Do Medical School Deans see social media in the future of medicine? I asked Dean Stephen Klasko of @usfhealth if he does.

Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, Senior Vice President, USF; CEO, USF Health; Dean, University of South Florida College of Medicine (photo source: USF Health)

If you look bad on a big screen, you’ll look bad on a small screen – Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA

Continuing on the discussion about use of social media in health care (Score so far: Doctors on Sermo: no, Medical Student Chad Rudnick at USF Health: yes), I had the opportunity to ask Chad’s Dean, Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, the Dean of the USF College of Medicine about his thoughts on social media and medicine’s future.

I pulled the quote above from our conversation because it symbolizes the approach that I heard Stephen talk about. He said it when, in 2005, USF Health began podcasting every lecture for its students (you can see their iTunes U channel here – Stephen was the head of the steering committee for iTunes U Health). He told me, “I almost had a faculty revolution,” and as he ticked through all the reasons podcasting made his faculty anxious, the last one was, “because it will look bad on a small screen.” Now he says, the facutly enjoys this ability, “it frees them to teach more creatively.”

As I mentioned in my previous post about USF Health, they reached out to me, in the form of their PR firm, Edelman, so my burning question was, “Why?

Stephen led off with his training, which is as an OB-Gyn and a Wharton MBA. He spoke about the physician acculturation process:

The reason we get what we get is because we’ve adapted our DNA to be rigid, autonomous, hierarchichal, and non-creative.

And with this recognition:

When I took over, I looked at ways to create physicians based on the future instead of based on the past.


We don’t do stuff to do it – we look at solving problems, and not in the normal academic way

I had a feeling that the reach-out from Edelman was a signal of the innovative nature of this place. With that in mind, I wanted to know:

What is the attitude of social media among the other 131 Deans of Medical Schools in the United States?

Stephen says it ranges from the “I’ll be darned if I do, because it’s not academic” to “I know that Facebook is being used by medical schools as a way to interact with students*” to some Deans not even knowing that their schools have Facebook pages.

“It’s happening in medical schools, somewhat begrudgingly,” he says, and he points to his age (56), which is among the younger in the Dean community, and the fact that younger medical schools are hiring younger Deans at the outset.

*See the bottom of this post for data about what medical schools are doing with Facebook

Where does USF College of Medicine range in the spectrum of medical schools with regard to social media?

Stephen puts USF at top 10% when counting “resources and amount of time spent on new social media” and top 20 – 25 % when looking at total use of social media including blogs and Facebook.

He points out that resistance has turned into benefit – “Once we got a reputation as a school that does this, educators started saying, I want to come to your school, because my Dean doesn’t get it.”

What’s your opinion about the role of social media in the future practice of medicine, does it have one?

Stephen responds, “It does, it also has some risks. When we did a student panel and asked about having a Facebook page or Twitter for your practice, the consensus was ‘yes, but I’m going to make sure it’s totally separate from my personal (pages).” He says they favored having a structured Facebook/Twitter presence around the wellness and disease states of their patients.

Going a little farther, he said, “It will be absolutely routine that docs have that ability. And we’re actually testing it  – we just created a partnership with a community called the Villages –  a community of 85,000 people. Part of our goal is to connect them in a health point of view with social media.” (see: The Villages joins with USF Health to create America’s healthiest hometown

What about medical schools’ roles in fostering innovation?

This isn’t a question that I asked, it was a point of view that Stephen volunteered.

He said:

As with everything, the last place it will  happen is in traditional medical schools, but I think it will happen around marketing practices , one way of connecting two way between patients and providers which I think has to happen.

I was personally impressed with this admission, I’ll say, because I count myself among the legions of the semi-frustrated around the ability of medical schools to train to future care delivery. When I acknowledged this and asked for detail, he said:

If we don’t do it, entrepreneurs will do it, and not do it as well as we do, and hire us.

I would rather figure out a way for us to do it, with the docs that I know are going to be good and interact with patients and have two-way communication.

I do believe that traditional AMC are the last to exploit it. We tend to be innovative in a lot of ways, but it’s not where we tend to be most innovative.

Thinking beyond curriculum – recruitment

If you look at the marketing groups of most medical schools, they’re older than I am. – I have three men with ponytails, who look more like a gaming industry marketing group than a medical school marketing group.

This also impressed me – in a world that is seemingly locked down to p values, there are ways to innovate, selection being one. I hadn’t thought about this previously.

I finally asked Stephen what he thought the doctors of America could do to help him promote innovation, he said:

It would be great to have a social media / innovation in academic medicine blog. As connected as we are in academic medicine, this is the hardest thing to connect – they are not going to put an article in Academic Medicine about our use of Second Life on Match Day, because we don’t have a p < 0.001 or an n of 1000.

The more doctors can start to create the “I did this in my practice, or I did this in my school – that will be a way of getting some of that excitement.”

I took this as both a nod to the work of so many physicians who are telling the story already in social media space AND the recognition that they will have an impact in medical education, even if it seems day to day that this world is siloed from the rest of the world of innovation that some of us live in.


….it seems that at least one medical school is less siloed than we think. I have an idea that there are others too. Please speak up in the comments if you are innovating like USF Health or if you’d like to.

In the meantime, thanks to Edelman, and USF College of Medicine Students and leadership for providing a little time and a lot of hope for the future. I offer this blog post as my contribution to the connectedness between schools that isn’t happening in the peer-reviewed literature (yet).

Oh, one more thing, some people might say that a discussion like this, coordinated by a PR firm, is a bit of selection bias for the innovative, that there are no PR firms pitching the un-innovative to be interviewed here. To that I’d say….you’re correct :).


Well… I guess I fit into the last category of physicians… the silo. I've been doing *this* for a while. I done the analytics, I've studied my patients desires, needs, etc and I believe my latest website represents the culmination of a significant effort to improve patients ability to learn about healthcare, their disease processes and the choices or options available to them. If Dr. Klasko would ever like to talk with someone from the trenches, I would be more than happy to have that discussion.

Well written Ted… enjoying the series.


Ted Eytan, MD