I looked furtively for friendly eyes.
That’s the first piece of advice I give to speakers I coach. The stage is yours. Your audience isn’t going anywhere. So, before you open your mouth to speak, take a moment to get centered. Breathe deep. Smile. And find those friendly pairs of eyes.
It was Day 2 of the Stanford Summit and Medicine 2.0 @ Stanford, the prequel pilot to what is now known as Medicine X, the brainchild of conference organizer Larry Chu, MD, MS, and his teams of advisors.
Ten ePatient scholars volunteered to tell their story, and I was one of them.
The Stanford ePatient Forum A patient-driven session focused on the perspective of ePatients in the realm of Medicine 2.0. Attend this session to learn about how patients are empowering their own health care through the use of social and emerging technologies.
As I scanned the audience, I was surprised at how many individuals I recognized from their Twitter profile pics. It was a veritable Who’s Who of social media aficionados – doctors, healthcare advocates, academics, researchers, and a few, like me, who remained ambivalent about coming out with their patient story, and were hiding behind an avatar.
We each had five minutes to share our story, and I recall Nick Dawson doing an amazing job as forum chair and moderator, asking follow-up questions of specific ePatient panelists.
If you’re astute, you’ll count only nine, not 10 ePatients pictured here. I had no idea group pics were being taken. I am stage left, conveniently outside of the camera’s lens, talking to a fellow California Girl and ePatient scholar, a twitter friend I met for the first time IRL at the Stanford Summit and Medicine 2.0 @ Stanford.
Somewhere, someone actually has posted a picture that proves I was part of this inaugural group of ePatient scholars. But I can’t remember who posted it or where it is posted. Perhaps my absence in the photo above is fitting, since it was in keeping with my veiled identity on social media at the time. Serendipity at work?
But two years later, after attending Medicine X a couple of weeks ago, I can attest publicly sharing my story at Medicine 2.0 at Stanford opened up for me a multitude of opportunities. My digital footprint began to grow. I found social media mentors and patient champions, as well as great conversationalists and collaborators on topics of shared interest on various hashtag twitter chats.
I began to relish jumping into my Twitter stream, any hour of the day or night, where I would experience some *truly* laugh-out-loud-until-you-cried levity. And on other occasions, somber, tear-laden moments, as we shared a tragedy. All conversations and sentiments shared in 140 characters or less.
When PBS began inserting lower-third bars with hashtags during their primetime programming, I asked my kids, who in their right mind would want to tweet while watching television? Well, eventually, I did, and Downton Abbey was never quite the same again.
And when real life intruded on my virtual life, and I would disappear, it was so comforting to have fellow Stanford ePatient scholars and friends, like @jodyms and @harriseve, checking in on me to see how I was and if things were going ok.
When I would find the wherewithal to jump in again, and share a post, who but @AfternoonNapper would pop up exclaiming, “There you are @IM4PBS!” like she had been sitting there, just patiently waiting for me to reappear at that very moment. We shared great virtual hugs and would catch up on what was happening in each other’s life.
And another time, after a much longer social media sabbatical, one of the most compassionate physician bloggers I know, but have never met IRL, @jordangrumet, greeted my return to Twitter with a simple “@IM4PBS Welcome back.”
And I knew I was back home again.