Healthy Hashtags: 4 Health and Clinical Research Movements Powered Through Twitter

April Schultz
Content Marketing Manager, Forte
October 1st, 2015

Hashtags are a tool originated by Twitter that allow users to categorize their posts by adding a word or string of phrases after the “#” sign. Anyone who searches for that specific hashtag is then able to view the user’s tweet.

The clinical research and medical industries have exploded on Twitter over the past few years and many hashtag initiatives have started in support of physicians, best practices, medical education and more. Listed below are four powerful initiatives enhanced by Twitter hashtags.

1. #NursesUnite

At the 2015 Miss America pageant, contestant Kelley Johnson (Miss Colorado) surprised viewers when she performed an original monologue as her talent. The monologue told the story of Johnson’s career as a nurse and described a patient who made a significant impact on her life. While performing her speech, she wore scrubs and a stethoscope.

Many found the speech powerful and relatable. Which is why audiences rallied behind Johnson after members of the talk show “The View” criticized her choice of talent and outfit. Notably, the show hosts asked why she was wearing a “doctor’s stethoscope,” revealing their general ignorance about the nursing profession. 1

Individuals took to social media to support Johnson and nurses everywhere using the hashtag #NursesUnite.



#NursesUnite made national news and provided an opportunity for nurses around the country to share stories and educate the public about their important roles and responsibilities.

2. #FOAMed

While older than others, #FOAMed (Free Open Access Medical Education) is probably one of the better-known medical and clinical research hashtags.

Started by Mike Cadogan in 2012 this hashtag initiative is a “call to arms” for professionals in the life sciences industry to come together in the name of free medical education. Cadogan’s goal was to form a “global medical community, bringing together like-minded people, groups and associations.” 2 The community’s purpose is to curate the mass amount of educational resources available online into one easy-to-access and ever-growing environment. Tweeters post webcasts, podcasts, links, etc. to relevant educational resources using the #FOAMed hashtag.

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FOAMed tweet 2-cropped

After three years, #FOAMed is still alive and maintaining a popular following of medical and clinical research professionals. Some tweeters even include the hashtag in their personal profiles to indicate themselves as a resource for those searching for information and further education.

3. #ILookLikeASurgeon

This social initiative emerged from the similar hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer. Both hashtags were created to eliminate gender stereotypes associated with traditionally male-dominated professions.

In August of 2015, Isis Wenger, a 22-year-old platform engineer at OneLogin, posed for a simple ad that presented her image alongside text stating her position as an engineer. After the ad appeared online, viewers were quick to criticize the image, saying it was unrealistic and that Isis didn’t look like an engineer. In response to this cyberbullying, Isis started the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement which spiraled into a social media phenomenon. 3

This hashtag inspired Dr. Heather Logghe to start the equally popular #ILookLikeASurgeon initiative, which has resonated with female and male surgeons alike. 3 Twitter users post images (serious and silly) of themselves with coworkers and family, proudly announcing their role as surgeon.


ILookLikeASurgeon3[1] copy

This hashtag (and #ILookLikeAnEngineer) works to educate the public on the value of diversity in every career field, particularly the life sciences industry. It’s important because it allowed individuals to reveal and celebrate qualities that make them unique and successful in their profession. Though it may seem small, this initiative is a step towards breaking barriers for future generations and eliminating gender bias in the work place.

4. #itdoesnthavetohurt

The It Doesn’t Have To Hurt initiative understands the power of social media to spark change. The whole campaign is based off the communicative capabilities of Twitter and like platforms.

Dr. Christine Chambers from the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research started the #itdoesnthavetohurt initiative by uploading a video about ways parents can reduce their child’s pain and fear during needle injections. After sharing the video on Twitter and other platforms, it spread like wildfire. The video was viewed over 100,000 times and was covered by news sites worldwide. It revealed how often concerned parents use the Internet to search for answers about their children’s health, and inspired Christine to continue building the initiative. 5

The campaign, now funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, uses Twitter and other social media platforms as tools to speak with concerned parents. 5



This hashtag initiative brings together international health and research professionals to relay research evidence about children’s pain directly to parents via social media. The hope is that immediate access to such evidence through platforms like Twitter will reduce the amount of time it takes to translate the findings into everyday life. Parents now have direct access to pain reducing tips “all thanks to a few messages 140 characters or less.” 5

Twitter has steadily increased in popularity over the past few years, growing from 16% of adult users in 2012 to 23% in 2014. 6


These initiatives and their results show the power of social media in the life sciences industry. Not only is Twitter a platform for medical and research professionals to communicate with one another, it’s a means for those same professionals to reach patients and potential study participants. It’s evident that educating people through social media tools, such as hashtags, can positively influence the public image of clinical research and medical practice, garnering support for such important professions.

Social media is a great tool to help your potential study participants understand the necessity of clinical research, how research has advanced and what they can do to get involved.

For more information on how your site can build a presence on social media, watch the webinar “Recruiting Patients: 5 Proven Secrets to Social Media Success” or read these related articles:



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