I started blogging about prematurity 2 years ago, at my Web site, www.preemieprimer.com. I saw this as a way to support my book, The Preemie Primer, and to add content that I just didn’t have enough space for in the print edition.
Recently, I started a more general medical blog geared to women’s health (see an excerpt of a post below). I set up this blog myself, using WordPress (see the description in the main text), in under an hour (I’m of sub-average intelligence when it comes to computers, but I can follow directions). I paid a Web-savvy person to change the domain name to www.drjengunter.com.
Some days, my posts appeal to 20,000 people
Other days, I captivate, oh, a dozen. For me, the most important reasons for blogging are to use my voice (I really do write as I speak) and to add good content to the Web.
Like many of you, I was sick and tired of seeing page after page of what I can only describe as drivel that my unsuspecting patients were spending hours downloading and reading. I decided to stop just bemoaning this reality and to do something about it because—like most of my patients—I also research my own children’s medical conditions on the Web.
Let me tell you: If my son’s pediatric cardiologist had a blog, I’d be reading it every day.
—Jennifer Gunter, MD
Excerpt: “Are condoms with spermicide a good idea?”
“You are standing in the grocery store staring at the overwhelming selection of condoms. The last time you had sex, there was an unfortunate incident involving breakage and you are eager to avoid the pregnancy panic and STD scare that ensued. You look at the condoms with spermicide thinking that extra-protection sounds like a good idea right now.
After all, condoms without spermicide reduce your chance of getting gonorrhea and chlamydia by almost 100%, reduce your risk of catching HIV by 87%, reduce your chance of getting HPV (the virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts) by 70%, and reduce your chance of getting herpes by 30%. Condoms with spermicide must be even better, right?
Wrong. Condoms with spermicide are no more effective than condoms with regular lube at preventing STDs. Condoms with spermicide are also more expensive and have a shorter shelf-life.
And here’s the big kicker. Spermicide damages the ecosystem and delicate skin of the vagina (it’s a secret garden in there, boys). Because of this, condoms with spermicide actually increase a woman’s risk of getting a bladder infection and can damage local defense mechanisms enough that the risk of catching an STD actually increases!
Source: Gunter J. Are condoms with spermicide a good idea? http://www.drjengunter.com. Accessed July 21, 2011.
The mechanics of starting a blog take little time and minimal technical knowledge. If you, or your practice, already have a Web site and a webmaster, he (she) can easily add a blog to the site for you. But you can also get a blog up and running yourself quite easily—at minimal or no cost to you (again, see “Why I blog”).
Two popular blog publishing platforms are WordPress (start at: https://en.wordpress.com/signup/) and Blogger (a service of Google; start at: https://www.blogger.com/signup.g). Both are free, although WordPress also sells a variety of upgrades that allow you to customize your site (if you have time and patience, you can navigate most of the upgrades on your own). Unless your blog needs a very specific look, however, you probably won’t need any of these options.
WordPress exacts an annual fee to keep third-party advertisements off your blog. Blogger does not charge to block advertising.
WordPress and Blogger both offer a variety of different templates so that you can trick out your blog to suit your style. You can delete the comments left by visitors with either platform. (Note: In 2 years of blogging, I’ve never had anyone post a comment that I thought needed deleting. But, you never know….)
So you’re not a writer. That’s OK—you aren’t chasing a Pulitzer.
People don’t linger on a blog. You want to make one or two points, not offer a dissertation. There is so much information on the Web that the only way to digest it is in small bites (think appetizers, not a four-course meal). Here are some pearls to consider for writing a blog successfully.
- Take the content that you might publish in a newsletter and simply cut it up into smaller pieces. Instead of a full page about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, divide what you’ve written into three or four discrete posts: for example, one post on the incidence of HPV; one on transmission; another on the vaccine schedule; and one on other means to prevent HPV (you can never have too many posts on the importance of using a condom, considering that almost 40% of sexually active high-school students did not use one the last time they had sexual intercourse).7
- Do some research. Read popular medical (and non-medical) blogs and decide what style suits you and your needs. A useful place to start is Dr. Kevin Pho’s blog at www.KevinMD.com" target="_blank">www.KevinMD.com. This is the most popular medical blog; in addition to his own writing, Dr. Pho posts content from an array of other physicians (including me), so you can find a number of different writing styles and viewpoints on a single blog.
- Post links to information from other blogs and traditional news sources (CNN, MSNBC, and so on) and add your brief comment to their reporting. This is an easy way to start a blog—just provide attribution and be careful not to infringe on your sources’ copyright.
- Answer the questions that you’re asked day in and day out in the office.
- Post on topics that are relevant to the moment. In autumn, for example, add information about the influenza vaccine in pregnancy, a link to the CDC Web page on influenza, and the date on which your office will begin offering shots.
- Add links to reputable sites; at the least, mention where you obtained specific information. This adds credibility, and people interested in learning more will appreciate knowing which sites are your sources.
- State that what you posted isn’t intended as individual medical advice. Given the medicolegal climate, I highly advise you to say this somewhere on your blog.
- End every post with a question. Doing so encourages comments.
- Stay true to your voice, whatever else you do. Insincerity is obvious. Painfully so.