The Journal of Vascular Surgery has had blood pressures rising after it released a study aimed at essentially shaming surgeons–specifically females in swimsuits–on social media.
The study, titled, “Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among young vascular surgeons” was published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery. It aimed to identify “unprofessional content” on social media accounts run by vascular surgeons, seemingly in an attempt to warn them to correct their ways before it was too late.
But the Journal has found itself in unexpected hot water themselves as a result, as the study has been deemed incredibly problematic, as well as sexist.
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These are all me … regardless of what I wear, regardless of what I speak out about, regardless of my personal life and what I choose to post on MY social media pages, I am ALL OF THESE WOMEN. I am a goddamn great surgeon who’s been saving lives for 22 years as a board certified vascular surgeon and for 29 years as a practicing physician/MD. How dare the (formerly?) esteemed Journal of Vascular Surgery publish a trash article that perpetuates these misogynistic ideas about what qualifies as acceptable, professional or unprofessional behavior, attire and social media content … This article needs to go on the dumpster fire pile of shit that has been 2020 and we are all owed a huge public apology. ??⚕️?⚕️??⚕️??⚕️??⚕️?????♀️????? I stand with my sisters in Vascular Surgery as we have all been betrayed by our vascular surgery colleagues and associations and I also stand in solidarity with all women in surgery and medicine who still have to tolerate this indefensible heinous garbage and I urge ANYONE and EVERYONE who is offended to send an email NOW to Jmcewan@vascularsociety.org #medbikini #jvs #journalofvascularsurgery #ilooklikeasurgeon #womeninvascularsurgery #iamprofessional #vascularsurgery ???See my stories for more details???
The Social Media “Study”
The authors of the study–including one female surgeon–explained that because it’s “been demonstrated” that “publicly available” social media content can affect patient choice of physician, hospital, and medical facility, as well as the “professional reputation among peers and employers,” they wanted to “evaluate the extent of unprofessional social media content among recent vascular surgery fellows and residents.”
What the authors conveniently left out, however, is that in order to do said evaluating, they had to create secret social media accounts themselves in order to follow some of the surgeons, who have private accounts. But details right?
Anyways, that moot point aside, the six male authors and one female author took it upon themselves–and with the approval of their all-white, all-male editorial board of course–to define what exactly “unprofessional content” on social media consisted of.
They decided “clearly unprofessional content” would include the following:
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act violations
- Intoxicated appearance
- Unlawful behavior
- Possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia
- Uncensored profanity or offensive comments about colleagues/work/patients
“Potentially unprofessional content” on the other hand, boiled down to:
- Inappropriate attire
- Holding/consuming alcohol
- Censored profanity
- Controversial political or religious comments
- Controversial social topics.
Of the 480 vascular surgeons the study examined, the majority were male, but the study authors found that 9 accounts in particular–or 3.8% of the accounts they chose to look at–featured “inappropriate/offensive attire.”
And what, pray tell, counted as inappropriate or offensive attire? Well, as the Journal clearly outlined in its full study, “Inappropriate attire included pictures in underwear, provocative Halloween costumes, and provocative posing in bikinis/swimwear.”
We’ll give you one hint as to how many of the male surgeons that they evaluated were posing “provocatively” in bikinis.
Lest you be confused, let me remind you that this was a very real “clinical research” study in a very real academic journal, presented at a very real medical symposium, specifically the Forty-seventh Annual Symposium of the Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery, Boca Raton, Fla, in March 2019. As in, real money was spent for these doctors to conduct “research” that boiled down to scrolling to find surgeons wearing bikinis on social media. And who’s being accused of being unprofessional here again?
Healthcare Professionals Respond on Social Media #MedBikini
With the study being released, a storm of very unprofessional healthcare workers in very unprofessional attire doing very unprofessional things–such as existing while wearing a bikini in full view of others (gasp!)–have flooded social media to protest the problematic nature of the study, how it was conducted, and the implications it had.
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Tell me where the prevalence of unprofessionalism happens in these pics. ?’?? ????. My quality work and success does not stop when I put on a bikini. Or a fitted dress. Or when I’m enjoying drinks with colleagues. ?? ???? ? ?? ???????? ?? ?? ? ??. ? ?? ? ????????? ??? ??????? ??????? ????????????- despite how I may be judged me on my days off. Ladies, let me be the first to tell you- ??? ??? ?? ? ?????? ?????????? ???????????? ??? ???? ? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ????. I assure you that when it’s time to throw scrubs back on & do my job, it will be done gracefully & effectively. ??????. #medbikini #shecanbeboth
The hashtag #medbikini has been trending, on Twitter and Instagram with surgeons, doctors, and nurses highlighting exactly how professionalism and living a life that includes a social media presence, as well as the perfectly normal ability to go swimming, have a drink, or discuss topics that matter to their real patients from time to time, can co-exist.
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If you haven’t heard, sexism against women in medicine is a HUGE problem – well it’s a problem everywhere let’s be honest lol. There’s an article going around by male vascular surgeons who made fake accounts to spy on colleagues as a part of a social media “study” of professionalism. Standing in solidarity today with all women HCPs by sharing a sexism story of my own. My very first job interview was the most unprofessional interaction I’ve had to date. The lady (yes sexism is enforced by women too) interviewing me had zero interest in my accomplishments, references, leadership or academics. Instead she told me that “no one will accept you in this practice with your ass all over the Internet” She was referring to the left photo where I was a fitness competitor. My fitness journey is a big part of why I went into medicine, and became an obesity specialist – but none of that mattered. She said she didn’t want to “deal” with me and I needed to delete everything (google). I got the job regardless, retrospectively this person just wanted to berate me when given an opportunity but had never met me before. The sexism continued throughout this job, always being told “dress more professional” yet I was never showing skin etc. Today, I help people THROUGH social media, fitness, telemedicine, and sharing so many parts of my journey. I help by being ME and being transparent, and owning who I am. Several women have experienced similar and much worse, so today I’m standing with you all (in my bikini) bc we are brilliant AND human ????? If this has happened to you tell me below! #doctor #physician #beyou #toxicprofessionalism #medicine #womandoctor #bikini #fitness #competitor #selfcare #selfcarerx #resident #medstudent #residency #lifestyle #lifestylemedicine #medbikini #bikini
One doctor even shared her own story of how her past as a fitness competitor had been used against her in a job interview–the female doctor interviewing her told her that no one would take her seriously with her “ass all over the Internet.” For simply having a body and sharing her fitness journey, she was shamed. And ironically, Danielle DonDiego, DO, MBA, pointed out how in addition to the many inherent issues with this study, the authors also failed to grasp how social media can be utilized for good in a professional healthcare setting. For instance, she uses her platform to discuss nutrition, fitness, and reaching people in ways that can’t be done in a traditional office setting.
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1. No one, and I repeat, NO ONE dictates what I can and cannot wear. 2. I did not work this hard and this long to be told what to do. Honestly ef that. 3. Doctors are human too. People forget that. They rely on us to save lives and admit people and follow along with their decisions, give them all their answers, solve all their problems all the while cursing us out, threatening to sue us (I get this on the daily), all the heat falls on us when all we do is try to make the right decisions and do the right thing for the benefit of others. It’s exhausting but it’s what we chose to do and what we love to do at the end of the day. How dare ANYONE tell us how to act, dress, sound, or BE?! Shame on you. • • • #medbikini #doctor #femaledoctor #womenempowerment @daniellebelardomd
Journal Apologizes and Says They Will Retract The Paper
As you may have guessed by now, the swift outpouring of healthcare professionals and those that support them from across the country quickly reached the ears of the editorial board of the Journal–and on Friday, July 24, they were forced to issue a retraction of the study.
In fact last night, they took to twitter to state that they were removing the paper.
Editor’s Statement Regarding “Prevalence of unprofessional society media content among young vascular surgeons” pic.twitter.com/JAoFgcRtPx
— J Vascular Surgery (@JVascSurg) July 25, 2020
On Twitter, the Journal posted the Editors’ statement, which notes that the authors did not consider the both “conscious and “unconscious” bias in the study, and that because the authors had failed to receive approval from the Association of Program Directors in Vascular Surgery to use its database, the study had merits for retraction. They also stated that the authors of the study will do more “informed research” on future issues with a more diverse team, ending with an apology and a vow to “take resolute steps” to improve their editorial process and increase diversity on their board.
One of the study’s authors, Thomas Cheng, posted an apology on Twitter,
I would like to apologize for the paper "Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among young vascular surgeons." Our intent was to empower surgeons to be aware and then personally decide what may be easily available for patients and colleagues to see about us.
— Thomas Cheng (@twtcheng) July 24, 2020
So you’re telling me that a bunch of women in swimsuits managed to impact the professional world of healthcare in such a way that a major academic journal had to issue a formal apology and will be changing up its editorial process and diversity?