TikTok has climbed to the top of the social media ranks, surpassing Google as the number one site in 2021. And its impact on healthcare has been profound: A range of doctors, scientists, mental health professionals and plastic surgeons call the platform home, sharing details of their battles with health misinformation and allowing followers glimpses into their personal lives.
“It has changed a lot, because it lets us get to know these HCPs in an authentic way,” said Julie Hurvitz Aliaga, SVP of social media at CMI Media Group. “You’re getting to see their faces and their personalities.”
Here are 10 of the most popular doctor influencers on the platform – and how they’ve been able to connect with viewers in new ways.
Dr. Don Dizon is an oncologist who has grown popular on the platform for both his stylish outfits — he dons an array of bow ties, scarves and ties — and his thoughtful musings on cancer. He’s currently a professor of medicine at Brown University, as well as director of medical oncology at Rhode Island Hospital.
While Dizon’s videos focus on cancer research and treatment, he has commented extensively on the intersection of COVID-19 and cancer. In recent months, he has explained why it’s important for cancer patients to get vaccinated – while jamming to music and putting on his accessories for the day.
“If you look back five years ago, who would’ve thought they’d see their oncologist dancing on TikTok?” Aliaga noted. “It would have been absurd if you’d said that five years years ago — but when we fast-forward to the present day, there’s something really endearing about it.”
2. Dr. Noc
Though technically not a physician — he’s an immunologist who studies COVID-19 — Dr. Noc has more than a million followers on TikTok and has amassed nearly 22 million likes on his videos. He’s known for pithy explanatory videos breaking down myths and clarifying facts on topics like “flurona,” the Omicron variant and the best ways to protect your skin (hint: it’s sunscreen). His educational videos are broken up by the occasional silly dancing video, which makes him even more relatable.
“There is something beneficial about being able to offer quick content that people can view really quickly and get the same information they might get through a long article,” Aliaga explained. “Shorter content may be resonating because folks are so burned out from what we’ve been going through the last two years.”
3. Dr. Stella
Dr. Stella posts content that she characterizes as “education with dance and laughs.” She provides updates on COVID-19 data and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, all while dancing to some of the trendiest songs on the platform.
Conveying factual information across in short videos has proven an essential way for HCPs to connect with the public during the pandemic, Aliaga said. “Snackable content is king. It’s an old way of saying it, but it still rings very true.”
Epidemiologist Dr. Katrine Wallace, known to her fans as “Dr. Kat,” has grown her following to nearly 250,000 users amid the pandemic. She’s especially skilled at presenting quick breakdowns of important topics — like the difference between rapid and PCR tests and the usefulness of each at different points of infection.
Dr. Kat isn’t just a scientist, though: She considers herself a science communicator and debunker of misinformation. In her latest video series, designed to help her audience spot false or misleading content, she explains the techniques people use to spread misinformation.
5. Dr. Emeka
Dr. Emeka Okorocha is a London-based physician whose cheerful disposition and positive energy serves as a source of support for his followers, whether he’s offering advice on smoking cessation or sharing tips on getting back into an exercise routine. In one video, Dr. Emeka lists reasons to listen to your doctor — notably, that “Google didn’t go to medical school with us.”
Boasting nearly two million followers on TikTok, Dr. Adam Goodcoff is a resident who shares tidbits about what really goes on in the ER. While he posts videos on how patients are intubated, he’s also big on passing along information about time management and staying active during a busy physician schedule. He’s happy to field questions from his followers, too; recent ones include a detailed explanation about why it’s possible to shoot milk out of your eye.
Aliaga remains impressed. “These TikTok physicians said, ‘Let’s make getting content out to our patients fun, let’s make them laugh with us,’” she recalled. “Laughter has been the best medicine to get us through the pandemic. If there’s been one positive from the last two years, that might be it – making us smile through quirky TikTok videos that are really meaningful and provide value to their patients.”
Dr. Anthony Youn is perhaps the most well-known plastic surgeon on TikTok, with more than 7 million followers and 230 million likes on his videos. His popular videos range from explanations of skin tightening procedures and tummy tucks, to comments on celebrity culture. But he’s also branded himself as a “holistic plastic surgeon” who advocates for less invasive procedures — and comments on the importance of self-love when dealing with body image issues.
Dr. Vicki Chan endeavors to show a more human side of clinicians, posting content not only focused on COVID-19 vaccines but also her day-to-day life. Past videos have focused on work-life balance and what foods she eats as a Chinese American.
Healthcare marketers could learn a little from videos produced by doctors like Chan, Aliaga noted, particularly the way they foster a stronger bond between HCPs and patients.
“HCPs wanted to find that unique way to connect with patients and peers, and that’s something that’s been needed to be tackled for some time now,” Aliaga explained. “Then TikTok happened, and it was kind of this perfect marriage.”
An anesthesia resident, Dr. Shonna Gaskin has accumulated more than 174,000 followers by sharing tips on getting into med school, with a focus on Black medical students. She frequently dances in her scrubs as she provides insight on admission stats at different med schools and advice about the specialties that pay the most after four years of residency. Gaskin also addresses issues related to racism in healthcare.
10. Dr. Tommy Martin
Dr. Tommy Martin offers his followers a full picture of his life, explaining in videos how he motivates himself to work out (even after 17-hour ICU shifts) and sharing his recipe for healthy tacos.. He also creates content about raising a son with the rare neurodevelopmental disorder Lamb Shaffer syndrome — and in doing so, helps reduce the stigma around such conditions.