By Nicole Suares
At the peak of the first wave, social media was flooded with countless forwards, doomsday videos, and posts on what to do and not. In the midst of it all, came the refreshing, smiling, sometimes stern face of Dr.PoonamShambaji. She is one of the few in the medical fraternity to harness the power of digital media to inform and advise the public. Today her fan base has grown to a cumulative count of almost 55,000 followers on Facebook (44606), YouTube (5490), and Instagram (4869).
The practicing Paediatrician & Neonatologist for 11 years offers tips on healthy eating and informative content for mothers. As the pandemic wore on, she curtailed the spread of misinformation with her informative videos. “A lot of the information that the public needed was present in written media but not percolating to the public because of language,” she explains.
When IMA launched its phone line service to help patients manage at home, she realized that many were unaware of how to monitor patients. To solve the issue, she made small videos on various topics like how to use an oximeter, etc. “These were liked by many and recirculated by the medical fraternity since it was made by a doctor,” she says.
The pandemic taught her how to use social media. “In 2020, no one knew me, and the mainstream media wasn’t interested in giving a platform to someone who wasn’t known.”
Determined to get her information out, her journey on Facebook began with 34 followers and grew to 44000. The online platforms have helped her connect with her patients better. “Many questions parents ask on social media helped me understand my patients better in person when they visit the clinic,”she adds, “Today when they visit with a query, it is not always related to medicine. In paediatrics, you deal with a lot of other areas as well. I’ve learned a lot about the psychology, fears, and worries of parents. You don’t learn this in Medical College.”
Talking of challenges, Dr.Poonam says that she does get a lot of hate comments. “People feel I have no work and spend my time doing social media videos. But I have a busy OPD, and kids of my own to look after. I get angry and hate questions, but over two years, I’ve come to terms with it,” she laughs it off.
With the new Covid variant, the doctor says that practices like social distancing, masks, and vaccination are the ways to stay safe. For children, Cobervax is good with hardly any side effects. It is given through public health care centers and schools.
Poonam has been practising online consultations for the past 10 years. “It’s my second virtual OPD. I have patients all over India consulting on baby development and nutrition. I also offer breast feeding advice and support for mothers, she says.
Social media, she finds, a pertinent tool to spread public awareness. “It can create awareness and subdue as various misconceptions about medicine. There would be fewer conflicts between the public and medical fraternity if they were educated on the basics and what they can expect.”
But medicine wasn’t always her first choice. Influenced by a serial called Udaan, she dreamt of becoming a police inspector. She says, “But my mother’s last wish was that I join the medical profession. I honored her wish, and I plunged into studies to get into MBBS. Over time, I fell in love with the profession.” Aren’t we glad, she did?