A week from today I will be on an airplane on my way to Stanford’s Medicine X. I was fortunate enough to attend last year, and came away with a new appreciation and understanding of what it means to be a patient advocate. For those of you new to the Medicine X conversation, you can check out my Storify post chronicling my adventures in Palo Alto.
As previously mentioned, I’ll be moderating the first panel of the opening day of the conference (on very little sleep) featuring a number of ePatients and their unique perspective on how they’ve engaged medical professionals, like-minded patients, and the broader social media ecosystem. It should be a lot of fun.
There is one thing I want to caution people about as they follow the conference (following the hashtag #MedX on Twitter is one way): the people featured at Medicine X are among the most engaged and inspired patients and people you will ever meet, but they make up only a small portion of the ePatient landscape. There’s so much more out there beyond what you will see over these three days, I don’t want anyone to feel discouraged because they might not live up to similar standards.
I’m saying this, in part, for myself because it’s easy to look around and wonder what kind of difference I have made, or can make when compared to people that wage one-man crusades for their own data, or dedicate their lives to patient advocacy in the name of arthritis. I’m just a guy with a blog and a podcast, what difference could I possibly make? These were the thoughts that raced through my head last year leading up to the conference, during the conference, and even a couple of weeks after the dust settled. It took some time for me to realize that I don’t have to move mountains to make an impact on someone’s life, even if it’s just my own.
So as the tweets fly by at the speed of #dsma for an entire weekend, try to remember that there are degrees of engagement when it comes to this blogging/social mediaing/advocating/inspiring thing we all do. Some times it’s through a silly little podcast, other times it’s through a piece of art. Sometimes it’s as important as rallying a community around a cause, other times it’s forming a non-profit “with the mission to connect, support, empower and educate people affected by diabetes.” Engagement can be as small as a retweet, or as big as a welcoming party for an international traveler.
The point is that it takes all of us, and all of our efforts, to make this stuff work.
And every little bit helps.