Surgeons rely on their peers for support, professional interaction, and advancing patient care. But when they're working alone in a rural area, that support can be hard to come by.
That's why the American College of Surgeons, which counts more than 3,500 rural surgeons among its members, is launching an online community aimed at linking them together. We're isolated, sometimes separated 50 miles, or sometimes 500 miles, from each other. So the professional interaction to get that reinforcement of what you're learning is heard to come by," said Tyler Hughes, MD, FACS, co-community editor of the Rural Surgeons Web Portal and a rural surgeon himself. He describes the effort as a realtime, interactive tool that allows its members to "geographically hop over the distances and develop real relationships."
The site, which will go live on May 5 at the Rural Surgery Symposium and Workshop in Chicago, will include interactive discussions and networking on patient cases and care; interactive online events; online educational opportunities; and a profile tool that allows users to filter information and discussions by their own interests and practice areas, among other features.
Hughes is careful to point out that this community will not be Facebook for surgeons. Although it's technically a social network, the topics of discussion will not be trivial ones.
"Our emphasis is not 'what did you have for breakfast?' Our emphasis is on professional networking with the intent of improving surgical care," he said. "This is a mechanism that can change the outcome of a patient today because it imparts information at the speed of light."
Hughes said the network stems from the popularity of the rural surgeon community on the ASC's Web portal.
"We went from a few hundred hits on the portal up to almost 5,000," Hughes said, so the organization wanted to know: "How do we take this to the next level to make it a true community?"