Schedule your COVID-19 vaccine wherever possible. Please do not call your doctor as they cannot schedule an appointment for you. Learn more.

Communication in the Age of Twitter


I’ve been active on Twitter for about a year and a half, and I still get surprised by the power of the online social network.

The latest example surfaced a few weeks ago when I received the following message from Kathy Contes, the mother of 4-year-old James:

  • “We’ve had a FAB experience at your proton center. I would like to invite you to my son’s bell ringing ceremony on 11/13”

Let me provide some background. James, who lives in Phoenix with his mom, twin sister and older brother, was a patient at our Scripps Proton Therapy Center for just over a month this fall where he received radiation treatment for a brain tumor. He marked the end of his therapy by ringing a bell mounted on a center wall, a tradition that is followed at hospitals across the country. His mom gave me the okay to share his story in this space.

When I received Kathy’s invitation through my Twitter handle @ChrisDVanGorder, I gladly accepted.

As part of the ceremony, James signed his name to a special poster-sized, superhero-themed drawing made by the Proton Center’s first pediatric patient, Natalie Wright. Like Natalie, James wore a special mask that kept his head perfectly still during treatments, and it was decorated in honor of his favorite superhero — Spider-Man. His treating physician, Andrew L. Chang, MD, also a superhero fan, wore a Spider-Man themed shirt for the bell ringing.

I can’t express how wonderful it was to share in this joyous expression of accomplishment with James, his mother and our amazing team of physicians, nurses and technologists who provide state-of-the-art care at the center. I think they’re all superheroes.

I’ve long believed in the power of direct communication to connect with the front line of your organization and to build a better understanding of how your actions affect your customers or, in the case of Scripps, our patients.

Kathy’s communication with me through Twitter was a perfect example of that philosophy. I was able to connect with a grateful mom who spent more than a month at our center watching her son battle a debilitating disease. I witnessed first-hand the results of the care delivered by our physicians and staff. And, best of all, I got to interact with a wonderful boy whose life has been forever altered by his experience at Scripps.

You can’t have days like that if you spend them isolated in the C-suite.