Dissertations and Theses

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (DPH)


Community Health and Social Sciences


Chris Palmedo

Committee Members

Chris Palmedo

Ignasi Clemente

Christina Zarcadoolas

Subject Categories

Public Health


Health communication, physicians, discourse


COVID-19 dramatically stressed an already overburdened healthcare system. Physicians, susceptible to burnout, bore the brunt of this threat as frontline providers. Limited data are available describing how the pandemic may have affected physician perceptions and beliefs, including experiences of burnout and plans to exit the field. Reddit, a social media website, allows physicians the ability to interact with their peers pseudonymously on a purpose-driven, publicly viewable subreddit (r/medicine). By providing a space for “physicians and other medical professionals” to interact, it is possible to observe unfiltered discourse.

This dissertation explores physician-peer discourse on Reddit prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. A content and thematic analysis of their discourse revealed functional reasons for physicians posting to r/medicine and two underlying themes of their posts across time. The functions identified include: catharsis, rant and/or vent, request/receive advice, education, advocacy, information sharing, comedic relief, and bowling together. Another function found only in the COVID-present was the snapshot, a time-bound archive used to preserve the present for the future. The two most common identified themes were ‘us vs them’ and the ‘culture of medicine’, found in posts both pre- and post-COVID.

Given the enormity of the stresses on the healthcare system, immediate and systemic changes might be expected; however, there can be equal and opposite forces that oppose systematic change. Physicians can be change agents. Taking steps to support resilience and novel approaches to physician/public communication may result in enhancing the well-being of physicians, as well as improving health of the public.

Available for download on Sunday, August 18, 2024

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