An Introduction and Guide to Becoming a Social Media Savvy Nephrologists

Natasha N. Dave; Matthew A. Sparks; Samira S. Farouk


Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2022;37(1):14-20. 

In This Article

Innovative Ways to Learn, Educate and Disseminate

Social media has provided a unique venue to innovate educational methods and apply novel dissemination strategies. In particular, free open access medical education (FOAMed) resources cater to a variety of learning styles (e.g. visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and preferences. These resources can be accessed from different types of devices including computers, tablets and mobile phones. Similar to content posted directly to Twitter, all content is readily discoverable via search engines. These resources can enrich the educational experience for the learner and provide a refreshing supplement to traditional resources. One of the most powerful features of these resources is the ease of sharing. For example, these resources can be accessed together by team members during nephrology rounds or even shared via text message within a matter of seconds. Because online platforms are now easily accessible via mobile devices, they demonstrate novel methods of educating in comparison with traditional textbooks, journals or slide-based lectures. These resources can provide the learner with a unique and refreshing way of staying up-to-date, but should be validated and used as an adjunct to traditional learning tools. Several nephrology FOAMed resources are summarized in Table 1 and briefly described below.

Video-based Content

For visual learners, several types of video-based content are available including traditional slide-based lectures, recorded symposium presentations, live and recorded webinars, online nephropathology conferences and chalk talks (Table 1). One such program is a nephropathology conference called The Glomerular Disease Study & Trial Consortium (GlomCon). GlomCon is a live, interactive online case presentation similar to biopsy conference in nephrology training.[29] Other examples include the 'Washington University in St. Louis Nephrology' YouTube channel[30] and a series of video chalk talks that covers basic nephrology concepts for medical trainees can be viewed on Vimeo[31] and has been used in a medical school physiology curriculum.[32] These resources provide easily digestible and shareable material that can enhance an educational curriculum or one's own learning.


For auditory learners, and those looking for a convenient way to learn, podcasts offer a way to listen to downloadable content during a commute or at the gym. Most FOAMed resources, including a myriad of medical podcasts, can be subscribed to, providing listeners with a notification when new content is available.[33,34] Similarly, many professional nephrology societies publish podcasts including the ASN, NKF-Life as a Nephrologist, RPA and American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (Table 1). Several organizations have embraced podcasts for medical education, examples include The Rogosin Institute podcast, Satellite Healthcare (NephTalk), the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, DaVita (DaVita Medical Insights). NephJC produces a podcast, Freely Filtered. This podcast covers recent nephrology articles that are discussed on the bimonthly NephJC Twitter chats. Depending on the podcast content, length, and moderators or group running the channel, nephrologists have a number of options to choose from and the ability to passively learn on-the-go.

Written Resources: Blogs, Websites and Tweetorials

Learners who prefer a written dialogue (read/write) have a preference to convey and receive information using printed words.[35] Blogs are web pages run by an individual or a group where written content can be posted in intervals on a particular topic. Content is displayed in reverse chronological order and can range from the authors perspective to case reports, reviews of journal articles as well as society conference material.[15] One of the earliest nephrology blogs to be created was Renal Fellow Network, started by the late Dr Nate Hellman in 2008.[18] With as many as 31 100 visitors per month worldwide in 2019, this blog has become a well-known hub for nephrology trainees and others interested in nephrology.[18] Trainees contribute peer-reviewed content that is shared via social media platforms and a blog email subscriber list. Other nephrologist-run blogs and websites include Nephron Power by Dr Kenar Jhaveri,[36]Precious Bodily Fluids by Dr Joel Topf, The Nephrologist by Dr Vanessa Grubbs,[37] the NephJC blog and Landmark Nephrology.[38] The inclusion of other types of FOAMed content (e.g. videos, links, visual abstracts) on blogs helps to further enhance learning.

Finally, medical educators can leverage Twitter itself as their classroom by creating tweetorials. A 'tweetorial' is a series of tweets that serve as a 'tutorial' on a specific topic.[39] The tweetorial classroom is not restricted by location, time, level of training or field. Furthermore, they often take on a short, engaging format and may include polls, primary source links, videos and other multimedia including graphics interchange format images. Tweetorials have gained traction among the medical community, and many clinicians and journals have used tweetorials to supplement lectures, podcasts or newly published research.[39]

Interactive Learning

Kinesthetic learners prefer an interactive, hands-on approach for education.[40] Nephrology Simulator (NephSIM) is an online, mobile-optimized teaching tool that provides an interactive interface needed for kinesthetic learners to stay engaged via case-based learning (CBL).[41,42] Cases simulate real patient interactions, beginning with history of presenting illness and physical examination. Learners are asked questions as the case unfolds and are provided with immediate feedback (both reinforcing and constructive). In addition to CBL, NephSIM has an image gallery, infographics and succinct tutorials on the performance of urine microscopy, interpretation of kidney pathology slides, and an approach to acid–base disorders. Similarly, both NephMadness and NephJC are interactive learning activities.

Staying Up-to-date

In addition to innovative educational endeavors, physicians looking to be informed with the most current literature and research studies may find social media engagement both an effective and efficient way to do so. Weeks or months before publication in hard copy journals, manuscripts may be rapidly circulated via social media channels and reach thousands of individuals. Since 2016, many journals have now embraced the 'visual abstract'—a graphical representation of the traditional written abstract.[25] With minimal words, the visual abstract tells the story of a research study with pictures. One can discern the key points from the manuscript before delving into the full text within a few seconds. These graphical representations appear regularly on social media platforms as well as within presentations at international conferences.