It’s silent as Dr. Grace Chang scoots back from the camera. Then the music hits. Regard’s “Ride It” bops in the background as Chang, in navy blue scrubs with a rose gold stethoscope draped around her neck, pumps her fists in time to the music. Words appear on the screen—copper IUD, cervical cap, condoms, implant—a variety of no- or low-hormone birth control options. It’s a bite-size blast of sound and data and then, after nine seconds, it’s over.
With her flawless skin, Chang could easily pass for any TikTok influencer. But in her office at Natural Medicine of Seattle, her prominently displayed diplomas in naturopathic medicine and acupuncture pointedly remind you that there’s professional expertise fueling every video snippet. “I love my medical career—I worked very hard for it,” she says, noting that her mission on social media is mostly to have fun and share wellness information she’s passionate about, from hormones to sexual well-being.
Chang exemplifies a new breed of health care professional, the kind that’s as comfortable prescribing you progestin as she is dancing in front of a ring light. Back in the early days of the pandemic, when reckless suggestions about bleach injections sent medical eyebrows skyward, experts realized they had a problem. “The everyday layperson is not going to medical journals—they’re going to Instagram and TikTok to figure out whether to get vaccinated for Covid,” explains Dr. Lora Shahine, a reproductive endocrinologist at Pacific Northwest Fertility who’s amassed over 289,400 followers since she started posting about infertility and miscarriage on TikTok in 2019. “We have to be there and educate.”
So there they are—not just to quash Covid myths but also to reach the Gen Zers who’d rather consult social networks than geriatric sites like WebMD. An article published in Academic Emergency Medicine Education and Training in 2021 noted that searches for “#doctor” on TikTok resulted in 6.7 billion video views. The Atlantic even published a piece about the phenomenon earlier this year: “When Your Doctor Is on TikTok.” Now anyone from the World Health Organization to a plastic surgeon from Detroit can gain millions of followers (2.9 million and 7.9 million, respectively).
For some physicians who’ve completed the social media migration, TikTok is a natural way to reach the demographic they treat. “When it comes to adolescents, this is a group of people who is notorious for underutilizing the health care system,” says Dr. Tessa Commers, a Shoreline pediatrician who has 1.4 million followers on her Ask Doctor T account. “We have to get out there and start sharing the facts as well, otherwise we won’t have any professionals on those platforms and in places where people are looking for information. I think it’s absolutely the future of medicine.”