We need health influencers like Dr Alex George more than ever

Posted by Lucinda Diamond in Comment

3 years ago

While many of the former Love Island stars have been snapped sunning themselves on exotic beaches in Dubai doing essential work, there is at least one doing his best to fight the pandemic: Dr Alex George. Admittedly, he was not my favourite during his time in the villa (a sentiment shared with the other girls, sorry Alex) but since his departure, he has continued his career in medicine and used his newfound Instagram fame to offer insight into working in A&E. His podcast – The Waiting Room – features a range of medical guests from midwives to nurses to dentists as well as other NHS workers such as dispatch callers and bloggers. And it’s good. The range of guests provides a nuanced perspective towards big topics that normally wouldn’t seem approachable in 30 minutes. When his younger brother, Llŷr, passed away as a result of mental illness in July 2020, Alex began an online campaign to help reduce the stigma of the disease. Then, in January 2021, he wrote a post to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging for better mental health education and support for young people to help prevent future losses. His request was heard, and in February 2021, he was made the new Ambassador for Mental Health by Downing Street. An incredible feat for the young doctor after a tough year.

But he’s not the only medical professional making waves on social media. In the last two years, there has been a rise of doctors, nurses and other medical specialists using platforms such as Instagram to help spread useful (general) medical tips and debunk popular myths and misinformation. Dr Joshua Wolrich is particularly interested in battling weight stigma and is bent on encouraging his followers to have a healthy relationship with food, rather than a disordered one. He’s even made national news for calling out celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Kourtney Kardashian for promoting false weight-loss products and encouraging his followers to use food as medicine. Meanwhile, Dr Anita Mitra shares her daily life as a gynaecologist alongside posts containing important facts about the female reproductive system in order to make it, in her own words, “less scary to own a vagina”. Dr Megan Rossi, known online as The Gut Health Doctor, shares tips and advice on maintaining a healthy gut while Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s podcast Feel Better, Live More has reached 25 million streams.

This rise in medical professionals taking firm stands online is perhaps in retaliation to the trend of false news. It’s no surprise that at the same time we started seeing these doctors gain traction, was also the height of fame for people such as The Medical Medium (a medium who provides medical advice based on information given to him by a spirit) and Ullenka, who claimed that she cured her children’s autism and eczema with a raw vegan diet. Such people ride the trends of veganism and homeopathy (completely valid) and distort the facts to perpetuate their own agenda. By directly opposing these claims and offering well-rounded, expert advice, health professionals moonlighting as influencers restore balance to the online ecosystem.

As the coronavirus vaccine is rolled out, there’s growing concern for the number of people refusing the jab. Alongside the typical arguments anti-vaxxers put forward, there is also a genuine and natural hesitancy at getting an injection developed quickly. That’s where these online doctors come in. Not only have many of them discussed the pros and cons of each of the different vaccines (even if it’s not relevant to their usual medical content), but they’ve also documented their own experience getting the jab. Seeing popular and reputable professionals get the vaccine themselves goes a long way in soothing those who are worried, and with the country still in lockdown and more than a 1000 people still dying each day, it’s vital work. 

By Lucinda Diamond, food and travel editor of CORQ. Picture credit: Dr Alex George via Instagram.