Almost Docs: How I Found an Online Community

This was originally shared on www.almostdocs.com (which no longer exists???) in May 2018. Twitter is a great place for connecting with other folks in the medical profession, so I thought I’d share it here!


I didn’t know much about MD/PhD programs as an undergraduate. I found some resources online and met with the program director at my school, but I didn’t really have easy access to any current MD/PhD students to go to for advice as I was preparing to apply to medical school. I also didn’t know many pre-meds or join any pre-med clubs. I hadn’t planned on going to medical school until late into undergrad, so I didn’t have a supportive group that would be going through the same grueling process that I was about to undertake. So I went to social media.

The summer I applied to medical school, I made a Twitter account specifically for connecting with the medical community. Twitter was an ideal platform for this purpose because of the short character limits for posts, the ability to make public posts and follow others who do not necessarily have to follow you back, the easy ability to retweet (or share) another account’s post on your own timeline, hashtags to connect posts to those of related content, and handles that allow you to establish your identity while also maintaining anonymity if desired (for example, I started being known as only pre-MD/PhD Life). While other social media sites have incorporated some of these aspects, Twitter remains the best site I’ve found for a robust discussion within a broad community.

I began by finding other pre-med accounts to follow. I did this by searching for those that had “pre-med” in their name or bio and then going through their following list to find others. Soon some started to follow me back. We would comment in response to each other’s posts and encourage each other when things didn’t go as planned. Some of these people I’ve even met in real life. Many of these people have since started med school, finished grad school, and are now in residency, and it’s been an absolute joy to see them progress through their training. I’m glad to learn from this community that has supported me since my early days of pursuing medicine.

Yet, here I am, 5 years in and still in the graduate phase on my MD/PhD program, which is one of the challenging things about this training pathway. As a MD/PhD student, the people who started med school the same time as me could nearly be practicing physicians by the time I step into the clinic as a 3rd year medical student! Therefore, I needed to have a community of physician-scientist trainees who could understand the more unique aspects of our training that those in other tracks could not. There were a few of us who found each other on Twitter, but it was harder to find those who could provide insight from further along the training path in my early days on Twitter. I joined a local MD/PhD trainee community upon beginning my program, but that still didn’t give me a global perspective on what it’s like to be a physician-scientist in training.

There’s an added benefit when trainees from different institutions come together. They can learn about the different ways their programs ultimately train them for a career as a physician-scientist. For example, mine starts in the PhD portion, others start with med school and transition to the PhD two years in, and some have even moved part of the clinical rotations to before the PhD. There may be things that other programs do to help their students develop into physician-scientists that mine doesn’t and vice versa. Such a community can provide support and diverse insights, which can help identify ways by which our training and medicine in general can be improved.

To help facilitate this discussion, the hashtag #DoubleDocs was recently adopted by the physician-scientist trainee community to connect trainees from undergraduate to residency and beyond. It was designed to be inclusive to both MD and DO trainees as well as those who have chosen to pursue a PhD and those who pursue other paths for research training. It does not mean double doctorates, but docs who are doubly in the research and medical worlds. What is special about this hashtag is that it rose organically from the physician-scientist trainee community as a way to stay connected. Unlike other hashtags, it is intended to have a specific focus on the training aspect of physician-scientists.

Taking this a step further, I, along with my colleagues in the American Physician Scientists Association, utilized Twitter’s list feature to make it easier for physician-scientist trainees to find each other. On the APSA twitter account (@A_P_S_A), we now have public lists for students at different stages and pathways of training including pre-med, MD/DO students, MD/DO-PhD students, Residents and Fellows, and established physician-scientists who can be resources for trainees. People can subscribe to these lists to find the Twitter accounts of other #DoubleDocs.

In the span of a few days from the start of this hashtag, I made nearly 100 new connections to trainees across the globe that have a similar career goal and unique training path, which highlights the power of Twitter to bring people together. Social media can get a bad rep, but it can also be quite useful! #DoubleDocs is just one hashtag, but so many others exist that can help people find a community!


If you like my writing, please consider following my blog. There’s a link near the top of the side bar to do so. Also, feel free to like my Facebook page (MD, PhD To Be), follow me on Twitter (@MDPhDToBe), and follow me on Instagram (MDPhDToBe). I am trying my best to remain active in each of these channels throughout my training! Any questions, comments, or requests for future blog posts can of course be directed to me from any of these locations or directly emailed to me at via the connect page. Thank you for reading!

How I found an online community

Ever since I decided to go into medicine, Twitter has provided me an awesome community of pre-meds, medical students, scientists, and so many more who have enriched my training! With the adoption of the #DoubleDocs hashtag by the physician-scientist trainee community, I thought I’d write about how much Twitter has helped make med school better.

You can find this in my newest article on Almost Docs: http://almost.thedoctorschannel.com/social-media-medical-community/

For those of you not on Twitter, I write a little bit about why I find Twitter to be the best forum for discussion within a global community and how I first got involved.

For more info on joining Twitter, please check out the following links:

Why I Blog and a Big Thank You to My Readers!

Q (from ask.fm): What inspired you to start your blog? Also how did you start it?

A: I’ve never considered myself a person who liked to write. I took AP literature and composition in high school but I’m still not sure why I decided to do so. Writing lab reports and papers for class was a long process and was not one of my favorites. Otherwise, I didn’t take a writing course until senior year of college.

Two summers ago, I was working on my medical school application and writing like crazy to make my personal statements the best they could be. As this process wore on, I could really see my story come alive in my writing, and it was a great feeling to express myself in that way. When it was done, I wanted to keep writing.

During that summer, I also made the twitter account that you now know as ‎@MDPhDToBe (though at the time it was anonymous and went by ‎@PreMDPhDLife). As I followed many medical students and pre-meds, I noticed some of the medical students had blogs and I thought that would be a great idea to share my experience, help others who aspire to go to medical school and give myself more opportunity to write!

To make my blog, I simply did a Google search for blog hosts. I looked into a few and ultimately decided that WordPress was my favorite. The rest was simple – I used the website’s templates and customization features to make the design look how I wanted, I began writing, and I promoted my work to my twitter community. My first blog went by premdphdlife.wordpress.com, but after being accepted to my MD/PhD program, I created mdphdtobe.com to better fit my perspective. This blog was created in March 2013.

Now, after a 16 months of blogging at mdphdtobe.com, I’m ecstatic to have over 100 followers and nearly 20,000 views coming from 100 different countries! I never expected to get much traffic to the site, so I am deeply humbled by the attention it has received. A big THANK YOU to everyone who takes the time to check out my writing, especially those who have gone above and beyond to actually follow my blog! You make blogging that much more enjoyable. 🙂

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Nominated for Liebster Award!

I know I said at the end of last semester that I’d be writing more this summer, which has been the truth just not for this blog. I hope you all haven’t forgotten about me in my absence!

Luckily, one of my mutual readers, doctororbust, did not forget and recently nominated me for a Liebster Award! He writes a wonderful blog about the pre-med experience and I can’t wait until his posts about actually being in medical school start up shortly!

What is the Liebster Award might you ask? It is an award given to bloggers by other bloggers with a name coming from the German word for love. It functions sort of like a chain letter except there’s no threat that something terrible would happen to you if you don’t send it on. Rather, it must be sent on for the pleasure of accepting the award and celebrating the work of others (a much better outcome!). It comes with a various versions of rules to accept the award, which the specific rules given to me are as follows:

  1. Thank the nominator and post a link to his/her blog. [See above]
  2. Display the award on your blog. [See the side bar]
  3. Answer the eleven questions provided by the nominator.
  4. Nominate 5-11 blogs that have less than 1,000 followers and let them know they’ve been nominated.
  5. Make up and post eleven questions for your nominees to answer.
  6. Post these rules to your blog. [DONE]

Here are the questions and my answers: 

1. If you could change something about yourself what would it be?

I’m going to have to go with being more willing to ask for help. I tend to prefer to do things myself so that I know it’s done the way I want it done, but that means my workload becomes overwhelming especially when I find it incredibly hard to turn down opportunities. It also means I don’t necessarily get the feedback that I need from my mentors because I don’t ask for it.

2. If you could be fluent in another language, what would it be?

At one point, I was learning German, which I realized during my trip to some German-speaking countries (see my next answer) that my proficiency is quite lacking. I would love to build upon what I currently know. On the other hand, I would like to be fluent in Spanish since it is such a commonly spoken language. In fact, I’m currently working on my medical Spanish skills through Canopy Apps.

3. Have you traveled to another country, if so where, if not where would you go?

After my senior year of high school, my concert band took a 10-day trip to Germany, Austria, and Czech Republic. We toured Salzburg (where the Sound of Music was filmed – LOVE that musical!) and Vienna in Austria. We also went to Mauthausen, a concentration camp, and St. Florian Abbey on our way between those two cities. In Czech Republic, we went to Prague, and in Germany, we went to Rothenberg ob der Tauber, which was a medieval town (complete with a large wall surrounding it for protection). We also performed five concerts along the way! It was a great final memory with many of my high school peers.

That is by no means the end of my travels though because I really want to experience as much of the world as possible. But I don’t have any specific plans for travel as of now (#poorstudent).

My mom wore my grandmother's scarf, so at least a part of her was at my college graduation.
My mom wore my grandmother’s scarf, so at least a part of her was at my college graduation.

4. What was the proudest moment of your life?

This probably was my college graduation. It was the culmination of years and years of hard work and was also the day of reaching a milestone of volunteer hours at the hospital and completing my undergraduate research grant project. Plus, I knew that I would be starting school as a MD/PhD student in the fall, which was a relief and an honor. I was proud to be graduating from the university that I love so much and that by doing so, I was making my loved ones proud (even if just in spirit). While my grandmother did live to know that I got in to my MD/PhD program, my biggest goal was to have her live to see me graduate from college, which unfortunately didn’t happen though I knew she would have been incredibly proud for me at that moment.

 5. If you had a super power, what would it be?

There’s simply too much that I want to do and not enough time or energy to do it all, so my super power would have to be something that would give me more time and energy such as not needing to sleep (definitely a super power).

6. Do you have a talent most people don’t know about?

I am quite good at guitar hero – or at least I used to be (haven’t played in quite some time). It’s one of the few video games that I can beat guys at!

7. What’s the most risk taking thing you’ve done?

Honestly, applying to medical school itself felt like a huge risk. Looking back, it seems like sort of a whim decision. I was trying to decide if I had a chance for that application cycle and ultimately took the “If you never try, you’ll never know” approach even though I knew I risked not getting in, having to figure out what to do with my life from there, and spending a lot of time and money to go through the application process.

8. Why do you write, did you enjoy writing growing up??

I always hated writing. It was more like a chore (since it was always for school!) I can distinctly remember too many times when faced with a piece of writing for class that I simply stared at the flashing cursor in Word for far too long. Times like this were torture. Yet, I have always felt that I could eventually get my voice across in my writing and received compliments from my teachers, which encouraged me to at least try to find enjoyment in writing.

Somehow around the time of applying to medical school, my view of writing shifted. I became more comfortable with writing and more efficient at putting my ideas into words. Making my blog was immensely helpful for giving me practice (even though I figured no one would read it!) I took a course on scientific writing for popular audiences since one of my purposes of writing is to share information with people in general rather than just in academia, and it provided me with practice and insight to make me a better writer. I then started writing for Almost Docs and later DocCheck in addition to this blog, so now I write for them, I write to provide advice for students on my blog, and I write for my satisfaction of getting my ideas and experiences online and available for others to access.

 9. If you could keep to your future, by passing all of the hard work to get to your goal, would you?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! I am having way too much of a good time with the process – the days are long and challenging, but I would not have it any other way. Goals are also dynamic, so my goal now may not be my same goal when I’m done with things (if I could ever be done with things), and I want my life to be shaped by my hard work so that it has the best outcome and story that it can.

10. Can you tolerate spicy food?

I always try to tolerate it, but I’m not usually that successful. For example, I used to have a goal of completing the Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Challenge, but that has long since ended because I know that I can’t handle that much spice (and I remember my guy friends in high school bawling their eyes out during it – no thanks). I prefer a medium level of spicy food.

11. Are you a morning or night person?

I would love to be a morning person, but alas, no such luck. Instead, I am a professional snooze-button pusher. I am very much a night owl though!

And now for my nominees… [drum roll]

  1. Journalist Doing Science
  2. Gay MD In Training
  3. Pretty Strong Med
  4. CheerfulHeartGoodMedicine
  5. MD after PhD

My Questions for Them

  1. Who has been the most influential person in your life?
  2. If you could accomplish anything that you set your heart to, what would you do (not necessarily a job, just anything)?
  3. Why did you decide to start a blog?
  4. What is one skill that you wish you had?
  5. What do you think is the most important issue that the world needs to address?
  6. Do you have siblings? If so, what is your relationship with them like?
  7. What do you like to do in your free time?
  8. Can you keep a secret?
  9. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
  10. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
  11. What is your favorite genre of music and/or artists?

Again, thank you doctororbust for the honor! I am grateful and look forward to the responses from my nominees. 🙂

My Nerdy Halloween Costumes

If you’re anything like me, Halloween is just another time to shout to the world, “Hey! I’m a nerd!” (Because it’s not like people can already tell.) It may still not for be nearly two months, but I just thought of an awesome costume today and I’m so excited! Therefore, I would like to share my previous Halloween costumes

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2011 – Sexy Scientist

Because being a scientist for Halloween is just a given. I took an old lab coat of my dad’s and altered its size so that it fit well. I decided to wear spandex shorts underneath to make it really seem like the lab coat was a dress. After that it was pretty simple. I took gloves from my lab, put on my lab goggles from undergrad chem lab, and bought a new 500 mL erlenmeyer flask as a prop. I saw a few scientists that year on my way to a Halloween party, but surely none of them were as cool as me. Want to know why? The erlenmeyer flask wasn’t just a prop, I drank out of it! If you do this though, make sure to buy a brand new flask. You can get them pretty cheap on amazon.

~

Image2012 – Xenon: The Noble Gas

I wanted something even more different to top my scientist costume. Therefore, I came up with being an element. I picked xenon because when an electric current is ran through it, it emits purple light. I already had shiny purple spandex leggings from Ragstock that my friends had bought me for some reason and I had a long purple tank top, so I had the majority of the outfit good to go. All I had to do after that was use puff paint to write out the periodic symbol on a piece of white fabric and sew it on to the tank top. I also bought a cheap crown from the party section at target since xenon is a “noble” gas. I got purple glow sticks later in the night (not shown) that actually looked like a xenon lamp.

~

Mrs. Frizzle2013 – Mrs. Frizzle

I had a throwback to my youth this year as Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. I left my hair wavy and put it up in a bun. I mimicked her space-themed dress with a solar system bodycon dress from Amazon. A lot of people thought I was just a galaxy for Halloween, but I added the school bus to my purse to add to the Magic School Bus theme.

~

Marie CurieAlso 2013 – Marie Curie

With three Halloween gatherings this year, I couldn’t just have one outfit. Thursday I brought back the Xenon costume from 2012, Friday I rocked Mrs. Frizzle, and Saturday I brought back 2011’s Sexy Scientist with a twist – Marie Curie. I used the same lab coat and wore a black dress underneath (Marie Curie is usually just depicted in a black dress but the lab coat was for clarification). I also added my own “radium” by cutting open a couple green glow sticks and transferring the contents to a test tube. It looked really cool but was unfortunately difficult to manage to not spill. Next time, I’ll have to get a cap for the tube so I can put it in my pocket and not have to hold all night.

~

Other nerdy costume ideas that I may eventually rock:

  • Schrodinger’s cat
  • Dark matter

If you have any other cool ideas, let me know!

Lend a hand? Happily.

I’ve volunteered as long as I have been old enough to do so.

It started with girl scouts in elementary school where we would do various projects such as volunteering at a homeless shelter. It continued with volunteering at a hospital starting the summer after my freshman year of high school, participating volunteer opportunities with the national honor society later in high school, and leading a band service sorority in college.

I’ve had friends ask me why I do it, saying that I don’t get anything in return. Even those in NHS with me would only do the minimum volunteer hour requirements while I always did more.

Well, I did get something from it. It just wasn’t necessarily tangible.

What I got was happiness.

Research has shown that those with a greater interest in helping others rate themselves as more happy. It is believed that such acts may foster a charitable perception of others and one’s community, an increased sense of cooperation and interdependence, and an awareness of one’s good fortune.

People who willingly help others tend to feel more altruistic, confident, efficacious, in control, and optimistic about their ability to help.

Generosity can also inspire greater liking by others, as well as appreciation, gratitude, and pro-social reciprocity. It may also satisfy a basic human need for relatedness, which contributes to happiness.

So next time you have the opportunity to help others, I hope you take it. It may help boost your happiness.

The research is from: Lyubomirsky, S; Sheldon, K M; & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. UC Riverside: Retrieved from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/4v03h9gv