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Iowa M.D. employs Facebook page for his surgery

BY MAGGIE PETERS | APRIL 08, 2009 7:30 AM

The world of Facebook has transformed from a simple tool to share comments and pictures to a complex and diverse realm with uses for every niche.

Thomas Oetting, a UI clinical professor of ophthalmology, discovered just how to take advantage of Facebook’s tools for the benefit of his work.

Oetting created a Facebook page to post videos of his cataract surgeries for the hospital residents in his specialty. His son, a senior in high school at the time, gave him the idea.

“I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “I thought it would be more of a local interest, but it began to spread, and I don’t even know if my residents use it anymore.”

The page, titled Cataract Surgery, grew far beyond his expectations. The page has attracted 2,565 fans from around the world. Students and doctors everywhere from Indonesia, Venezuela, London, and Egypt follow Oetting’s work online.

He videotapes almost all of his surgeries and posts them on his page. His fans are then able to watch and comment on his work.

And Facebook isn’t the only tool medical professionals are using to network.

MedicalMingle is a social-networking site specifically designed for people involved in or studying for a career in the field of health care. Similar to Facebook, it allows users to create profiles, post photos, and upload videos.

SurgiNet is another site that serves as a forum for sharing information about general surgery, and Oetting said it is used by many of his colleagues.

Shannon Thomas, the UI Foundation assistant director of development for the medical school, said she thinks Oetting’s choice to use Facebook was perfect. The UI alumna joined the Cataract Surgery page to support Oetting and raise awareness about his work and for the entire ophthalmology division.

“Dr. Oetting’s Facebook page is a true testament to his dedication to education,” Thomas, 24, said.

The UI’s ophthalmology and visual sciences department — which has existed since 1925 — was ranked seventh in the nation for best overall program, tied with another program, according to a 2008 survey by Ophthalmology Times.

“Putting videos and information on Facebook allows people everywhere to acknowledge the amazing work that is done here,” Thomas said.

And Joe Schmidt, the department’s director of external relations, said he would like to see even more of this type of communication.

“There has been a lot of growth and interest in social networking sites for educational purposes,” he said. “We can use those tools in ways that work for our department.”

Schmidt said he thinks Oetting’s Facebook page has been a major success because of its ability to reach all demographics.


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