Doctors Use "TikTok" To Teach Teens About Vaping Dangers

By Desiree Bowie 12/02/19

Medical officials are harnessing the power of social media to talk to teens about important health issues and to dispel medical myths.

doctor using TikTok
ID 140100591 © Prykhodov |

Figuring out a way to reach teens has been an ongoing issue for medical professionals, teachers and parents for decades. But now, a handful of doctors have found a very modern solution to raising awareness and educating teens and it's a popular app called TikTok.

What Is TikTok?

The app, which Slate describes as a "social network for amateur music videos," allows users to express themselves in 15-second clips that they can then upload for their followers to see.

Dr. Rose Marie Leslie uses the app to inform teens about the health impact of e-cigarettes and other medical misinformation. For Dr. Leslie, it's important to dispel harmful health myths which are becoming more widespread thanks to the Internet. 

“I may not be the perfect health guru on social media,” Dr. Leslie told CNBC. “I don’t meditate or do yoga, I rarely get enough sleep, I’m not vegan and I don’t post inspirational quotes. But let me tell you, I have never and will never try to convince you that drinking celery juice cures cancer.”

Dr. Leslie, who can be found on the app under @DrLeslie, practices family medicine at the University of Minnesota. Her TikTok videos have put a spotlight on vaping illnesses, birth control and she even busts medical myths for her 300,000 TikTok followers.

Dr. Leslie is happy that her videos are making a positive impacts on teens' lives. She regularly receives letters, emails and comments from teens thanking her for helping them understand the issues. She also receives a number of medical questions that some teens are afraid to ask the adults in their lives. 

The Power Of Social Media

Dr. Austin Chiang is also a big believer in the power of social media. He uses Twitter, Instagram and TikTok to help young doctors and to educate the public on how vaccines work. 

Public health experts see the use of social media in medicine as an overall positive thing. 

“I’ve heard the criticism that doctors and other medical professionals on social media are somehow less credible, or won’t be taken as seriously by their peers,” said Sherry Pagoto, a behavioral scientist and professor at the Department of Allied Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut. “But I think that school of thought is going to be a thing of the past.”

Pagoto added that “it would be great for public health organizations to follow the lead of these medical professionals on TikTok.”

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Desiree Bowie is a writer and movie lover from Los Angeles, California. Follow her on Twitter @dangerbowie