Just like how it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a community to raise a tweet chat.
On the morning of May 3rd, I checked Twitter for the announcement of the May Harvard Macy (HMI) tweet chat. I typed in #hmichat and right at the top of the results I found the announcement. I read on - the session would be led by Andrew Linn, Brent Thoma, and Zineb Nouns. I had no idea who these people were, but that's the great thing about HMI chat.
The idea of a Harvard Macy tweet chat started a couple of years ago. In January 2015, I joined Harvard Macy's Program for Health Educator as a scholar. I quickly noticed the unusual biphasic format of the program. On one hand, I thought it was a great idea to let everybody go back to their usual life and put theories into practice then return for a reunion in May. But on the other hand, I couldn't help but dread the possibility of having a four-month-long period of dead air in which nothing productive happened. With that thought in mind and after hearing about tweet chats in Curtis Whitehair's session, I made the decision to start one. It would serve as a way to keep the scholars in touch with each other, if nothing else.
I started by checking for an available hashtag on Twitter. I found that #hmichat had not been taken, so that's good! I ran the idea by Liz Armstrong; she was very receptive. I asked for a few minutes during the last session to announce this, and Liz duly allowed. From the announcement, two more decided to join as chat hosts: fellow 2015 scholar Nancy Adams and faculty Lisa Nash. They were of immense help in running the four tweet chats we had between January and May 2015, filling in whenever I could not host a session and contributing to the discussion.
When I returned to Harvard Macy Program for Health Educator in January 2016 as a faculty, I looked for someone to assume the mantle. I made a quick announcement and asked around for anyone who would be interested in running HMI chat. Justin Kreuter, a 2016 scholar, enthusiastically took up the offer. We discussed the core ideas of HMI chat over a delicious Thai lunch (Rod Dee 2 at Fenway - seriously, go try that place!) and Justin immediately went to work with planning.
Two other 2016 scholars, Elissa Hall and Teresa Sörö, joined Justin to form the core group of tweet chat hosts. Together, they ran many successful tweet chats between January and May 2016, helping their HMI peers stay connected and inspiring every participant to keep pushing themselves and learn more.
The success from Justin, Elissa, and Teresa's effort moved HMI tweet chats to the next level. Very soon afterward, #HMIchat was about more than just keeping current scholars in touch - it had become about connecting everyone who had joined the family of Harvard Macy. It was no longer a pastime between January and May sessions, but a significant perennial event for the whole Harvard Macy community. As of now, Justin, Elissa and Teresa have moved themselves to behind-the-scenes work, and eager volunteers are queuing up for a chance to host a session.
This is why it was such a great joy for me to see that total strangers were running the May chat - it was a testament of how far HMI tweet chat had come. At present, HMI tweet chat is running strong, with innovative and engaging elements continuously introduced into the chat, and is well positioned to continue performing in the foreseeable future. #HMIchat is a great success for the Harvard Macy community, and I think there are two main reasons for it.
1. The collective wisdom
Everyone can be an expert in something, but no one can be an expert in everything. At Harvard Macy, everyone takes this to heart, and they are aware that they are surrounded by highly capable and knowledgeable people. Everyone realizes that they stand to learn more from others than others would learn from them.
This core belief is fundamental to the current form of #HMIchat, where people take a chance to lead a chat on topics that they are well-versed in, then step down in other chats so they can learn from the others' expertise. And even when they are leading a chat, they still actively learn from other people.
2. The expansive but tight-knit community of Harvard Macy
A community that is both expansive and tight-knit is not easy to come by, but the Harvard Macy community is certainly both. With hundreds of scholars from all over the world each year, the community is surely expansive. But how can a community that large be tight-knit?
The Harvard Macy community is tight-knit because we are all united through a common goal: better education for better healthcare. This goal may sound like a no-brainer and seems like something every health professional should be doing anyway. But I'm sure every of us can testify how many of our colleagues completely disregard the "better education" bit. It's that tiny bit that distinguishes us and makes us unique.
When we meet an HMI alum for the first time, we aren't meeting a stranger. Rather, we are meeting a brother or sister who has been walking the same long, arduous path that we are on. Such level of connectedness is what makes it possible for any HMI alum to join a HMI tweet chat and feel at home almost right away, even though it might be their first time joining one.
I would like to encourage you to set a reminder in your calendar on the 1st of every month so you won't forget to look up the announcement of that month's #HMIchat. Then I suggest you block out an hour to cherish the awesome community that is Harvard Macy.
Atipong Pathanasethpong, MD, MS
Atipong Pathanasethpong, MD MMSc (MedEd) (Educators ’15, Leaders ‘15) is a graduate of the MMSc in Medical Education Program at Harvard Medical School. Atipong works as an anesthesiologist and medical educator at Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, Thailand. He is currently active in instructional design and in disseminating cognitive science concepts to his trainees and colleagues. You can reach Atipong via Twitter at @AtipongPath.