An Ode to Jerad M. Gardner
An analytical breakdown of the successful dermpath social media star
Casey P. Schukow, Aadil Ahmed, Pranvera Sulejmani, Raj Singh, MacKenzie J. Griffith, Nikki Rezania | | 9 min read | Discussion
Social media is a powerful tool for medical professionals to share information, connect with colleagues, and raise disease awareness amongst patients. Dermatology, pathology, and dermatopathology rely on the visualization of disease findings – making social media a great educational tool. Jerad M. Gardner is a prolific bone/soft tissue pathologist and dermatopathologist – and a prime example of how physicians can embrace social media.
Here, we attempt to determine how Gardner uses social media to promote medical education. To our knowledge, this article provides a unique perspective of a single physician’s impact on medical education using social media.
Who is Jerad M. Gardner?
In addition to fostering an expansive network of physicians, social media provides a widely-accessible avenue to raise disease awareness and provides accurate information from board-certified professionals and trainees. Dermatologists may also use social media to educate patients on early signs of skin cancer – which may improve clinical outcomes because patients can more effectively learn how to seek medical attention and intervene. Further, many patients use social media to find healthcare providers and obtain medical information – a trend that has become more pronounced since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dermatology and pathology largely rely on the visualization of disease findings, and education is often promoted through photographic images of patients’ clinical findings (for example, skin lesions) and clinical specimens (for example, biopsies). Though public sharing of skin findings on social media continues to raise ethical concerns in terms of breaching patient confidentiality, US privacy laws state that the usage of de-identified patient images on social media is not a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Having said this, dermatologists, pathologists, and dermatopathologists who share patient images online should be considerate of displaying potentially identifiable patient information (for example, tattoos, rare diseases, conditions involving the face) and take precautions to “do no harm” when posting such images.
Nevertheless, perhaps the most prolific pathology social media figure over the past decade has been the eponymous pathologist and dermatopathologist from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania. Gardner received his MD from Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, completed his anatomic and clinical pathology residency training at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, and finished fellowships in bone/soft tissue pathology and dermatopathology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. While Gardner was still a faculty member at the University of Arkansas Health Sciences in Little Rock, he stated:
“Physicians from any practice setting can benefit from having a professional social media presence…[social media can be used] to teach, to learn, to network with colleagues locally and globally, and to have a powerful public voice about issues that matter for my field and my patients. It has done more to help my career succeed than almost anything else, and it’s actually pretty fun too. Many doctors fear that social media use will lead to legal issues or HIPAA violations, but this can easily be avoided by using a bit of common sense, common courtesy and by always respecting patient privacy just as you would in any public place…”
As of January 2023, he has published over 120 peer-reviewed journal articles, presented at prestigious conferences from around the world, and is currently serving as Deputy Editor-in-Chief for Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. This social media pioneer has inspired thousands of patients, physicians, trainees, and medical students worldwide as he continues to use social media for advocacy and provide free, fellowship-level education, globally. Dermatopathology is an essential component of dermatology and is a required component of the American Board of Dermatology CORE exam, so his materials are of great benefit to dermatology, dermatopathology, and pathology trainees.
How we assessed Gardner’s social media activity
In June 2023, we observed Gardner’s activity on various social media platforms (no money or financial compensation was required). Relevant peer-reviewed medical literature related to social media use in medical education (including dermatology, pathology, and dermatopathology) was incorporated into this article where applicable. Specifically, we observed Gardner’s Knowledge In Knowledge Out, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the website PathElective.com.
Knowledge In Knowledge Out
Gardner is a co-founder of Knowledge In Knowledge Out (or ‘KiKo'). As of June 2023, he has over 5000 followers and has created over 1390 posts on bone pathology, soft tissue pathology, and dermatopathology.
An extraordinary aspect of Gardner’s KiKo account is the advent of bone/soft tissue pathology and dermatopathology “MEGA” indexes that serve as free, organized libraries that hold a majority of his content. These invaluable indexes include video lectures, board review courses, digital slides, pictures, and sample pathology reports. Gardner’s objective is to offer a free, fellowship-level course for those that need it. As of June 2023, he has accumulated over 130,000 views of his bone/soft tissue pathology and dermatopathology MEGA indexes alone. These numbers do not include the individual page views of each separate video lecture, board review course, digital slide, and so on, within each index, which were both established in 2021. He frequently updates them, and also includes links to his “survival guide” textbooks, which includes high-yield yet in-depth summaries of bone/soft tissue pathology and dermatopathology.
Gardner also contributes to the “Festival of Dermpath” resource on KiKo. These three-day long conferences were started in 2019 by Jonhan Ho, dermatopathologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and founder and CEO of KiKo. The conferences are completely virtual and held quarterly. Dermatopathologists and trainees involved in the Festival of Dermpath share interesting cases with digital slides. Discussions and user engagement are encouraged and awards are given to the cases that are most viewed, most commented, and most upvoted.
The Festival of Dermpath is a private Kiko group that has over 640 international members as of June 2023, however, those interested in joining must simply message Ho to be granted access to the group. Making a KiKo account is straightforward and extremely beneficial for networking, professional development, and content creation, especially with its ability to interconnect digital pathology and social media. Even if trainees do not have KiKo accounts, they can still access Gardner’s content either directly on KiKo or through his other social media platforms discussed below.
Like other social media outlets, YouTube plays a vital role in providing widely-accessible, free content to learners all around the world. Trainees and students can acquire knowledge via YouTube videos and lecture series independently and at their own pace. For example, the YouTube channel “pathCast” offers pre-recorded, up-to-date lectures on various fields within pathology and includes supportive images.
Before Gardner developed his KiKo profile and subsequent bone/soft pathology and dermatopathology MEGA indexes, many of his respective teaching videos were posted on his YouTube channel – first started in 2012. As of June 2023, Gardner’s YouTube channel has over 57,700 subscribers and his cumulative video collection has gained over 4.8 million views. Though some of his YouTube videos focus on other general medical topics, such as undergraduate medical education and residency training, most of his videos involve pseudo-personalized narrated microscope sessions using digital pathology slides.
These videos are particularly helpful for trainees because Gardner can point to specific structures using an on-screen cursor and describe them in real time. His videos are organized into playlists (fro example, board reviews) and may range from brief, high-yield summaries (about one to five minutes) to lengthier, lecture-style presentations (from one to four hours long). Where applicable, his YouTube videos contain links to associated KiKo posts, which can be found in the summary sections of each video.
X and Facebook
Alongside other social media, X and Facebook have become well-integrated into routine dermatology, pathology, and dermatopathology practice. Using the social media scheduling website – Buffer – Gardner syncs his educational posts across his X and Facebook pages, which have over 44,100 and 33,200 followers respectively, as of June 2023. Through Buffer, he is able to edit and update his educational posts, which contain corresponding KiKo and YouTube links, with ease and efficiency so they can be routinely scheduled for days, weeks, and even months ahead of time.
His synced posts contain unknown cases, providing trainees with a quick, accessible way to test their knowledge and learn pertinent material. His content is easily accessible to users of all ages. For Facebook users – specifically those who would like to experience more difficult cases, unknowns, and interactive discussions from other world-renowned dermatopathologists – trainees can also follow Philip M. McKee on McKee Derm – a private Facebook group with over 19,000 followers, as of June 2023.
Likewise, Facebook users interested in seeing more bone/soft tissue pathology cases (accompanied by unknown discussions, and so on) are encouraged to follow the “Bone and Soft Tissue Pathology” private Facebook group, which Gardner founded in September 2013. As of June 2023, this group has over 21,700 followers and is managed by an international editorial team of 11 pathologists. Gardner has also been involved in interacting with sarcoma patients on other Facebook support groups, and has discussed these and other experiences during a TEDx Talk in 2020.
Recently, Gardner has taken on the position of course director for the dermatopathology section of PathElective.com – a free, virtual pathology elective that is an official publication by the Association of Pathology Chairs. This resource is great not only for trainees but also for interested medical students. The course contains free, high-yield introductory and advanced dermatopathology content (including videos, quizzes, and handouts) from Gardner, with supplemental material from other course contributors, authors, and leadership – including two of the authors of this article (CS and AA). Currently, a bone/soft tissue pathology PathElective section is under development, which CS is involved in helping to create.
Social media star
Jerad Gardner has used social media to reach physicians, trainees, and medical students globally. His efforts have allowed millions to learn fellowship-level education in their own time, at their own pace, and for free. With the continued growth of routine social media use in dermatology, pathology, and dermatopathology, trainees should be encouraged to follow Gardner’s online platforms and experience his numerous cases, unknowns, lectures, and invited guest presentations. Recently, there has been a great deal of literature about the importance and utility of social media in pathology and dermatology education – including an updated 2023 collection of online dermatopathology sources for trainees – no articles (to our knowledge) have specifically addressed the impact that Gardner has had in these fields. Our article represents an unusual ode to a once-in-a-lifetime, generational, academic force.