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CU Faculty Member Joins a Medical Journal’s First-Ever Digital Media Team

Benjamin Vipler, MD, is the first author of an article describing the mission and vision of the Journal of General Internal Medicine’s new digital media team.

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Written by Tayler Shaw on June 12, 2024

Social media has become a primary channel for information, and now, medical journals are strategizing how to best use these platforms to promote important research, inquiries, and discoveries.  

Recognizing the influence of social media, the Journal of General Internal Medicine recruited a small group of experts to form its first-ever digital media team, including University of Colorado School of Medicine faculty member Benjamin Vipler, MD. 

Vipler, an associate digital media editor for the journal, is the first author of a recently published editorial that outlines the team’s mission and vision.  

“We feel it’s an obligation for us to get out there on these platforms and delineate what is believable knowledge and what is not,” says Vipler, an assistant professor in the Division of Hospital Medicine. “If you’re not leading the way, you’re going to be left behind.” 

Tackling a four-pronged mission 

Vipler jumped at the opportunity to write the editorial. He asked the other four members of the digital media team what their goals were to identify mutual objectives. 

From this, the team determined its shared goals were rooted in four themes: identity, community, dissemination, and support. 

“Because we are newer to the digital media space as a journal, we need to find our identity,” Vipler says. “We have a blank canvas to explore different options of what we can produce and evaluate what people like.” 

In addition to developing an identity, the digital media team is exploring ways to create a supportive and connected online community.   

“Most medical communities only get together once a year for conferences. Social media is that bridge for people to interact year-round,” he says. “There are a few people who I first met through social media and later ran into at a conference, and it was as if we’d been friends for years even though we were meeting in person for the first time. That’s what we’re looking forward to, as far as building that community.”   

When it comes to disseminating medical knowledge, Vipler says one of the greatest barriers is access. Although many journals have fees associated with reading their articles, the Journal of General Internal Medicine decided that every article the digital media team shares on social media will have a full text open link, so readers do not have to pay to read the information.  

Making the information free is the first step — getting people to click on the article is the next.  

“If no one knows the article exists, then it won’t impact the end user, which is the patient. And that’s our goal — that’s why we publish research, to improve patient care,” Vipler says. “We try to promote the articles in a catchy way so people read them. That’s our biggest mission right now.” 

Currently, the digital media team is primarily focusing on the social media platform X, but the team is continuing to look at others as well, such as Instagram and TikTok. 

From lurking to leading in the digital landscape 

Although many people in the medical community consider Vipler to be an expert at using social media in a professional setting, he only began using these platforms as a career tool a few years ago.   

“I was really late to the game because it scared me. I had social media accounts, but they were not public, and I did not interact with any other people. I basically just observed — what’s called a ‘lurker’ — for about six years before I created my professional account on Twitter, which is now X,” he says.  

Vipler finally made a professional account because his then-boss encouraged him to, saying it would help his career. He never expected that decision would eventually lead to him becoming a digital media editor for a prominent journal.  

“I was able to grow my profile pretty quickly to almost 6,000 followers in about three years,” he says. “Part of the reason that happened was because I had seen, over the past six years, what type of content got engagement.” 

Despite his initial skepticism, Vipler discovered social media provided a platform that allowed him to unlock new career opportunities, foster partnerships with colleagues from across the globe, and promote his work to a larger audience who may have not otherwise seen it.  

“I think social media can be an avenue to jumpstart your career,” he says. “It is a venue for self-promotion that is not necessarily captured by any other means.” 

Hoping to pay it forward, Vipler is not only applying his digital media skills to the Journal of General Internal Medicine — he’s also helping the next generation of clinicians and scholars.  

“Recently, a college graduate messaged me to ask if I could review her personal statement for medical school, because she saw my social media posts and felt I am someone she wants to align her values with,” Vipler says. “That’s meaningful to me. It’s a way that I can give back.”  

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Benjamin Vipler, MD