When Mikhail Varshavski, DO, known to his 1.5 million Instagram followers as “Dr. Mike,” began documenting his medical journey through social media, he never imagined the same platform would help him realize his dream to create a support system for students trying to achieve their goals.
Born in Russia, Dr. Varshavski wished he had received more guidance and financial support growing up. Now a family medicine resident at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, New Jersey, he initially tried offering that guidance through outreach and presentations to college pre-medical societies.
After being named Sexiest Doctor Alive by People magazine in November, Dr. Varshavski’s Instagram account went viral and he realized he could do more. In late 2015, he launched Limitless Tomorrow, a foundation dedicated to providing monetary support to students who have a unique idea or plan for the future.
When selecting grant and financial aid recipients, Dr. Varshavski says life experience will be considered in addition to academic success. “I have seen many students bound for greatness get passed by for financial aid because they didn’t have perfect grade point averages. As an osteopathic physician, I treat each patient as a whole so why evaluate a student based solely on their grades?” he says.
The foundation is accepting its first round of applications through March 4, 2016.
Fundraising outside the box
As his Instagram account grew in popularity, Dr. Varshavski began receiving offers from companies for advertising and television opportunities. When the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel came courting, he realized a collaboration could help raise funds for Limitless Tomorrow.
Last month, Coffee Meets Bagel partnered with Dr. Varshavski for the “Win a Date with Dr. Mike” sweepstakes. For a minimum $10 donation to Limitless Tomorrow, participants entered for the chance to win an all-inclusive date with Dr. Varshavski, including a flight to New York, a stay at a four-star hotel and dinner.
“The response was overwhelming. We raised over $91,000,” Dr. Varshavski says.
While this certainly isn’t the first blind date to come about via Instagram, the use of social media for medical education and discussions is still relatively new.
“I hear physicians and students talking about having to delete their social media accounts for fear of being labeled unprofessional. However, I’ve found that during this wild ride through social media stardom, patients have reacted positively to my accounts,” Dr. Varshavski says.
Social media also has helped him build rapport with his patients.
“Patients see photos of my family, my dog, my hobbies, and it instantly creates common ground,” Dr. Varshavski says. “Patients are much more likely to follow your guidance if you can relate to one another.”