Home > Medical/Health Commentary, Miscellany > AAMC Follies: Social Media Edition

AAMC Follies: Social Media Edition

Every student from an American medical school will have come into contact with the Association of American Medical Colleges at least three times by the start of the PGY-1 year.  The AAMC administers the MCAT (the standardized medical school entrance exam), AMCAS (the online application system for most US medical schools), and ERAS (the main application system for residencies).  As such, I am sure that I will come across many more AAMC Follies in the future… though I wouldn’t mind disappointment on this front.

My most recent contact with the AAMC was via AMCAS, and the Medical Student Questionnaire that is circulated to students who will be matriculating at a medical school this fall.

The survey encompasses a wide range of topics (some of which I hope to return to in later posts), ranging from motivations to enter medicine all the way through to anticipated specialty and practice environment choices.  Along the way, they ask about what drove the choice of medical school, financing, and what sorts of resources we expect to use at medical school.

As in:

16. Do you expect to use the following resources during medical school?
Select one of the four options to the right for each resource.

Child care services
Counseling or mentoring services
Spousal support group
Medical specialty organization/society
Careers in Medicine online career planning tool
Financial planner (other than school financial aid office)
Online social network (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, Twitter)

If you don’t see how ridiculous the last part of the question is, replace “Online social network” with “E-mail,” “Mobile telephony,” or “The Notwithstanding Blog.”  I think it’s time to add the AAMC to the ever-expanding list of organizations that has bought into the social media hype without seeming to have a full understanding of what it is.

To be fair, there are lots of educational and education-related institutions (to say nothing of institutions/companies more broadly) that are still trying to figure out what this newfangled “social media” is, and how they can leverage it.  When I was an undergraduate, back when “The Facebook” was a college-only phenomenon, a fellow student and I made several presentations to various faculty audiences about what this new technology was, and how students were using it.  The point that my co-presenter made several times was that students’ use of things like Facebook was not goal-oriented.  Students tended not to use The Facebook for the purpose of “enhancing their scholastic and interpersonal lives” (or whatever one of the panels asked)… they simply used it for what it was.  Primarily for social purposes, if the “social media” moniker didn’t give that away.

Nonetheless, as people my age use sites like Facebook and Twitter more and more, I can see why groups like the AAMC (or my undergraduate institution, or that consumer products manufacturer) would wonder if they can use these technologies to gain a new audience, or to improve communication with an existing audience.

The relevant questions then become “who do you want to reach/who would you reach/what content would you disseminate/would you get valuable feedback from your audience.”  For a group like the AAMC… I’m skeptical.  Yes, you have those hardcore Twitter/Facebook users who get most of their online information via those channels.  Those sorts of med students (or whoever else the AAMC would want to reach) might make use of an AAMC social media presence instead of checking the website as needed.  Other students might “like” the AAMC Facebook page for the sheer hell of it, and maybe read an update or two a month.  The problem that I see is that important changes to things like the MCAT, AMCAS, and ERAS are going to be communicated widely enough such that a social media presence is unlikely to reach anyone who hasn’t heard the news already.

For what it’s worth, the AAMC does have both a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.  I don’t follow either one, nor have I seen either one.  I doubt that there’s anything there that would be of value to me.  When I need AAMC resources/information, or when the time comes to fire up ERAS and prep for the match, I know where the website is.  I can’t imagine that they’re reaching that many additional people with any sort of compelling content via those channels, but that said, there’s still nothing wrong with it.  Some of their audience may see value in it, and the AAMC certainly sees values in having a presence on those social media sites.

What’s funny, and more than a bit obnoxious, is how I found out about their Facebook and Twitter presence.  AMCAS 09/10 was launched about a year ago.  When I tried to create a login for the AMCAS process, I was informed that I could not proceed unless my browser was one of:

  • Internet Explorer 5.5, 6, or 7
  • Firefox 1.0.2, 2.0.0, or 3.0.0
  • Netscape 7

All of these browsers were long out of date even at the launch of AMCAS 09/10, and nothing more recent would be accepted.  At the bottom of the page were buttons inviting me to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Netscape and Twitter.  I wish I were making this up.  Clearly their priorities are in order.  Well done, AAMC.  Well done.


If you haven’t seen Dr. Wes’s take on social media in medicine from last week, now’s as good a time as ever to check it out.

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  1. May 6, 2011 at 23:43

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