WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Dr. Muneeb Shah’s meteoric rise on social media began on May 1, 2020. The 33-year-old Dermatology Resident at Atlantic Dermatology in Wilmington had pages on Facebook and Instagram before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But he says those personal accounts were mostly for family and friends and posting vacation pictures. With a little extra time on his hands because of the pandemic-related restrictions, Dr. Shah downloaded the TikTok app and posted his first video on that first day in May. Little did he know how things were going to change.
“I’ll say that it certainly was unexpected,” he says. “It’s not something I set out to do.”
In less than 18 months, the New York native has attracted ten million followers to his @DermDoctor account on TikTok, becoming one of the most influential voices in dermatology and social media. The impact has also translated into more followers on his other accounts. Dr. Shah’s @doctorly account on Instagram has grown to 646,000 followers, and the @Doctorly channel he co-hosts on YouTube with fellow Dermatologist Dr. L.J. Maxfield has 866,000 subscribers. (Editor’s note: At the time of my interview with Dr. Shah, his TikTok following sat at 9.9 million, which is why it is referenced that way in the podcast audio).
“It’s basically happened by accident,” Dr. Shah says about the exponential growth of his following. “A lot of people were not going out and so at night and on weekends I was sitting in my house and saying ‘You know what? I have a camera. I have social media. People are making content. I can make content!’. At the time the biggest people in the skin care space talking about skin care conditions, those people were not Dermatologists. So, I said, ‘I have the education, I can talk about what I know and see what people say about it’. All of a sudden it took off, and I realized at that moment people kept asking me questions like ‘How do you treat acne? How do you treat acne scars?’ I said ‘There’s a lot of questions that I wish I knew when I was in their position. So let me just make a short video about it’, and it really just continued to take off from there. I realized I was needed in the space.”
As Dr. Shah has become more adept at the process of creating content, the videos have taken on more complicated features. He says it can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour and a half to complete the process, depending on the type of video he wants to post. An editor now helps with producing videos for the YouTube channel. But whether the topic is addressing skin care trends, finding the best sunscreen, or answering a follower or subscriber’s question, his basic premise is the same now as in the first video post in May 2020.
“Before I hit post, I just ask myself a simple question: ‘Does this add any value to anyone’s life?’ If it does, I post it,”, he says. “Sometimes they explode and I’m like, ‘I didn’t expect this! Why is this the one to go viral?’
You can hear Dr. Shah tell the story about his first video that went viral at 3:00 of the podc
Dr. Shah is frequently sought out by other media outlets for his expertise in skin care issues. Reporters interviewed him for recent articles in Women’s Health and Vogue magazines, and for yahoo.com. Those requests started coming in after one of the @DermDoctor’s TikTok videos went viral. That’s when Dr. Shah began to realize the educational opportunities and the power of the platform.
“There was a video I’d posted about ‘Worst Skin Care Trends – Part 1′,” he remembers. “You know, jade rollers, putting ice on your face, things that I see people do that I don’t think have long-term benefits for their skin. That went like mega-viral! The newspapers picked it up. It was on traditional news outlets. It just really started to take off and take on a mind of its own. I realized I’d just educated 15 million people on something that would take me a lifetime to see this many people! I realized from an educational standpoint the power on these platforms for dermatologists and people in these types of positions to counteract misinformation was more that you can do in your lifetime by speaking to people face-to-face. So, I was like ‘I have to really take this seriously at this point’. From then on, I have to make content that makes a meaningful difference.”
The National Melanoma Foundation believes Dr. Shah’s efforts are making a difference. The organization plans to recognize him for creating awareness of Melanoma, a type of skin cancer that is dangerous because of its’ ability to spread to other areas of the body if not diagnosed early and treated. Dr. Jonathan Crane, the President of Atlantic Dermatology and Director of the Dermatology Residency Program at Campbell University that brought Dr. Shah to Wilmington, also has high praise for Dr. Shah’s positive impact on social media.
“I am extremely proud of him and his social influence saves lives,” Dr. Crane said. “He makes people more aware of melanoma as well as other skin cancers. All of his influence is positive and honest. He has the highest degree of integrity, and he brings great pride to our program.”
Dr. Shah splits his time now between the day job of Dermatology Resident Physician, and doing social media at night and on weekends. He estimates putting between 40-50 hours a week into generating his content. If you spot him out and about in the free time between both of his passions, don’t be afraid to say hello. He appreciates the time people take to watch his videos and learn about skin care.
“I love it, it never bothers me,” Dr. Shah says. “We were at the airport, about to take off on vacation, and a young lady came up to me and said ‘I watch all of your videos, and I learned so much from them. I just thought I’d come up and say ‘Hi!’’. She was actually wearing a skin care mask under her other mask. We were about to take off and I was like ‘That’s so cool. The fact that you would go out of your way to watch my videos, support my content, trust me and have faith in me, especially in today’s time where it’s tough to trust physicians, to have earned that from somebody and them to come up and go out of their way to say that to me, I can feel nothing but honored’. The people who come up to me genuinely want to thank me, and I’m just grateful that they trust me and trust my videos and continue to be educated.”
My conversation with Dr. Muneeb Shah covered many other topics, like how he got interested in science and medicine, the reactions his wife and co-workers have had to his TikTok popularity, and what his future plans are in dermatology and social media. We also get the chance to meet Teddy Bear, who wanted some of his own on-screen time during the interview. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.
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