Invited post by Dr. Ameera AlHasan: #SoMe4Surgery, a global community for all

Non sibi sed omnibus- Not for oneself, but for all

As you may already know, SoMe4Surgery celebrated its first birthday on the 28th of July 2019. More than a year has now passed since the birth of this dynamic surgical community and yet it continues to grow and flourish. As 2019 draws to a close, we take the opportunity to briefly reflect on what this year has brought to SoMe4Surgery and what we have to look forward to next year.

Fabulous factions and stellar societies

In keeping with the global trend of subspecialization in surgery, SoMe4Surgery has seen a rapid proliferation in the number of subgroups dedicated to various aspects of surgical practice. These range from broad specialties such as colorectal surgery, trauma and hepatopancreaticobiliary to finer and more specific fields like peritoneal surgery and bariatrics. Whatever your passion may be, you are bound to find the right surgical family to adopt you and your ideas. Just add the prefix SoMe4 and prepare to be amazed at what you will find in the treasure trove of Twitter societies at your disposal; these include exquisite rarities like mechanical ventilation, artificial intelligence in surgery, and genetic risk in cancer. And if, for some reason or another, you cannot find your El Dorado, you have the liberty to create one yourself complete with the blessings of the bigger SoMe4Surgery family.

The road to SMSS19

Perhaps the most memorable accomplishment in 2019 was the realization of the first SoMe4Surgery Summit in Madrid, now considered the surgical world’s Santiago de Compostela. Surgeons from all around the world flocked to Hospital Clinico San Carlos to participate by presenting and promoting their SoMe4Surgery experience. For those who could not physically make it, geography was no deterrent as they joined the virtual pilgrimage via live transmission online in what was an enjoyable and productive scientific journey. To celebrate the success of the day, participants later convened to dine and propose a toast in an evening that was christened SoMe4Fun.

You yourself can catch up on the details of that magical gathering and relive the excitement by looking up the hashtag #SMSS19 on Twitter. The event was a true testimony to the feasibility of virtualizing and subsequently de-virtualizing scientific and social networks.

Strength in solidarity

If you cannot go to SoMe4Surgery, then SoMe4Surgery will come to you. As surgeons recognize the importance of collaborating and sharing information and experiences in the 21st century, we have seen the hashtag #SoMe4Surgery being used alongside other hashtags in numerous conferences around the world; to name but a few: the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2019, the European Society of Coloproctology Congress 2019 in Vienna, the Mexican General Surgery Association and the AIS Channel’s live colorectal surgery event. From workshops in cities as brilliant as Barcelona, as hot as Kuwait and as distant as Manila, you will find tweets that boast an intimate connection with SoMe4Surgery. Such collaborations have amplified the impact these conferences exert and have taken surgical knowledge where it has never gone before.

Power through publishing

While we will not attempt to list here the individual publications that have transpired through collaborative efforts within the SoMe4Surgery community, it suffices to mention that what once started as a tweet can now be found peer-reviewed and officially published in a number of reputable surgical journals. Real science mandates communication and cooperation and SoMe4Surgery provides a fertile ground to do just that. The power of the written word should not be underestimated and to generate meaningful publications has always been one of our goals.

Bilingual beyond borders

What Latin was to medicine in antiquity, English has become today. However, while English may be the lingua franca of our trade, this should not put the millions of non—English speaking professionals in the world at a disadvantage. This is why SoMe4Surgery now tweets in both English and Spanish culminating in an exponentially growing Hispanic surgical community that avidly shares its expertise. We hope to transcend language barriers through the help of multilingual colleagues as well as AI powered translators online. In defiance of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s infamous statement, at SoMe4Surgery, the limits of our language are not the limits of our world.

To infinity and beyond

“You have done so much with SoMe4Surgery already, what more is there to do?” you may ask.

While we cannot physically turn lead into gold, nor do we possess a crystal ball to foretell the exact future, we can make you one big promise though, and that is to continue to support surgeons, healthcare professionals and patients all around the world. Our alchemy lies in our ability to amalgamate the knowledge and expertise of everyone in SoMe4Surgery to create an ideal model of safe and scientifically sound surgical practice. Wherever you are, once you use the hashtag #SoMe4Surgery, we will find you and we will endorse you in whatever way we can.

We will continue to engage in active mentorship, to host educational activities on Twitter, to recruit colleagues and to share our experiences and discoveries through publications or otherwise, for the benefit of all-non sibi sed omnibus. Finally, we hope to see you all at the SoMe4Surgery Summit 2020, SMSS20.

*We would like to thank everyone who has been a member of this magnificent community, our pioneer surgeons who have continued to enrich our careers online as well as offline (including Professors Kenneth Mattox and Steven Wexner) and all the surgical journals and societies that have supported us unconditionally this year. We wish you and your families a safe and happy festive season, and a prosperous 2020, with SoMe4Surgery of course!

Twitter and T84 cell culture: a short story

BIH, circa December 1994.

– JBM: Would you be interested in coming back?
– JM: For sure, after I am done with my residency..

And in early 1996 my family and I left Madrid for Boston, landing at Logan during one of the worst blizzards ever. I would join Jeff Matthews’ lab at the Beth Israel Hospital, later Beth Israel Deaconnes Medical Center.

At that time, I ignored that T84 cells were going to be an important companion over the next years. And maybe for the rest of my life.

I did not have the slightest idea of what cell culture, T84 cells, electrophysiology, Ussing chambers, dual-voltage clamp or patch-clamping meant. My natural instinct was to go down to the BIH library (a small but splendid one) and hide myself behind a mountain of books and articles that I thought would be helpful to accelerate my learning.

This was a totally unintelligible field, due to the absence of any previous experience from my side. Long conversations with Jeff, Bruce, Cecilia, Tim or Jeremy helped me more than any article. Tacit knowledge may be more relevant that explicit knowledge for a beginner. But I must admit that for weeks, at lab meetings, silence and the «tell-me-more look» were the only signs that the rest of the team received from me.

I learnt to take care of T84 cells. I grew my own T84s, not HT29s that I very much disliked because they were more undifferentiated and more appropriate for Hodin’s lab (excellent work, Inram). These cells were my friends for hours in the hood, in the lab, night and day, day and night.

There were flasks, and buffered solutions, and calf sera, and antibiotics, and pipettes, and time, light, temperature. One must treat them well, feed them and let them thrive in monolayers. If you take good care of the monolayers, keep them safe, they will answer your questions.

And they did. In less than six months the first manuscript aimed at the American Journal of Physiology (Cell Physiology) was ready to be submitted. And we were successful!

T84 cells have a well-stablished shape to execute their functions and tightly join each other to form a monolayer, a barrier that resembles what we see in our intestinal mucosa. When externally stimulated, signals are released. Internal communication pathways are activated through different second messengers and cells communicate among themselves in order to coordinate their responses, the vectorial transport of chloride from the basolateral to the apical side, while maintaining the monolayer intact.

But let me go back to the beginning.

I was unaware of how T84 cells had immensely contributed to overcompensate my strong shyness, while responding to my insane curiosity, until I read Graham Mackenzie’s reflection on social media and cell culture.

I like stories, I am addicted to questions. So in the JBM’s lab I had all I could ask for. Sat in my chair, with a dual-voltage clamps and my T84s grown in wells, I couldn’t stop throwing questions to them. Often times, they responded with unexpected answers. In some instances, they gave me the answer that I was expecting or did not respond because the question was wrongly formulated. Then, I could get excited sharing my little findings with people that were far more intelligent than me. That brings enough confidence to go beyond our personal limitations.

Of course there was some noise. But when noise disturbed me, it was just the result of my inability to listen to the exciting stories that my T84 cells were telling me. Noise is meaning at a different scale.

I joined Twitter following Jeff Matthews’ steps. Maybe what I experienced and learnt during my stay at Matthews’ lab helps me enjoy social media more than what most people do. Maybe B¡because, like cell culture, social media is growing a network with more connected people, more diverse, increasing the density of connections and letting information freely flow from one person to another.

If I cultivate the network, if I sincerely connect with other people, they will enjoy answering questions with me. We may not be right all the time, but we enjoy the pleasure of figuring things out together.

That’s why I love what I do and I do what I love.

«Social media provides ways to understand who makes and shares health stories, the potential audience, and the stories themselves» – Graham Mackienze

Twitter para cirujanos profundamente superficiales

Es difícil olvidar cuando, hace años, me preguntaban de qué servía Twitter, si no era una pérdida de tiempo, un pasatiempo sin valor para un profesional de la Medicina. La verdad es que parecían tener razón. Pero a mi me mantenía enfocado; tanta información fluyendo evita que me disperse.

Es cierto que en Twitter, como en otras muchas redes sociales, hay mucha banalidad. Pero reconozcámoslo, los seres humanos somos muy banales. Hablamos de cosas sin sustancia con mucha frecuencia. De hecho, no imagino que los premios Nobel se levanten por la mañana debatiendo sobre el Ulises de Joyce, el bosón de Higgs, o cualquier otro pensamiento profundo. Muy profundo.

Lo que es cierto es que n el último año he sido coautor de un editorial, un artículo de cabecera, una revisión y dos originales relacionados con Twitter y cirujanos colorectales. Uno ha sido en Cirugía Española. El resto en BJS, Colorectal Diseases y Clinics of Colon and Rectal Surgery. Prácticamente, he cubierto mi cupo de publicaciones para un sexenio investigador.

Así que cuando me pregunten si me merece la pena tuitear tanto y pasar tanto tiempo en redes sociales, tendré una contestación contundente a mano.

De momento, les recomiendo que lean este artículo de cabecera del BJS