The Glass Houses of Attending Surgeons: An Assessment of Unprofessional Behavior on Facebook among Practicing Surgeons

Sean J. Langenfeld, Craig Sudbeck, Thomas Luers, Peter Adamson, Gates Cook, Paul J. Schenarts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Purpose Our recent publication demonstrated that unprofessional behavior on Facebook is common among surgical residents. In the formulation of standards and curricula to address this issue, it is important that surgical faculty lead by example. Our current study refocuses on the Facebook profiles of faculty surgeons involved in the education of general surgery residents. Methods The American College of Surgeons (ACS) web site was used to identify general surgery residencies located in the Midwest. Departmental web sites were then searched to identify teaching faculty for the general surgery residency. Facebook was then searched to determine which faculty had profiles available for viewing by the general public. Profiles were then placed in 1 of the 3 following categories: professional, potentially unprofessional, or clearly unprofessional. Statistical Analysis A chi-square test was used to determine significance. Results In all, 57 residency programs were identified on the ACS web site, 100% of which provided an institutional web site listing the surgical faculty. A total of 758 general surgery faculty were identified (133 women and 625 men), of which 195 (25.7%) had identifiable Facebook accounts. In all, 165 faculty (84.6%) had no unprofessional content, 20 (10.3%) had potentially unprofessional content, and 10 (5.1%) had clearly unprofessional content. Inter-rater reliability was good (88.9% agreement, κ = 0.784). Clearly unprofessional behavior was found only in male surgeons. For male surgeons, clearly unprofessional behavior was more common among those in practice for less than 5 years (p = 0.031). Alcohol and politics were the most commonly found variables in the potentially unprofessional group. Inappropriate language and sexually suggestive material were the most commonly found variables in the clearly unprofessional group. Conclusions Unprofessional behavior on Facebook is less common among surgical faculty compared with surgical residents. However, the rates remain unacceptably high, especially among men and those in practice for less than 5 years. Education on the dangers of social media should not be limited to residents but should instead be extended to attending surgeons as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e280-e285
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015


  • Facebook
  • Key Words professionalism
  • marketing
  • privacy
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education

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