'Medical detectives' are helping people diagnose tricky conditions online.
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When one mom took to a medical platform called CrowdMed, her son Joseph was in desperate need of help.

"My son feels like an old man," she wrote. "He suffers from constant, debilitating fatigue, painful body aches ... he feels like he's dying."

After submitting his case to the site, more than 40 "medical detectives" — medical experts from around the world — took it on. They came to the consensus that he most likely had Lyme disease, even though that had previously been ruled out by his physicians following negative test results.


The medical detectives had noticed that the tests he had taken were old and known to be inaccurate now with advanced technology. They recommended he take a new test, which confirmed that Lyme disease was the correct diagnosis. He's now on the appropriate treatment plan and feeling way better.

The internet is a wild place like that.

Who would have thought the same tools we use to look at pictures of cute kittens could also help us solve mysterious medical cases?

The internet and social media have not only changed the way friends communicate with each other, but have changed the way doctors and patients communicate, too.

Like other professionals, doctors benefit from sharing insight and expertise with other doctors. But only so much can be learned from attending a conference or reading a medical journal. That's where crowdsourcing medical info has come into play.

Here are five ways doctors (and everyday folks) are using the internet to change the medical world as we know it:

1. Medical detectives are solving difficult medical mysteries on CrowdMed.

Image via CrowdMed.

There are thousands and thousands (and thousands) of medical conditions out there. The odds of one doctor knowing all of them? Well, that'd be ridiculous! And that's exactly why CrowdMed came into existence.

As in the example above, CrowdMed uses crowdsourcing to help solve unique medical cases online. We're not talking your common cold here. We're talking difficult medical conditions that could normally take several years, and a lot of money, to diagnose. With the help of their medical experts, or "detectives," patients are given access to a wide variety of medical expertise in one online platform.

2. No Instagram filter is needed with these photos, but a medical degree can help.


From the emergency room, here's our selected case for #Medstudent Monday. What test should you order urgently for this patient?
A video posted by Figure 1 (@figure1) on



While many people take joy in scrolling through photos of puppies and fancy-looking dinners on Instagram, people in the medical community are actively following photos of medical cases to compare notes. With more than 54,000 followers, the account Figure 1 is perfect for health professionals to view and discuss a variety of medical issues ranging from surgeries to X-rays to burn wounds.

"If I’m able to log on to Instagram or Figure 1 and see a picture of something that I learned about three years ago in medical school that I may see in the future, that’s really helpful for my learning going forward," emergency medicine resident John Corker told Marketplace.


We've selected our case of the week. This device can restore a patient's vision when all other methods fail. Do you know what it is?
A photo posted by Figure 1 (@figure1) on

3. Doctors are using an instant messenger to get their answers super fast.

A "living, breathing, evolving medical knowledge bank," SERMO has become a go-to social network for doctors around the world. Its community of 600,000 members are all verified and credentialed physicians who use the space to brainstorm, ask questions, collaborate, and exchange knowledge and experiences with each other.

And what makes it stand out is that community members can remain anonymous on the network once they've been verified. It creates a safe space for doctors to open up and ask questions they may otherwise avoid asking in a public setting or in their own practice.

"When physicians feel comfortable dialoguing without repercussions, they ask for help, they share knowledge, they admit mistakes — and together advance the universe of medical knowledge," the website reads. Makes sense.

4. What if a doctor needs a second opinion? There are Facebook groups for that.

Image via Facebook.

When Dr. Brian Jacob wanted to stay in touch and share knowledge with other surgeons around the world, he went straight to Facebook. Jacob created a closed group called International Hernia Collaboration and invited some of his surgeon friends to join.

"What began as a few of us collaborating privately about tough cases quickly spread to hundreds of vetted surgeons and industry members from over 40 countries providing each other continuous quality improvement one Facebook post and comment at a time," he wrote in Facebook Stories.

The group, which now has over 2,100 members, has seen successful outcomes thanks to their teamwork. Woo, collaboration! For example, Jacob said in his story:

"One day last year, a patient came to me insisting that he have his hernia fixed as soon as possible. Given his medical history, I suspected it would be best to wait and not operate right away. With the patient’s permission, I decided to reach out to the group for other perspectives. I posted an x-ray image of his hernia and the key information regarding his case, along with my two points: 1) When is it too soon to repair a newly formed hernia? and 2) What technique and product would you use?

Within minutes, other surgeons chimed in with comments, and I felt comforted in teaching hundreds of surgeons across the globe that there was consensus in this decision to postpone the surgery. With the support of the group, I waited a few months before operating, and saved the patient potential injury to his intestines that could occur by operating too soon. I've tracked his progress and, almost a year later, he is still doing very well."

5. Or for the minimal effort approach, let the information come directly to you.

With sites like PediHeartNet, users are able to sign up to be informed on the latest news within their expertise. For instance, PediHeartNet's listserv allows medical professionals to sign up to receive postings of worldwide discussions to their inbox on various aspects of pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery. That's both important and convenient.

When it comes down to it, the more quality information we have about our health, the better off we all are.

It's great to see medical professionals and everyday people work together to find ways to share their medical knowledge and experiences for the benefit of human good.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."