Community

Engagement of Hand Surgeons in Local Community

Have you ever wondered how to become more engaged with your local community? Have you ever wanted to prevent some of the injuries that we see so often? In general, most physicians are interested in being part of the local communities in which they live and work. Being engaged in community can bring additional patients to your practice, promote safety and be immensely satisfying as a healthcare professional. It can be hard to find those extra minutes needed to promote that community engagement and I want to share with you some of the strategies I have used to prevent injuries and become a familiar face outside of the hospital.

Get yourself in the local newspaper with a human-interest story: For several years I participated in a pediatric hand surgery mission trip to Guatemala. I coordinated with a reporter from our local newspaper to run the story and feature a photo from the trip. The community loved the story, it helped bring interest and to raise funds for the sponsoring organization, and it brought a positive light, showing that I cared enough about changing a child’s life that I traveled to another country to do surgery at my own expense.

Another great way to get a newspaper story is to talk about injury prevention at common holidays where hand injuries increase. This past year I coordinated with local reporters on safe Halloween pumpkin carving tips and we also did an article on Fourth of July fireworks safety. Do you have 15 minutes to talk to a reporter? They write the story and do all the hard work. You can even do a telephone interview if you can’t find a time to get together in person.

Do a live television interview. This does take more time to coordinate, but it can be a lot of fun and make a real difference. I have done interviews in the past, but this past summer I really wanted to get a message out to my community. I usually do a segment that is about 3 minutes called “Healthwise” with a local TV station, trying to prevent blast injuries from the July 4th holiday. In the summer of 2017, we had 10 separate and severe blast injuries brought to my hospital. In addition to changing the lives of the patients forever, I had a terrible week working early and late trying to accommodate these unexpected injuries. This summer I decided to up the ante. I did 3 TV interviews in the week prior to July 4th with 3 different TV stations. I had them show actual pictures of my patients (with written permission of course) to catch the attention of the public. Each interview was only 3-5 minutes and you can talk about general safety tips that really make a difference. One of the TV stations had such a good response in their ratings during the first interview that they brought me in for a follow-up interview 5 days later. We then took it a step further and actually made a 3-minute public service announcement featuring testimony from 2 of the blast injury patients and giving safety advice for injury prevention. I threw in a radio interview as well. The final result was only 2 severe blast injuries around the July 4th, 2018 holiday. In addition my name was very recognized in the community (as well as my University) and patients were commenting on the interviews for several weeks afterwards. I have come to conclude that patients think that the more famous you are, the better surgeon you are. Your patients are also very proud to have you as their doctor. The interviews are usually very flexible, and I was able to do them both before and after clinical duties. In one instance, the reporter even came to my house to get the interview footage. Most of the stations are very willing to work with you and appreciate your effort. If you are at a University practice this is also useful for your CV to show community service projects.

My last tip relates to the public service announcement that we created for safety prevention mentioned above. It wasn’t that hard to make. I was lucky because I had help from the University. However, you can easily film a video on a smartphone given the quality of the photo and recording options now available. In addition, there are several editing programs that you can easily use to shape your raw footage and give it a professional feel. Just look at all the videos out there on the internet…anybody can do it. So, this year for Halloween prevention I will be doing the usual newspaper article and tv interview sometime next month. I will also be making another short PSA to distribute to the local TV stations and for anyone else around the country that cares to run it. Using the local staff, nurses, etc. of our Hand Center, we will be filming a comedy to catch the interest of the general public (because they demand guts and gore or something funny to hold their interest). Some of our topics will be a mom watching her iPhone while her children carve very unsafely in the background…I will then emphasize a safety tip about children supervision. Another idea would be to have a lot of alcohol and some drunk people unsafely carving and emphasize safety tip about not drinking and carving. Our hand staff loved the idea and that they can be a part of this project (as well as their families), and we can’t wait to get started! It will also be creating teamwork among our hand staff that sometimes gets lost in the everyday shuffle of work. I hope you can use some of the ideas above and I hope you SHARE your finished newspaper articles, interviews or video projects with the ASSH to show our members in the news and to collaborate with other ASSH members.

Article written by:

Dr. Desirae McKee is an Associate Professor and Hand and Upper Extremity Specialty Surgeon with the Texas Tech University Department of Orthopedics. She is starting her 10th year in practice with the University. She covers a Level 1 trauma and Burn center in addition to a busy elective practice. She currently cares for both pediatric and adult patients. She has 3 children and enjoys making stained glass as a hobby. Clinical interests include nerve repair and reconstruction, acute and chronic burn reconstruction and trauma prevention.

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