Sunday, October 5, 2008
About a month ago I decided to reveal my true identity on this blog. For a year I had been known simply as "Buckeye Surgeon". I didn't make a big deal of the change. No announcement. It just happened that one day I published a new post with my name and picture in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Now why would I do a crazy thing like that?
There are a variety of reasons, actually. On a personal level, I just felt that if you're maintaining a blog and you're taking strong stances on certain issues, whether it be the politics of medicine or management strategies of certain disease processes, then you owe it to yourself, and your readers, to stand behind that stance with your identity. One of the biggest criticisms (and entirely valid, I might add) of the blogging endeavour is that anonymous blogging can lead to an undisciplined, hypercritical, sneering style of writing that devalues the oftentimes valid points you're trying to make. There's no hiding when the cloak of anonymity is removed. That's my name up there in the corner. If I write something snide or uncomplimentary, or if I come at an issue with a poorly thought out line of reasoning, then I have to live with the consequences. In essence, you put yourself on the firing line without the shield of anonymity. There's a higher standard of accountability. So you better bring the goods.
Also, I have found (via sitemeter) that people are visiting my blog for answers to their medical questions. If you google "anal fissure" or "hartman's procedure" or "fournier's gangrene" or "jackson pratt drain", a post from Buckeye Surgeon will usually be on the first page of the search. Maybe I'm being naive, but I think this modest little thing of mine can potentially be a useful source of information, especially as we move deeper into an era where patients rely on the internet more and more often as a "second opinion" with regards to their individual health issues. If that's the case, perhaps the knowledge that I'm a real general surgeon, and board certified at that, will allay the fears of some anonymous visitor from Malaysia of whether I'm reasonably trustworthy and legitimate.
Furthermore, I still think we are in the infancy of med-blogging. I think the sky is the limit. Barack Obama's intuition of this fact allowed him to trounce the seemingly unbeatable old school Clinton political machine via online fundraising. The failure of Revolution Health notwithstanding, I think that web 2.0 will play more, not less, of a role in the way Americans approach their personal health; we just haven't figured out the intricacies of how that's going to work. Nevertheless, having an internet presence will be crucial for physicians as we move forward.
Beyond patient care and education, I think medbloggers have a role to play in how physicians represent themselves as a group in the political realm. Listen, the AMA has been the only real representative body we've had for the past twenty five years and look where we're at: more infighting, worse pay, less professional satisfaction. There has to be a new way to make our voices heard. And if medblogging is going to part of that "new way", then the fastest way to legitimize it is by publishing with our real names and locations. Why perpetuate the stereotype that doctors are "always trying to hide something" and "are out for themselves"? What effect on American politics would Slate or the National Review on line have if all the opinion pieces were published anonymously? Would anyone pay attention? Look at Kevin Pho from KevinMD. He's now a member of the USA Today's board of contributors and frequently writes op-ed pieces. I don't think that happens if he's FacelessMD.com.
We all blog for different reasons. I'm not going to sit here and moralize on how it ought to be done. But I think we underestimate our ability to to change public perception via the internet. This is the new media. This is the forum for idea exchange and it's wide open. Imagine a interconnected network of physician blogs, maintained and vetted by physicians who are open and completely legitimate. It's like California in 1848! The Wright Brothers at Kitty hawk! Neil Armstrong on the Moon! Yes we can!
Anyway, that's enough bombast; those are my rambling thoughts on anonymous blogging. My obscure blog does what it can. Go Bucks.