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How This Clinician Found Freedom in Writing

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Image Courtesy of Dana Corriel, MD

Few doctors have the patience, perseverance, and time to jumpstart a new career, let alone during a pregnancy. Internist Dana Corriel, however, managed to channel her inner creativity into another career during her pregnancy leave, after giving birth to her third child.

Dr. Corriel brought about her own creative outlet with a business revolving around uniquely crafted home decor and furniture. She also began blogging in 2010 out of frustration over the fact that doctors are frequently told ‘no’ throughout their medical careers.

“You hear all the time, ‘don’t blog, don’t post this or that online, don’t take time off from medicine to work on anything else’ — I wanted to create a space where we could find the right balance, and start to say ‘yes’ to one another, for a change,” Dr. Corriel said.

The moment she started blogging, Dr. Corriel finally felt freedom from traditional rules. For her first post, she commented on the one-sided nature of physicians getting slammed on Facebook. More recently, she wrote a post titled “Your Doctor May Need a Tip With That Prescription,” which was shared widely across social media. She also publishes poetry, like her piece “Primary Care is Like a Box of Chocolates,” which takes readers through a typically hectic day as a physician.

Her writing has taken off and essentially turned into a second career — earlier this year, Dr. Corriel participated as guest faculty at Harvard Medical School’s CME conference called Writing, Publishing, and Social Media for Healthcare Professionals, and will be returning in 2019. This winter, she will be speaking at the Women Physicians Wellness Conference about developing creative outlets outside of medicine, as well as building a community through social media.

Now, she is based in New Jersey and manages to balance blogging at with being a mother of three boys, the Director of Quality for Highland Medical, PC, while operating a primary care practice in New York.

Stronger Together

Although she was able to express herself through blogging, Dr. Corriel recalls the process being rather lonely at first.

“The problem for a lot of doctors with ideas is they aren’t able to find an audience,” said Dr. Corriel. “They don’t have the time, or they’re not sure how to.”

Dr. Corriel wanted to build a central hub online for doctors to do just that: communicate their thoughts outside of the exam room to a receptive audience. She launched a website called Doctors on Social Media (#SoMeDocs), as well as a Facebook group that has more than 1,200 physician members to date.

“I created [Doctors on Social Media] as a platform because I felt like there were so many voices that weren’t being heard and so much talent wasn’t being seen in our community,” said Dr. Corriel. “I have a lot of physician friends who wanted to speak out on healthcare, for example, but they did not have a private forum to do that.”

The closed network is open to physicians only; the Facebook group aims to be a secure space where medical colleagues can share their endeavors outside of medicine. (I.e. sharing any stories and projects around traveling, food, art.) She also started a space for the general public called Medicine Connect.

So far on these platforms, physicians are showing enthusiasm and excitement toward using and creating a presence on social media. They are seeking advice on how to build a social media presence, they share their work with each other, they give each other ideas, they inspire collaboration, and they cultivate connections.

On the Horizon

As part of her Doctors on Social Media Series, she is working on blog pieces titled, “On Branding: More Than Just Chanel” and “On Tweeting: Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird,” where she gives advice on how to grow exposure on these and other platforms of social media.

Always looking for ways to share medical stories, Dr. Corriel is working on a book of essays written by female physicians about medicine. The book is in the editing process and will be published later.

As for the future of #SoMeDocs, Dr. Corriel plans to boost her creative efforts. Her vision is to lend a voice to more physicians who wish to embark on a similar journey of medical storytelling.

“I want us to put an end to competition,” said Dr. Corriel, “and start embracing collaboration in medicine.”

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