(ED NOTE:  One of the joys of this job, ricochetting round the net, looking for good digital health stuff,  is running across jewels,  like this blog of an Austrian med student; the story speaks for itself, but do check out his blog, as well as his  MedStudents DailyView on Medical Education)


To be up-to-date with scientific research, with new studies and their results is a key ingredient of being a medical doctor today. There are plenty of great magazines and journals to get hold of that kind of information.

But especially as a student gathering this kind of information and getting access to journals proves to be a tough challenge. None of us can afford the unbelievably high costs and using the access of the university often proves to be quite frustrating.
Most of the time it only works at the university computer facilities and setting up the remote access from home seems to require a degree in computer sciences.

So where does the student of medicine get his input?

That’s right, the internet. Only this seemingly endless well of information (wisdom?) has two major drawbacks.

1. The sources of information are often unreliable.

2. The mass of input is too great to filter effectively.

These drawbacks are well known and compromise the otherwise quite useful flow of information online.

I had these problems too.

No money for journals, noch way to filter information or validate its origin.

I tried looking for scientific information the common way, searching via google and looking at wikipedia sources. It was grueling and time-devouring.

Then I found out how to use Twitter to change that.

I hear you ask: Twitter?

Isn’t that this microblogging and social media service, mostly used by self centered celebrities and attention seeking teenagers?

To say there is no such thing would be a blatant lie. But there is another use of twitter apart from this one, which is sadly the use most picked up by the majority of people.

No, I’m talking about using twitter as an information gathering tool.
I want to tell you my story, how I came to using twitter as my little news agency and why I believe this is one of the best uses for it:

While working as a Student Task Force member at my first AMEE conference 2011 in Vienna I came in contact with Twitter. I watched with fascination the tweets on the screens outside the plenary sessions, where people, who were obviously sitting inside the session, communicated with people who were not even at the conference.

I followed these tweets during the week but thought nothing of it. I thought it was just a kind of messaging service instead of Email or MSN chat.

Two weeks later AMEE2011 was still in my head but university stuff kept coming up and up.
I soon forgot about Twitter and Medical Education.

In January 2012 a former classmate and friend of mine, Leonhard Widrich, was featured in my Facebook timeline with an app he helped to build.


The app is called Buffer and basically lets you store tweets and release them at times that you define before. I chatted a little bit with him and decided to give Twitter a try.
If you want to see for yourself feel free to follow him @LeoWid. He tweets about lifehacks, using Twitter and lots of other interesting stuff!

Talking with Leo was interesting, he showed me a little bit of what Twitter could do. I am still quite thankful to him for showing me, the Twitter noob, the ropes.

Deep in the back of my memory I may have remembered Twitter from AMEE but at that time all I did was to create an account, install Buffer and use twitter in the above-mentioned carefree, self centered way. I did not really know a thing about hashtags, direct messages and so on. I just tweeted things like: “On my way to anatomy lab”, “Busy studying in the library” and such.

The semester drone on and i tweeted sometimes only one tweed a day.

But then came AMEE2012 in Lyon.
Again I was a member of the Student Task Force. While we do work hard in that group, we are sometimes allowed to sit in workshops. Quite often we are also allowed to participate.

At my second day I sat in a Pre-conference-Workshop facilitated by:


Neil Meitha (@Neil_Mehta)


AnneMarie Cunningham (@amcunningham)


Natalie Lafferty (@nlafferty).

The title of this workshop was “Practicing what we preach: Lifelong learning tools for medical educators”.
I think I will remember this title quite a while because of the impact it had on me and my social-networking life.

During this workshop I first realised in what many ways twitter could be used. I started with the conference-use of twitter by picking worthy bits from the workshop and posting them with the hashtag for AMEE2012.

Thank god I have a smartphone!

Then the amzing thing happened:
After just a short while I got responses!
People were actually interacting with me!
People I have never met in my life, teachers, students, researchers!
With little me, a simple med student from Vienna, Austria!

This is when I first realized the power that the little blue bird holds.

For helping me realizing this I am and will be forever indebted to Neil, AnneMarie and Natalie.

They also answered my many questions in one of the workshop brakes and gave me tips for further use of this tool. I really appreciated that and try to interact with them on a regular base on twitter.

They also are responsible for the single greatest influence on my twitter experience and twitter style.

At their workshop I met the person, who I dub my “Twitter mentor”, Alireza Jalali, professor of Anatomy at the University of Ottawa.


It started with my tweets about the aforementioned workshop. I suddenly was crosslinked in post from a twitteruser @ARJalali. He seemed to be in the room with me and I was excited to meet him.
As I looked at his profile I was able to see that he had thousands of posts and over 2000 followers!

Now I was REALLY excited to meet him.

Right after the workshop I introduced myself and I realised quite quickly that Ali was a very friendly, open person. He instantly showed me, the “rookie”, some of his work, some of the tools he used and I was able to absorb quite the knowledge.

I was able to put that knowledge to good use later that day at his Pre-conference-Workshop “Use of Tablets in medical education and Clinical Practice”, another quite interesting field using apps and social media in (Medical) Education.

The rest of the conference was just great! Using the facilitys free wireless internet I tweeted and tweeted, posted pictures shot with my mobile phone camera and retweeted intersting bits out of the AMEE2012 hashtag.

While watching Ali present his poster at the poster presentations I saw that he was not an awesome twitter user but also quite the competent speaker.

To say that this conference changed my way of using social media would be an understatement, it more or less build it from nothing.

But a conference last not forever and that unique atmosphere is not present in the daily life of a researcher, doctor or med student.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article to see how my way of using twitter changed!

It will focus on what changed in my use of Twitter after the conference, how I came to establish my Twitter style and how I use it today. Also it will condense my thoughts and reasoning why I use twitter the way I do and why I think it is a great way for (med) students to use it.

I am also interested in your experience with Twitter. How did you start? Why did you start?

I would love to get your stories, so don’t hesitate to interact via comments, email or twitter.

About the author, Alex Winkler

BLOG: Stairs Throught Life

Med Student, Law Student, Trainee for Rhetorics and Presentation Trainer, Writer. Topics of interest are Medical education (in Social Media), Medicine in general, Rhetorics and Presentation techniques and a healthy way of living.

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