there, and just tried to blanket our feeds.
It was Doctor's Day, but we're gonna keep doing that because there's a lot of people sending us encouragement, so if we can help amplify that— We've heard from numerous people that it was just a really nice thing to see out there, and I think that kind of positivity and encouragement is some of the most heartwarming things I see.
Dr. Harris: And for me, and this is happening all over the world, but I shared a quick video on my Facebook page around everyone going out, I believe it's at 7:00 o'clock, at least here in Atlanta, going out on their balconies and just yelling and screaming and applauding and thanking physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals.
So I can just tell you that that is moving to me. I often find myself moved to tears seeing all of the heartwarming things that people are doing, and so that has been particularly inspiring to me.
Dr. Maybank: And I think also, kind of connected and building off that, I've seen a lot of just folks supporting one another through the atmosphere of social media, on Twitter, on Instagram, and just putting words of encouragement directly towards folks, and people talking with each other.
When I see those conversations happening, and that support, it just warms my heart, and just to know that we're each out there trying to connect with each other's humanity in all of this.
Unger: Yeah, I for one love to see so my physicians in their protective gear, and at work. I've got to meet so many great physicians and students over the course of the last few years and get a glimpse of what they're going through, and just my own mind gratitude for their bravery, and what they're doing out there.
So thank you very much to my guests today, Dr. Patrice Harris, Dr. Aletha Maybank and Caitlin Ganet.
Thanks for joining us.