U-M physician leads viral campaign to fight hunger worldwide
What started as a friendly tweet on Dec. 14, challenging health care workers to fight hunger by giving to their local food banks, ended up raising more than $350,000 in just over a week.
Angela Weyand, M.D., a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital who tweets under the name “Shematologist” (@acweyand) got the idea to challenge her colleagues to give in the spirit of the holidays.
She encouraged them to form teams based on their specialty or profession, starting with #hemetwitter for her fellow hematologists. She posted proof of her gift to the Ann Arbor-based Food Gatherers, and sat back to see what happened next.
And that’s when things went viral.
Both on Twitter and Facebook, health care professionals from across North America, Europe, Australia and south Asia used the #HCWvsHunger hashtag to form teams, share what they had donated, urge their peers to give, and taunt the other teams with medical puns and jokes. Weyand tallied up the donation receipt images they sent or tweeted, and updated a leader board regularly.
Weyand is no stranger to Twitter, having spent the last year doing “tweetorials” on various health topics in her field. One of these strings of tweets, which share research and clinical pearls, led to an invitation to publish an overview of sexism in treatment of bleeding disorders in a journal. She has even auctioned off the right to pick her next tweetorial topic to the highest bidder, with “bids” being gifts to specific nonprofit causes.
But the anti-hunger campaign reached another level.
“People in medicine tend to be competitive and so I thought it would be fun to combine end-of-year giving with a contest,” she said. “A few of my U-M Medical School classmates across the country got people engaged, a few donors gave generously to get things going, and it was a perfect storm.”
The official end came with an international team of surgeons and anesthesiologists earning bragging rights for donating $90,338 and the right to name the topic of her next tweetorial. Donations kept coming in even after the formal competition had ended.
Weyand is already thinking ahead to next year, when she hopes to add a better way to track which anti-hunger organizations receive gifts, and who is on each virtual “team.”
“Many physicians, especially those of us who aren’t spending most of our time on COVID-19 care, feel fortunate to have enough food to put on our tables, and I think we are conscious of the fact that we’re the ones asking people to stay home because of the pandemic,” Weyand said, noting that this can be very hard for people who might not be getting paid if their workplace is affected by public health orders, or they have to stay home from work because of children who are learning online. “Fighting hunger is something that everyone can get behind, and it’s a need that’s everywhere.”
It’s not too late to give in honor of the #HCWvsHunger cause – especially if you give to Food Gatherers using the Michigan Medicine online giving link for the Season of Giving campaign: http://foodgatherers.org/UM