Monday, December 7, 2015

Online Chronicles of a Vet Student

Recently on Twitter, I became a fan of a delightfully active, witty, and bright vet student, Shannon Finn. Attending Ontario Veterinary College, Shannon somehow finds time to craft insightful blog posts, interesting Tweets, and very clever Vines. All told, I'm a bit jealous of her craftiness at the whole online presence; this young woman is GOOD. She gets it. So I contacted her last month to ask her some questions. And here's what she taught me. Maybe you can learn something, too.

Currently in her sophomore year at OVC, Shannon comes from a small town in Ontario, Canada, about an hour and a half outside of Toronto. She says so far she is really enjoying vet school and 2nd year has her excited about theriogenology and how should I say it gently... a bit less enthusiastic about radiology. In Shannon's own words, "Reading abnormal radiographs is a lot tougher than it seems!" Preach it, sister.
Shannon Finn
Shannon primarily uses Twitter and Vine as her main online modalities, and she blogs as well. Her recent blog, "The value of your veterinary dollar: a vet student perspective" has gained a lot of attention and is well deserved. Shannon uses data combined with real life examples to paint a stark picture of the economics of the current veterinary profession. "I like Twitter because it's so quick and simple to connect with people," says Shannon. "You can add pictures and links and have conversations and ask questions and even Tweet right at someone you admire. It's just SO easy to interact, which is what I love. Vine is also a lot of fun - you only have six seconds for a video so you have to be creative. Six seconds involves a lot more planning than you'd think! I think it's a quick way to show something neat, like blood smearing or suturing or a time lapse of all your notes. I feel like having these quick social media snippets (six second videos and 140 character Tweets) is a good complement to the longer story telling that I get to do on my blog."

Shannon says she uses her social media platforms for education and entertainment. "I think the more the public knows about what we learn and what vet school is like, the more trust you can build in that relationship," she says. "People are always interested in animals and how you become an animal doctor, so why not make it accessible to them? I remember being an eager little pre-vet in undergrad and I would have killed for a good Twitter account or vet school blog."

"People are interested in animals and how you become an animal doctor, so why not make it accessible to them?"

Now that Shannon is providing that service for current pre-vets and others who would like to know exactly what goes on in the anatomy lab or the hospital, she also offers advice on what not to share. "I think that you always have to be careful and aware of what you put on the internet, especially with a medical setting where you have client-patient-relationships," she says. "Confidentiality and over-sharing can be a pitfall, but once you become familiar with what's acceptable and what's not, it becomes common sense to realize what's OK to post and what not to. Another thing is to use social media as a venting space. It's just so easy to throw negativity out there when you have a rough day. I really try and stay away from that and make it a more positive space. I mean, snark is so instantly gratifying but I think it just looks bad in hind sight. The internet is filled with negativity, so why add to it?"

"The internet is filled with negativity, so why add to it?"

Shannon has a history of being an avid reader (she admits to blowing away the competition in a reading contest at her childhood library) and cites other veterinarians as authors that inspire her. Dr. Sarah Boston makes Shannon's list (remember we talked to Sarah a while back?) as does Dr. Elizabeth Stone, the co-founder of the Society of Veterinary Medicine and Literature, and another VetWrite interviewee alumni. "I basically admire anyone in our field who takes the time to write and share their thoughts and passions for our wonderful career with others," Shannon says. "It's sometimes nice to have a break from being so science-oriented and appreciate the more poetic aspects of what we do."

For some folks, the concept of building an online presence, or a platform if you will, can seem overwhelming. For example, consider your choices: blogging, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn... I'm getting sweaty just thinking of all the different modalities. Shannon offers some sage advice for those who are interested in getting their foot in the internet door. "I think for most people, you start with what you're familiar with and what you enjoy," she says. "Think about if you like information sharing, picture sharing, or story telling. I don't think you can go wrong with picking a modality as long as you take the time to learn about how to use it, what appropriate use is in your job, and who your audience is. I would say the ultimate piece of advice is that you get out of it what you put into it. If you spend time formulating good Tweets, coming up with good blog ideas, and interacting with others, you will find it more rewarding for sure. It's definitely not a passive process."

Looking into the future, Shannon is interested in OneHealth. "I really like the concept of solving important problems at more of a population level," she says. She remains open to the vast opportunities that are available for today's veterinarian. But for now, there's one thing Shannon sees as a definite no-go: "Definitely not to be a radiologist!"
See you next month!

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