Original Research

Electronic Collaboration in Dermatology Resident Training Through Social Networking

Author and Disclosure Information

The use of online educational resources and professional social networking sites is increasing. The field of dermatology is currently under-utilizing online social networking as a means of professional collaboration and sharing of training materials. In this study, we sought to assess the current structure of and satisfaction with dermatology resident education and gauge interest for a professional social networking site for educational collaboration. Two surveys—one for residents and one for faculty—were electronically distributed via the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and Association of Professors of Dermatology (APD) listserves. The surveys confirmed that there is interest among dermatology residents and faculty in a dermatology professional networking site with the goal to enhance educational collaboration.

Practice Points

  • Educational collaboration between residency programs via social media can result in more well-rounded dermatologists, which will enhance patient care.
  • Social media can connect dermatologists nationwide to improve patient care via collaboration.



More than 1.8 billion individuals utilize social media, a number that continues to grow as the social media market expands.1 Social media enables individuals, groups, and organizations to efficiently disperse and access information2-4 and also provides a structure that encourages collaboration between patients, staff, and physicians that cannot be achieved by other communication modalities.4-6 Expert opinions and related educational materials can be shared globally, improving collaboration between dermatologists.6 A structured social networking site for sharing training materials, research, and ideas can help bring the national dermatology community together in a new way.

Other professions have employed social networking tools to accomplish similar goals of organizing training resources; radiology has an electronic database that allows sharing of training materials and incorporates social networking capabilities.7 Their Web software provides functionality for individual file uploading and supports collaboration and sharing, all while maintaining the security of uploaded information. General surgery has already addressed similar concerns via a task force that incorporates all the essential organizations in surgical education.8 Increased satisfaction and academic abilities have been demonstrated with their collaborative curriculum.9 Gastroenterologists also utilize electronic resources; one study showed that using videos to educate patients prior to colonoscopies was superior to face-to-face education.10 In addition, video education may free up time for office staff to accomplish other tasks.

As a specialty, dermatology has not been a leader in the implementation of social networking for collaboration and training purposes. Every dermatologist is an educator. To maintain a successful practice, dermatologists must keep up-to-date on their own clinical knowledge, provide training to their staff, and educate their patients. Although there are numerous educational resources available to dermatologists, an informal survey of 30 dermatology faculty members revealed a practice gap in awareness and utilization of these expanding electronic resources.11

To better understand the needs of the specialty as a whole, we chose to focus on one aspect of dermatology education: resident training. The goal of our study was to survey dermatology residents and faculty to gain a better understanding of how they currently provide education and what online resources and social networking sites they currently use or would be willing to use. The study included 3 central hypotheses: First, residents would be less satisfied with their current curriculum and residents would report greater contributions to the curriculum relative to faculty. Second, both residents and faculty of smaller programs would be more interested in collaborative educational resources relative to larger programs. Lastly, residents would be more willing than faculty to participate in social networking for educational purposes.


This study was granted institutional review board exemption. Two surveys were developed by the authors to assess the current structure and satisfaction of dermatology residency curriculum and the willingness to participate in social networking to use and share educational materials. The surveys were evaluated for relevance by the survey evaluation team of the Association of Professors of Dermatology (APD). The instrument was not pilot tested.

The surveys were electronically distributed using an online service to dermatology faculty via the APD listserve, which comprised the entirety of the APD membership in 2014. The resident survey was distributed to the dermatology residents via the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery listserve, which included all residents in training (2013-2014 academic year). Second and third invitations to complete the surveys were distributed 3 and 5 weeks later, respectively.

Resident and faculty responses were compared. Additionally, responses were stratified for large (>9 residents) and small programs (≤9 residents) for comparison. Descriptive statistics including means and medians for continuous variables and frequency tables for categorical variables were generated using research and spreadsheet software.


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