Clearing up confusion

Can doctors on social media help lead to less misinformation? These TikTok DOs hope so

Though social media is never a substitute for physician care, it allows unprecedented opportunities to connect with and learn from doctors in new ways.


Since the advent of social media, humans have enjoyed access to a seemingly endless stream of information that can be consumed anyplace, anywhere, anytime. The simple post of a photo or video has the potential to immediately reach hundreds, thousands, if not millions of people. What makes social media so special is that there is room for everyone. Anyone who wants to post, can. While scrolling through your feed, you might come across a college student demonstrating the latest dance trend or a grandparent sharing their favorite recipe—you might even come across your doctor.

The number of physicians producing health content is on the rise, with each applying a unique approach, style and format to attract a broad audience of followers. Some may be humorous, attempting to highlight comedic stereotypes that exist in the hierarchy of medicine. Others may be more direct and factual, aiming to inform and educate viewers on a popular topic in medicine. Some may opt to use their cameras to provide followers with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a day in the life of a doctor.

Dustin Portela, DO

With over 2.4 million (yes, million!) TikTok followers, dermatologist Dustin Portela, DO, (@drdustinportela) uses his vast knowledge of skin health to educate followers using easy-to-understand and concise 30-second videos. Combining education with humor, Dr. Portela built his social media presence from the ground up after finishing residency and opening a private practice. “I initially used social media to increase our patient volume, and to get people in the door,” said Dr. Portela. After going viral for the first time in December 2019, patients found their way to his practice—and his TikTok account. His most popular video has over 44.4 million views [as of this writing].

“There’s value to building your own online brand,” said Dr. Portela. “I wanted to position myself as an expert and help stop the spread of misinformation.” Skin-related problems can seem extremely complicated. Your skin is the largest organ in the body (save that for your next trivia game!) and the number of possible rashes and conditions, as well as the products to treat them, can be overwhelming. But Dr. Portela has a knack for communicating complex information in an educational and informative way that makes sense to millions of people.

In many of his videos, Dr. Portela films himself going to retail stores like Ulta, Walgreens and Target to review skincare products. He also started a trend where he’ll find someone in the store and treat them to a dermatologist-approved skincare routine, which he’s coined “Buying Skincare for a Stranger.”

Far surpassing his initial goal of using social media to bolster his newly-opened private practice, Dr. Portela has made a significant difference in the lives of his followers. On multiple occasions, followers have reached out to let him know that one of his videos inspired them to see their doctor. “I’ve had patients tell me, ‘I think you saved my life with your video!’ after their atypical mole ended up being some form of skin cancer,” he said.

“They’re really giving me too much credit,” said Dr. Portela. “I just posted a video!”

Jeremy Hogstrom, DO & Jermaine Hogstrom, DO

Internal medicine physicians Dr. Jeremy Hogstrom, DO, and Dr. Jermaine Hogstrom, DO, might be well-known in their community for being identical twin brothers, but they are recognized in the world of social media for having amassed over 2.8 million TikTok followers (@twin.doctors.j).

When the brothers initially joined TikTok at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their goal was to provide a more relatable approach to medicine through education and humor. Their signature video format features them watching and reacting to viral social media videos by applying a humorous physician perspective. One recent example shows a video where an elderly woman says her doctor told her to install a bar in her shower, followed by a scene of her enjoying a nice happy hour in her tub. The video then cuts to the brothers, speechless with mouths aghast, joking that the woman clearly misinterpreted her doctor’s orders. A common theme amongst all the videos? Laughter is the best medicine.

In addition to providing plenty of laughs, the two Dr. Hogstroms say their social media presence has led to opportunities for greater exposure and involvement in the health care community. They collaborated with the Michigan Department of Health and many other prominent physicians on social media. They were also speakers at the Black Health Matters Spring Summit in New York City in 2022, where they spoke about the COVID-19 vaccination and community hesitancy.

“We do choose to communicate differently because we realize that our presence on social media is very meaningful to many young African American men and women who aspire to pursue careers in medicine,” said Drs. Hogstrom. “We strive to promote a positive image and lead by example.”

Little did they know when they started on TikTok that they would become influential just by being public health educators. “Fans message us and tell us how they feel more encouraged to get their screenings,” said Drs. Hogstrom.

A problem they’ve noticed, however, with regards to physicians who utilize social media is the stigma associated with joining social media. “It’s easy to forget that physicians are also human and like to express themselves in various ways,” said Drs. Hogstrom. Just like their patients, physicians need a way to decompress. Social media provides a platform for that expression, but with a few stipulations – the brothers state that their number one piece of advice for anyone entering the social media space is to have fun but be responsible and knowledgeable – understand that your words carry weight.

The inception of social media has revolutionized the way we communicate. Though social media is never a substitute for physician care, it allows unprecedented opportunities to connect with and learn from doctors in new ways.

With over 5 million combined followers, Drs. Jeremy and Jermaine Hogstrom and Dr. Portela use humor and relatability to bridge the gap between patient education and complex medical topics. Next time you’re scrolling, keep your eye out for your friendly social media doctors. They may teach you a thing or two.

Dr. Portela can be found on TikTok and Instagram @drdustinportela and Youtube @208SkinDoc. Drs. Jermaine and Jeremy Hogstrom can be found on TikTok and Instagram @twin.doctors.j and Youtube: @TwinDoctorsJ.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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