Monday, June 18, 2012

How I use social media to stay up-to-date in Pathology

Social media is impacting our society in significant ways from how we get our news to how we communicate with one another.  Its tools are accessible to everyone and can be thought of as a great equalizer spanning socio-economic and geographic barriers. The information provided by social media is instantaneously available for one to access in real time.   While one does not have to be tech savvy to use social media, the true strength of it is for the user, in this case the pathologist; to find something that is a good fit for their lifestyle, personality, and/or work schedule. As a pathologist who has specialized in pathology informatics, I find social media of great utility in keeping up to date on the latest scientific and medical advances and staying informed about conferences I am unable to attend. In this blog entry, I discuss a few types of social media and how I use these tools to stay readily informed of the latest information. 

Twitter: Enables the free distribution of short messages (<140 characters of text). These microblogs are sent as “tweets” that can be read by followers (subscribers to other users' tweets). Twitter has received a lot of attention as a way for celebrities to keep in touch with their fans. However, it is also becoming more prevalently used by the scientific community to distribute key research findings, ideas, press releases, and articles. Twitter can use “hashtags” which are associated with key words that can be related to specific events or meetings. A hashtag is often followed by an acronym of the meeting’s name. For example, meetings such as the AACR have hashtags such as #AACR12 in which users can use this to tag their tweets. This enables the distribution of their ideas to others following these #keywords, allowing participants in these meetings to distribute what the speakers are saying to the twitter community instantaneously. Another good example of an innovative medical research meeting that is very successful at using twitter to share and discuss ideas is TedMed (!/TEDMED). Reading this twitter feed almost makes you feel like you are a participant in the event. If you like what someone tweets, you can read their past tweets and then consider whether to add them to your “follow” list. I find following meetings one of the greatest strengths of twitter for pathologists because it enables the pathologist to stay abreast of the key topics and ideas discussed at meetings from the convenience of their office or home. Another way to find who to follow is to start at a journal’s twitter page (which can be found by searching twitter or identifying the twitter icon on the journal’s website) and follow who they follow. A few examples of journal’s that have twitter feeds are AJSP (!/ajspjournal), Nature Medicine (!/NatureMedicine) and even JPI (!/pathinformatics). In addition, I recommend searching for keywords and following these related tweets that interest you. When you find tweets that you like "follow" the person that sent the tweet. By searching the list of people that person follows you can soon accumulate a large list to follow.  

Blogs & Websites (RSS feeds): Staying up to date on blogs, especially when you follow many, can be very challenging. Most blogs have the option to receive daily or weekly updates via email. In addition to this blog (hosted by the Journal of Pathology Informatics), my favorite blog is Digital Pathology hosted by Keith Kaplan, MD at His blog discusses the latest technologies in pathology, key publications, and commentaries. Another great pathology blog is the Pathology Network hosted by Stacey Mills, MD This blog is a forum to share opinions and discuss general pathology related topics/issues. While it is convenient to subscribe to a blog’s email notifications in order to stay current on their latest news and articles, these emails can easily become lost or buried among spam.  Most blogs therefore also offer the option to subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. RSS feeds (documents), one of the more popular ones is Google Reader (, allows one to aggregate blog feeds into a single and efficient interface. Not only do I find this advantageous when following many blogs, but also many journals such as Modern Pathology and the Journal of Clinical Pathology, which are willing to send you their new table of contents via an RSS feed.  In addition, it helps me more efficiently manage my time in that I have a single place to go to read all my blogs and websites.

Facebook: Enables the sharing of information and photos amongst friends, and even has some applications for biomedical information.  For example, many journals, blogs and magazine now have Facebook pages, which one can follow. Following these sites enables their posts to automatically show up on your homepage news feed. I enjoy following the New England Journal of Medicine (, which provides me with news, updates, images and clinical case presentations. 

Filtering & Sharing on Devices: As one becomes more aware of ways in which scientific and medical journals participate in social media, one soon realizes that they have begun to participate in many of the aforementioned social medias. Therefore, I recommend setting up your own accounts in each of the above to explore the ones that work best for you. While the learning curve is initially slow, one can soon accumulate numerous feeds and sites to follow. I think the greatest challenge is efficiently filtering the vast amount of available information. There are numerous tools available to assist in this process. Here are some tools I like and how I use them. I prefer to read my twitter account on my iPad or iPhone using the twitter app. This app allows one to easily scroll through numerous tweets. Often, the app helps me find links to articles. Instead of opening up each link individually and reading the article, I tend to browse my twitter feed and (using the gesture feature of swiping) swipe the feed I am interested in and save it to my Pocket account ( Pocket (formerly known as Read It Later) is a unique program that allows you to save and aggregate all your tweets or webpages of interest into a centralized private account for offline viewing at one’s own leisure. This allows me to view saved websites more efficiently, rather than opening and closing many browser tabs. It can also be used via your webpage browser to “save and file” articles on websites or blogs. Its greatest strength is that it enables you to read these articles offline on your mobile device or laptop when traveling or at a meeting. I also like to use FriendFeed (, which is a news aggregator. It allows you to aggregate your Twitter, RSS, Flickr and Youtube feeds into a single platform. The advantage of using FriendFeed is that it allows others to post a commentary or opinions with these posts, which fosters a dialogue. It also allows you to follow other’s feeds, which is often a consolidation of their favorite social media feeds. Thus, it enables the sharing of scientific ideas with experts throughout the world. I also use the daily email function of FriendFeed to email me a list of postings as a reminder. Another option is to have your FriendFeed show up as an RSS feed in your Google Reader. The Facebook news feed also contains fun personal/social information. I find myself checking this feed most frequently. I also noticed that I tend to read work related links that appear in my news feed more frequently than the other types of feeds because it is sprinkled through “fun” social postings. 

In conclusion, social media enables pathologists such as I to keep up to date on biomedical and clinical research information and ideas. While it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of accessible information today, I hope that you can also rely on the tools described in this blog to assist in managing your incoming data. 

By Jason D. Hipp, MD/PhD

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Brief History of UI - Part 1: Vannevar Bush

Hi, my name is Seung Park, and I’m the new pathology informatics fellow at UPMC. I’m one of the junior editors of JPI for this year, which means I’ll be your blogger for this year as well. I’m excited to be here, and I hope our journey through pathology informatics together this year will be a fruitful one.As a computer scientist by vocation and a historian by avocation, over the course of the year I wanted to introduce you to landmark papers and events in the history of...

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