The Role of Television, Social Media and The Rise of Doctor Influencers.

Mar 7, 2021 5 min read
The Role of Television, Social Media and The Rise of Doctor Influencers.

Author: Sophika Uthayakumar, 1st Year Medical Student at King's College London.

Introduction

It was only after attending a recent plastic surgery conference by my university, did I comprehend the breadth of plastic surgery. Plastic surgery encompasses burns, reconstructive surgery, oncoplastics, just to name a few. In this article, I will be exploring how students like myself misperceive a career in plastic surgery and what factors shape our views.

Around the world, medical students have a poor understanding and awareness of this field.  This may deter students from pursuing this speciality. The lack of understanding or misunderstanding is influenced immensely by television, social media and the role of doctor influencers. More than ever, medical students’ views are being shaped by what is seen online.

Over lockdown, you may have seen TikToks about an array of medical specialties and stereotypes. The plastic surgeon is a know it all and drives around in a sports car. In some cases, these platforms can help inform medical students about plastic surgery. These forms of media are being utilised extensively as an educational tool.


Television

Television plays a pivotal role in shaping views of medical specialties. Currently many programs only cover the cosmetic side of plastic surgery. Programs that show other aspects of plastic surgery can help educate students. A study carried out on medical students exhibited that the majority felt the “media projected plastic surgery in a negative light, year one (80%); year two (84%); year three (74%); year four (91%). Collectively, 12% stated that there was too much focus on breast surgery, cosmetic surgery, and television shows tainted the profession and perception of plastic surgeons”. (Dean, Javed and Jones, 2016)  Students mentioned that there was too heavy of an emphasis on financial incentives and this was off putting.

Medical shows are very popular among students. Students are able to recall information from episodes due to the engaging nature of programmes. Students also had a higher satisfaction when utilising shows as learning tools. Nevertheless, there are medical inaccuracies in shows and they can create false and unrealistic expectations regarding plastic surgery.

Popular American shows like ‘Botched’ and ‘Nip/Tuck mainly focus on the cosmetic aspect of plastic surgery. In the future, I hope to see more realistic shows portraying plastic surgery from all angles. This will obtain engagement from students and give them a greater understanding of what the speciality truly entails.

Social media


Without a doubt, social media can educate and better inform students about a career in plastic surgery. On average, people spend 2 hours on social media platforms.  Social media reaches the masses and sparks a conversation.

Studies have exhibited that social media platforms have increased medical students’ exposure to plastic surgery. During the pandemic, social media has “played a central role in continued medical education, dissemination of scientific information, peer review, online discussions, and many more”. (Goel and Gupta, 2020)  There is an increase in the rise of doctor influencers, who share insights into the job, on Instagram for example. Influencers are individuals who have a significant impact in their community.

Via social media, students can learn about what being a plastic surgeon entails, find mentors and create opportunities for themselves.  However, it is vital to be cautious as some social media posts can misinform and spread fake news. “Understanding who influencers are is critical to ensure that legitimate information is presented by appropriately trained individuals”. (Chandawarkar, Gould and Grant Stevens, 2018).

As of 2018, there are 24 plastic surgeons from the UK, who took a place in the top 100 social media influencers in plastic surgery and produce academic content.

Medical students have voiced their appreciation of professional social media content as an effective educational tool. Due to the pandemic, many electives and conferences have been cancelled. Platforms like Facebook have been utilised to promote educational events. A webinar organised by the Harvard Plastic Surgery Residency Training programme led to “increased confidence levels of medical students interested in apply for residency positions in plastic surgery”. (Serebrakian et al,2020)  These results display that webinars aid students when it comes to choosing a specialty. Social media can help spread awareness about events and shape students’ perspectives on this field in a positive manner.


Conclusion

In conclusion, television, social media and influencers can both positively and negatively affect medical students’ perspective and understanding on plastic surgery. Misconceptions can arise due to these platforms spreading false information. In the future, these platforms can be utilised appropriately to engage more medical students and educate them on what plastic surgery encompasses.


Bibliography

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