The Health Exemplars
Specializing in internal medicine and endocrinology, Dr. Iris Thiele Isip-Tan is more than just a physician. The Dok Bru blogger and social media influencer is an accomplished health informatics experts advocating patient education and health literacy
By Ma. Vanessa L. Estinozo
Following in the footsteps of her mentors who were also called ‘witches’ due to their strict style of teaching, Dr. Iris Thiele Isip-Tan also soon earned the moniker—the ‘Endocrine Witch’—when she declared her preference for her subspecialty as a chief resident at the Philippine General Hospital, Department of Medicine.
After becoming a full-fledged endocrinologist and embarking on her clinical practice in 2004, she doesn’t mind being called such and she has, in fact, felt proud of this ‘title’. She doesn’t go around flying on a broom though.
Aside from being a specialist on various endocrine problems, Dr. Tan has dedicated her career in the medical field as a health informatics expert, TedX speaker, and medical educator.
Serving the Philippine Lipid & Atherosclerosis Society, Philippine Society for the Study of the Aging Male, and the Philippine Society of Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism as board member, she used her position with these notable medical societies in advocating more effective public information campaigns on prevalent chronic diseases, diabetes, and andropause.
She co-founded the #HealthXPH in 2013 on Twitter, a weekly tweet chat on the intersection of healthcare, social media and technology, and the first Philippine-based health tweet chat on Symplur, an online platform that incites discussion on understanding and strengthening healthcare through patients, doctors and other stakeholders’ insights from healthcare social media conversations.
In fact, her commitment to provide patient education and support in Filipino by using social media as a tool to promote a healthy lifestyle became a subject of TedXDiliman talk she delivered in 2015.
In the same year, she helped organize the first Philippine Healthcare and Social Media Summit with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.
Recently, Dr. Tan was appointed as Director of the UP Manila Interactive Learning Center, advocating for the use of the innovative teaching strategies in medical education.
Health literacy is significant in helping the patient to have a better comprehension and management of their illness or disease. It’s the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.
“When people do not get the information they need, they do not get the care they need or worse they get care that they don’t need,” she underscored in her TedXDiliman talk, and captured the audience’s interest in the growing change in social media and Internet.
The Blogging Dok Bru
For a consultation on diabetes, heart disease, or just about any health issue, the next step would be to see a doctor in his/her clinic, undergo tests, come back the following day or week to find out about the results. But thanks to the continuous evolution of technology and Internet, we could research on just about anything under the sun. However, this is not meant to replace a consultation with one’s doctor.
This encouraged the ‘Endocrine Witch’ to start her blog at www.endocrine-witch.net in 2010, and use Facebook as an avenue for health promotion and spread health information, which has garnered over 50,000 likes.
Dr. Tan’s viral posts on her Facebook page reiterate that this does not translate to an online consultation.
Translated in Filipinos ‘Witch’ is Bruha, she is also called as Doctor Bruha or Dok Bru for short on Facebook.
The first graduate of an MS degree in Health Informatics Program, she became Chief of the University of the Philippines, Manila Medical Informatics Unit in 2011. Her research on Informatics includes mobile health, social media, and e-learning.
Giving reliable access to health information on social media, her blog has spread an awareness on the prevalence of diabetes and thyroid disease in the country. The information she provides contributes to the health promotion efforts by the government and medical organizations.
Dr. Tan believes that health is an important building block in nation-building; and the Internet, social media, and online activities help raise health literacy among lay people.
Dr. Iris Thiele Isip-Tan, the ‘Endocrine Witch’, or Dok Bru, always has something up her broom, as she figures out innovative ways on how informatics can be a major tool in creating more health awareness in the public, so they can be “charmed” into living healthier lifestyles.
“When people do not get the information they need, they do not get the care they need or worse they get care that they don’t need.”
March 2017 Health and Lifestyle