Instead of turning in their stethoscopes for a digital career, these medical students are leveraging their expertise to become social media influencers.
Dr. Pimple Popper, Dr. Miami, and Dr. Ghavami may have unknowingly inspired the current generation of medical students to become social media celebrities or ‘Influencers.’ The aforementioned medical professionals get candid about their day to day lives as surgeons and dermatologists on YouTube and Instagram. They have no problem showing all the gory and often gooey aspects of their jobs. But is it wise for medical students without proper experience, certification, or an official MD title to do the same? One current medical student and writer, Vishal Khetpal, doesn’t seem to think so for a few reasons.
1. Glamorizing the mentally draining and sometimes private aspects of medical school seems unethical. Mixed between these posts are also ads or sponsored content for medical related products and supplies. When it comes to the study material, equipment, and even clothing that a doctor or aspiring doctor promotes, most would hope that it would be due to how accurately and safely it helps them care for their patients.
“these accounts posted long reflections after anatomy lab sessions, video stories of students huddled around a defibrillator during a CPR training session, pictures of neat study spaces featuring board-prep textbooks next to cups of artisan coffee, and 5 a.m. selfies taken in the surgery locker-room before assisting with a C-section… interspersed, and even integrated, into those relatable moments were advertisements and discount codes for study materials and scrub clothing brands,” Vishal wrote for Slate.com.
2. Often medical students are tapped to promote products that are unrelated to their expertise. Once they reach a certain level of success, any brand will reach out including brands hocking “supplements” and products labeled as “healthy.”
“Some accounts featured sponsored posts advertising watches and clothes from Lululemon; another linked back to a personal blog that included a page that allowed followers to “shop my Instagram.” A popular fitness-oriented account, hosted by an aspiring M.D., promoted protein powder and pre-workout supplements. A future dermatologist showcased skin care products. Another future M.D.’s account highlights the mattresses, custom maps, furniture rental services, and food brand that, according to the posts, help her seamlessly live the life of a third-year med student.”
3. Students don’t always have enough life experience or the knowledge to responsibly pursue a social media career which requires them to showcase their profession, promote questionable products, and somehow maintain the ethical standards required of doctors.
“But for less experienced medical students, the story becomes more complicated. We, only beginning our careers in medicine, sit at the bottom of medicine’s totem pole, lacking the volume of clinical experience of practicing physicians.”
“It practically invites us to share professional opinions alongside personal views, where posts and tweets can easily get misinterpreted. Is a doctor’s personal devotion to a product an endorsement that it’s a good medical choice for everyone? The uncharted ethics of social media are already confusing, and that’s before you add in the influence of outside interests, many of which are ready to take advantage of students’ ability to offer some stamp of medical authority to the general public about a product or idea without asking too many questions.”
Seeing the day to day lives of doctors and aspiring physicians is interesting but is it blurring the line of ethics? Hit us up on social media @trendallday to let us know your thoughts!
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