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Rethinking Residency Recruitment and Social Media Presence in a Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into the late spring months, the American College of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) made the recommendation to hold all residency and fellowship recruitment interviews for the 2021 Match cycle virtually. At the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center (UTHSC), preparations began. The internal medicine-pediatrics program leadership quickly realized that its online presence would need a drastic makeover. As members of this team, we wanted to continue to attract diverse, highly-qualified residents even though we could not “sell” the program by meeting potential residents and showing them our city.

Our program director put out a call for the formation of a social media committee which would eventually be composed of three PGY-2 residents, three PGY-3 residents, and our three chief residents for the upcoming year. 

At our first committee meeting, we discussed our vision for how we could increase our social media presence to show Memphis, UTHSC and its current residents to applicants who would not be able to experience all of it in person. We ultimately decided that Instagram and Twitter would be the main points of focus with a minimal presence on Facebook and TikTok. 

Instagram would be for highlighting residents, alumni, faculty and Memphis. We planned to post wellness activities on weekdays with no scheduled posts on weekends. This would leave time to post photos that did not fit into any other categories such as birthday features or poster presentations. We decided on a “takeover” model through which residents would take turns to showcase their day via Instagram “stories,” then saving those stories to the highlights section. The account would be used to share posts from the categorical programs, the UTHSC main page and the local Memphis accounts, including @choose901, @ilovememphisblog, @ediblememphis and others.    

Twitter would be used to demonstrate the academic portion of the program. The platform has become a bustling platform for #MedEd conversation full of excellent educational resources. Many of our program faculty and residents are active on the platform and share teaching pearls and participate in live-tweeting conference presentations. Twitter would make it easy to share these posts to the program’s main feed and thus to any applicants. The social media committee members have planned to share any future presentations made by residents or faculty, convert our morning reports into scheduled “Tweettorials” and take part in discussions and webinars. Additionally, Instagram posts and stories would be shared to Twitter  with all of the accounts being clearly linked to UTHSC’s profiles on other platforms. 

In order to maintain consistency across the platforms, the team was divided into two groups, with one from each group to monitor Twitter and one for Instagram. Residents would take turns covering a week of features with a central online document to ensure a steady stream of ideas with the goal being that all residents and faculty would be eventually featured. 

In the first month of our actively increasing presence on social media, we gained 91 followers on Instagram and 106 on Twitter, with the most popular posts being those about current and recent residents. We have not made as much of an impact on TikTok, but have made a few videos and are having fun brainstorming about how to use the platform most effectively. 

We knew going in that adaptability would be key and have already made some changes. The first was to transform the Instagram page to a business page which allowed us more insight into who interacts with the page. The second was the addition of a resident pet feature on our Instagram! We hope to engage on both Twitter and Instagram with applicants and collect data both as we go and after the Match with the help of those who interviewed with the program. 

This recruitment season will be novel in its virtuality. As biased residents, we are all huge fans of Memphis, UTHSC, the residents and our colleagues. Getting to showcase all of this to applicants who would not otherwise be able to get this glimpse into our lives is the main goal, and we are enjoying the teamwork of building and perfecting the project. I hope that a close-up view of UTHSC programs’ approach will help other programs do the same. The internal medicine-pediatric residents (including myself) love to answer questions and can be reached @UTHSCMedPeds on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok!

Melanie Watt, MD Melanie Watt, MD (3 Posts)

Resident Editor

University of Tennessee Health Science Center


Melanie is a PGY-1 resident in internal medicine-pediatrics at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. She is a proud alumnus of Louisiana State University and LSU Health Shreveport School of Medicine, and yes, she does bleed purple and gold.