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PrISM: a professional community explores social media in health & Luke E Rosenberger, MLIS and Bridgett Piernik-Yoder, PhD

, OTR science

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Over the last five years, the number of individuals, departments and other units at the Health Science Center using social media tools to support their professional goals and the University mission has grown steadily. There was, however, little coordination between these efforts, and little to no strategic guidance from the University on professional or official use of social media tools. Not only was the University potentially missing valuable opportunities for social media outreach at an institutional level, but the knowledge and experience that were being gained by early adopters was not being captured and shared. Despite our enthusiasm for the learning and networking possibilities of being "social", at the institutional and departmental level we were very much "on our own."

Just four weeks after the aforementioned discussion with Mr York, the Professional Interest in Social Media group ("PrISM" for short) held its first meetup. That meeting, on 27 April 2011, had nearly 40 people in attendance, from all walks of Health Science Center life: teaching, clinical, research, administrative support, student life, IT, and more. The group enthusiastically shared their concerns, questions, tricks & tips, and experiences with each other. The first meetup revealed a wide variety of areas of interest for future discussions, from strategies for efficiency and increased reach, to concerns about appropriately separating personal and professional use, to a desire for "show and tell" on emerging social media tools. We also have had "show-and-tell" demonstrations on RSS, social bookmarking, Google+, tumblr, WordPress and other tools. A supply of paletas (ice-cream bars) also became a trademark treat at these gatherings. These meetings have continued with an average attendance over 30 attendees each, with some meetings exceeding 40.

Although this is an emerging area, early indications suggest the potential for social media tools to support our work in medical education [2], clinical care [3] and biomedical research [4] are significant. But the very nature of these tools determines that we cannot realize that potential in isolation. We must look for -and construct -- opportunities to create a more collaborative When we gather and share our enterprise [5]. knowledge, experiences and concerns with each other, we learn the lessons of each others' achievements and mistakes. Together, we gain the confidence we need to innovate and grow. A community of interest/practice like the one we have formed at the Health Science Center can be an effective vehicle for knowledge transfer and grassroots organizational development. As participants develop their own expertise and professional networks, the institution at large becomes If you'd like to join ourbetter ablewe invite uponto participate the meetups, to draw you its own knowledge capital to innovate effectively. fourth Wednesday of every month, from 2pm to 3:30pm, on the Health Science Center campus. You can find details about upcoming meetings, as well as further discussion and idea exchange, at our website, We invite you to use your smartphone to scan the blue QR code above this paragraph with a barcode reader app (such as ScanLife) to bring up that website on your smartphone right now.


Early discussions of a "bloggers' club" developed into the seed for a social media/web 2.0 "users group" or "special interest group." These brainstorms quickly gained structure when the University's VP and CIO, Jerry York, expressed concern that the University was getting "left behind" in our ability to capitalize on the potential of social media tools. Fortunately, he supported a proposal to start with a "grassroots" approach to knowledge-sharing and development, in the model of a "community of practice" group [1], as opposed to imposing a top-down governance structure or The two of us the outset. committee at issued an open invitation to this "special interest group" across our own campus, and also extended invitations to interested colleagues at the University Health System, South Texas Veterans Health Care System, and other similar organizations. We publicized our first meetup with print flyers around campus and promoted it when we could at meetings that might include interested parties. We used a third-party online invitation & RSVP service ( to post information about our upcoming meetup, and we also created a website at to help us get the word out and supplement the in-person discussion.


In addition, after the third meeting, a consensus began to form that we should begin to document a set of best practices or guidelines for the benefit of future colleagues and the University as a whole. A smaller volunteer subgroup met weekly through the month of July to look at models from other institutions and draft a whitepaper with recommendations. That subgroup presented This work is licensed its work to the July meetup for additional under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License feedback. The “Best Practices Guide” was . revised in August, then published on the PrISM website in September as a living resource for users at the Health Science Center and

1. Smith HA, McKeen JD. Creating and facilitating communities of practice. In: Holsapple C, editor. Handbook on knowledge management 1: Knowledge matters. Dordrecht (NL): Springer; 2004. p. 393-407. 2. Saarinen C, Arora V, Ferguson B, Chretien K. Incorporating social media into medical education. Academic Internal Medicine Insight. 9(1):12-13, 19. 3. Turner PL. Social networking in surgery: The residency program director's view. Surgery. 2011 Jul;150(1): 7-9. 4. Weitzman ER, Adida B, Kelemen S, Mandl KD. Sharing data for public health research by members of an international online diabetes social network. PLoS One. 2011 Apr 27;6(4):e19256. 5. Adler P, Hecksher C, Prusak, L. Building a collaborative enterprise. Harv Bus Rev. 2011 Jul/Aug;89(7/8):94-101.