Be careful what you tweet if you’re a medical school applicant. A recent study in the Postgraduate Medical Journal showed that some medical school admissions officers do Google searches to assess applicants’ professional behavior. Looking at the way applicants use social media, and discovering inappropriate content posted by them, can have a negative effect on applicants’ outcomes. In the study, Dr. Carl Schulman of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine stated that taking into consideration social media use may become “a standard way of evaluating applicants.” More than half of the med school admissions officers and residency program directors surveyed said that posting questionable material online could hurt applicants’ chances.
Dr. Geoffrey Young, senior director of student affairs and and programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges and the former associate dean for admissions at the Medical College of Georgia, encourages medical school applicants to be mindful of how their online behavior might reflect on their professionalism (or lack thereof). Medical schools consider applicants’ integrity and professionalism, and if inappropriate content is posted online they may take note. Dr. Bryan Vartabedian provides “a list of things to consider before medical schools take to the Internet to choose our next generation of doctors.” Physicians also need to be aware of appropriate social media use. The Federation of State Medical Boards has published guidelines for physicians regarding the appropriate use of social media in medical practice.
Before entering the medical school admission process, you should explore your online presence and know what digital information about you exists across the internet for any and all to see. You should be aware of your digital footprint and the impression that your online presence projects. If you need to protect your online presence there are steps you can take to remove objectionable material. Remember that you are entering a profession in which you are responsible for the care of others. Would you want a patient finding inappropriate content about you online? If anything exists that makes you think twice about that question you should consider removing it.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting