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Medical Student Dermatology Interest Groups
Without any doubt, the Medical school interest groups have given the students an undoubtedly profound opportunity to take active leadership roles, and to build professional relationships with the faculty, residents and alumni. According to the recent research, the Interest groups have created a unique type of education, opinion formation, and upbringing due to the non-curricular setting . Moreover, the Interest groups play a pivotal role in the process of learning about various opportunities for projects, investigations, and service, since the majority of students are unaware of such opportunities .
The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) dermatology interest group (DIG) was established in 2000. Historically, it was one of the first charter schools that became a member of the national student-run Dermatology Interest Group Association (DIGA). The DIGA is an organization that was created in order to provide a broad network of volunteer, leadership, and research opportunities for students who are interested in dermatology nationwide . Nowadays, the DIGA includes 75 medical school DIG groups . Moreover, the UTMB DIG has organized many events, including Stay Shady presentations on sun protection, and skin safety project for children, teenagers, and lifeguards in Galveston, TX. Furthermore, the DIG has made a big effort in the treatment of melanoma, free skin cancer screening, suture workshops, and organized fundraising events.
The DIG@UTMB blog was created in 2004 with the aim to increase communication and collaboration between students, faculty, residents, and alumni in order to promote better educational opportunities, and to foster the missions on the basis of which the DIG was formed. A blog, known as weblog, was chosen as a means of communication due to its dynamic nature that allows continuous updating, and dissemination of information as announcements. These announcements are posted in the chronological order and can contain web links, images, etc . The application of web-based tools, known as “Web 2.0” (wiki, blogs, podcasts, twitter, etc), has significantly improved medical dermatology education [5, 6, 7]. The study has recently showed that weblogs can promote reflection, and support the student’s professional development, in case, if they are structured by the faculty members. The use of blogs is highly recommended, while they act as a source of positive role modeling, which can significantly diminish empathy seen in medical students today .
The DIG@UTMB blog was created with the help of blogger.com. It is needless to say that this blog is open to people who are not technologically savvy. Statistically, there are over 7,8 million Weblogs, and about 30,000 – 40,000 new blogs that are created each day . The majority of dermatology blogs have been widely used as an interactive way to provide patient with information due to dermatology’s visually clinical-based specialty, the DIG@UTMB blog is unique because it is directed towards students and residents.
Over the past eight years, UTMB DIG president and vice president students have become the editors. Moreover, they work with the DIG faculty advisor Dr. Richard who is responsible for the approvals. and provision of the information to posts. This “electronic newsletter” has easily accessible archives, which provide useful information, such as match results, application tips from the directors, and local citizens. In addition to posting, the DIG@UTMB blog has a sidebar feature that is reserved for useful reference material, such as web links to the DIG, national DIGA, department information, educational websites, dermatology textbooks, journals, recommended fiction, and non-fiction books. Furthermore, the DIG@UTMB gives the access to potential dermatology applicants and students from outside schools who want to obtain knowledge regarding UTMB’s research activity, faculty, and other department information.
Due to the fact that the students have an increased interest in web-based tools, much attention was taken to the social media policies at the United States medical schools. They have evaluated the question what is forbidden, inappropriate or impermissible to post or display . Undoubtedly, students and medical educators should be aware of potential bias, copyright, legal issues and assessment implications while these posts can make problems . The DIG@UTMB can strayed away from these potential issues by eliminating the option for viewers to leave comments, excluding patient information, and getting faculty advisor to post approvals.
After an online search using Google search engine, it was found that several interest groups blogs still exist, although, few of them continue their activity. In 2010 the UTMB DIG member (now resident) helped to implement the national DIGA blog, while holding a DIGA officer position. The DIGA distributes different types of content than the DIG@UTMB blog, due to its national level nature of student representatives from many different medical schools. Furthermore, there were not found any other open access to medical school of DIG blogs that was active within the last six months. However, the Texas Tech Health Science Center DIG was found to have an active twitter which is the messaging system that allows individuals or groups to send brief messages up to 140 characters in length to a list of followers . It was also found that at the Boston University School of Medicine dermatology department distributes an alumni newsletter, which is uploaded into their website as an archive. Moreover, they have the Student Committee on Medical School Affairs (SCOMSA) website that posts news and events regarding the student organizations, and including their DIG.
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Throughout the years, the DIG@UTMB blog has been cited in the various published articles and books as a good example of a medical education blog [ref on my sheet] and has also been voted the best dermatology blog .
Evaluation of DIG@UTMB Blog throughout the Years
In 2006, an assessment of the DIG@UTMB blog published the analysis of its success after nine months of activity . After eight years, a significant increase was seen in the DIG@UTMB blog activity, viewers, and changes in the target audience, and post subjects. Tracking features of the blog and Sitemeter.com was used in order to record statistics regarding blog views and activity. Consequently, these peculiarities helped to analyze and to evaluate the progress and changes of the DIG@UTMB blog throughout the years in more accurate way.
Compared to only 16 members in 2006, the DIG@UTMB blog currently has 138 viewers who are subscribed to the DIG@UTMB blog. Most subscribers are an accumulation of students who have signed up during the UTMB orientation or who have requested to subscribe throughout the school year. The Subscribers automatically get posts sent to their email. Taking this point into consideration, there may be more viewers than the “hit encounter” tracker indicates, since there is no need for subscribers to view the DIG@UTMB website. Above mentioned information proves that there can be more viewers. When evaluating the blog an interesting fact was found that showed that there is usually an increase in blog views during interview season, which may be of residency committee members and/or applicants [Line graphs displaying trends].
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Possible goals to consider for the DIG@UTMB blog include incorporating dermatological educational posts versus news announcements. However, it is important to mention that the ideas, such as creation of the virtual journal club or grand round case postings can be possible in case if the section of comments is carefully available and adding cases do not violate patient confidentiality.
After the evaluation of DIG@UTMB throughout the years, it is interesting to note that only a handful of 138 subscribers have pursued and/or will pursue a career in dermatology. Therefore, further evaluation on the motives of viewers is necessary. A possible method of evaluation may be reviewing the feedback of polls posted onto the DIG@UTMB blog. According to the information mentioned above, it is clearly seen that the dermatology resources are changing rapidly and it is suspected to continue to influence dermatology education dramatically in the near feature . Therefore, with student and faculty use of “Web 2.0” tools, such as blogs, evaluation of their impact in medical education is necessary.