This is the second installment of a three-part Q&A series with Stanford Nephrology Fellow and Renal Fellow Network (RFN) deputy editor Graham Abra, MD. In the series, Abra explains how he and colleagues are using social media to provide a forum for discussing nephrology cases, scientific papers and clinical topics. Below he touches on the challenges of creating and maintaining RFN and how the blog's audience has evolved since its launch in 2008.
RFN was created as an educational resource for nephrology fellows. What were some of the more challenging aspects of launching and maintaining the site?
A key point, and one I’ll come back to, is that starting a blog is something that anyone with the interest can do. Maintaining it with high quality interesting content is the challenge. To stay relevant as a site written by and for fellows we constantly need to recruit excited new nephrologists-in-training to come and write for us. We have been fortunate in that many skillful writers have come to us.
Also, the site needs constant attention to keep it relevant and fresh. As a nonprofit, deleting comments with advertisements and responding to relevant questions keep us busy. Interestingly, we have not had many inflammatory comments on the site. Most people who participate in the site’s dialogue ask insightful intelligent questions and add to the content.
Searching online for health information has become an increasingly popular with the public. How has RFN’s audience grown or evolved since being launched?
When [RFN founder Nathan Hellman] started writing he was writing mainly for other fellows and related basic scientists (Nate was an MD PhD, who after his clinical year of fellowship worked in a basic science lab). With time, you can see from post comments and readership polls that nurses, medical students, residents and patients where also a part of the audience.
This readership variety is fantastic because it brings multiple perspectives to post commentary and allows us (as nephrology fellows) to promote our field to interested medical students and house staff while learning about what patients and other care providers find important.
This Q&A series concludes tomorrow when Abra offers advice to researchers and physicians interested in using social media tools to foster communication or share information with colleagues and the public.