Social Media Summit Scholarship Essay – Han Yu Stephanie Liou

Posted by Groenke @joycegroenke, Aug 10, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is an entry in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post:
for more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.

Here is Han Yu Stephanie Liou’s Essay:

Nineteen years ago, one sunny day in Florida, I almost didn’t make it.

Fetal heart rate dropping dangerously! Doctors asked my mom to approve an emergency Cesarean section. Her other options? Hesitate ten minutes — brain damage. A half hour delay and…well, you wouldn’t be reading this essay.

So 140 characters or less can save a life — perhaps that’s why I’ve always valued speed and clarity in communication. With over five years of print and online journalism experience, I can ask valuable questions during the conference and write effectively about newfound knowledge. Twitter and Facebook are as integral to my daily routine as showering; I am well-versed in their usage but want to learn how to broaden their impact.

Soon after I was born, doctors discovered that my feet were bent at an odd angle. They taught my mom rehabilitation techniques, but informed her that I would probably never walk properly. She dedicated herself to proving them wrong. I took my first steps successfully, and grew up to join the track team.

I’ve learned that there is nothing quite so powerful as determination to beat the odds. Since spring of 2010, I have been volunteering at Pacific Free Clinic in San Jose. I refer patients to clinical and social services, provide interpretation in Mandarin, and lead publicity and fundraising efforts. In the midst of a challenging economic climate, we try to provide high-quality care for every patient, even though most are uninsured. To increase efficiency and reduce errors, we recently adopted electronic medical records, and I am eager to investigate other technologies such as text-message reminders, Youtube educational videos, or new ideas from this conference.

One nondescript Thursday during sophomore year of high school, I awoke with ringing in my ears. After school, I saw a doctor who dismissed my concerns. By Friday, I couldn’t hear out of my right ear. Despite rushing to the ER and seeing an otolaryngologist, it was too late.

“A nerve is damaged. You’ll never hear out of that ear again,” the specialist said brusquely. “Sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Next patient!”

There is much uncertainty within medicine, but existing knowledge can easily become useless or even harmful if it is inaccessible or insensitively delivered. I am the webmaster and a student researcher for the Huntington’s Outreach Project, at Stanford ( HOPES provides information about Huntington’s Disease to patients and families in friendly, uncomplicated language. We cover everything from biological basics to latest research, and would love to better integrate social media. At the heart of what we do — and my own career goals — is a desire to bridge the gap between science and everyday life.

Around 3AM one night during my first year of college, I was instant messaging with a friend while finishing an assignment. I stood up to grab a snack, and everything started spinning…

When I came to, I was flat on the ground and breathing rapidly. Missed IMs indicated that I had passed out for several minutes. I was taken to the ER, where doctors warned that continuing to sleep just four hours a night was going to kill me.

After all, health is about more than just science and medicine. As the Chair of Health and Wellness for the 15,000-strong Stanford student body this upcoming year, I would love to leverage social media to improve student health, for everything from contraception to alcohol abuse, emotional wellness, sleep deprivation, and nutrition.

Nineteen years later, I’m a rising junior at Stanford University, majoring in Communication and minoring in Biology. Because of my experiences as a patient and as a caregiver, as well as interests in writing and technology, I plan to pursue independent research and write an honors thesis centered upon digital communication and healthcare. I also have a not-so-secret ambition to become the next @sanjayguptaCNN.

The Mayo Clinic Health Care Social Media Summit is the perfect opportunity for me to share my passions and knowledge, as well as gain insights and skills to impact all the students, colleagues, readers, and patients that I work with now and in the future.

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Just Want to Talk group.


You’re awesome!

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Great story Stephanie. Good luck!


Great story!
Your writing’s always enjoyable to read, just like your other articles and the McDonald project =)
I like how you’re well-versed in Twitter and Facebook, heh. And you are!

Good luck and you are the best candidate for the Summit!


Inspiring story, definitely shows how active you are in promoting health awareness.


Very inspiring. Coming from a background with experience in an underserved community, where even a definition of health is scarce, I think it is wonderful that you strive to use any means including social media to reach people and communities who need it!


You have a rare ability to craft compelling stories about science and medicine within the framework of solid journalism. I look forward to reading (and/or watching) your reports as your career develops.


If anyone can make medicine go viral, it’s Steph Liou. Few people are as dedicated to both healthcare and the internet. You have my support!


Very inspiring! Keep up the great work that you are doing, and best of luck with the contest and your future career!


Good for you for overcoming all the obstacles. What a growing experience!


“After all, health is about more than just science and medicine.” — I love this! Who better to win a social media scholarship than someone who deeply understands that health is so often socially determined?


A series of struggles from which you’ve taken the opportunity to learn and grow — fantastic!

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