Doctor Mike went viral on Instagram for being attractive. Now he’s focused on building his YouTube business and moving beyond the superficial.
Category : entrepreneur
- Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, known on YouTube as Doctor Mike, is a board-certified primary-care physician and popular YouTube influencer with 4 million subscribers.
- Varshavski’s Instagram page went viral in 2015 after he was featured in a BuzzFeed article, and then again in People magazine’s 2015 “Sexiest Man Alive” issue.
- Varshavski told Business Insider that, today, he splits his time between filming videos for YouTube and working as a doctor.
- He shared what it’s like to be a popular social-media influencer recognized around the hospital and on streets of NYC, in addition to being a full-time doctor.
- Sign up for Business Insider’s influencer newsletter, Influencer Dashboard, to get more stories like this in your inbox.
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Whether Dr. Mikhail Varshavski is running through the hospital to care for a patient, or in a public bathroom, fans are stopping him for a selfie.
“People ask for selfies at really inconvenient times,” Varshavski told Business Insider. And it doesn’t stop there.
They’ll ask personal health questions over Instagram DMs and call his office asking to see him, he said. But Varshavski said that unless you are already one of his established patients, or you happen to see him in urgent care, he won’t be taking on anyone new.
Why is Varshavski such a sought-after doctor?
Varshavski is a board-certified primary-care physician, but he’s also an influencer who went viral in 2015 after he was featured in a BuzzFeed article about how attractive he is, and then again in People magazine’s 2015 “Sexiest Man Alive” issue.
Varshavski’s fame — especially for being attractive — has led to some challenges with his fellow doctors.
“There’s been a lot of challenges along the way from medical professionals saying, ‘Is this really professional that you’re taking selfies and putting them online?'” he said. “Absolutely. I can impact — instead of the 40 people I see a week — 40,000 people a week, a million people, through my videos to make better health decisions.”
To his millions of YouTube subscribers and Instagram followers, he’s known as “Doctor Mike,” a social-media star who films himself reacting to medical memes from his apartment and shares photos of his dog Bear.
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Going viral as Instagram’s ‘hottest doctor’
Varshavski first created an Instagram account in 2012, and while he was in medical school (around 2014), he decided to dedicate his page to showing people how to live a healthy life.
Then, everything changed about one year later, when his Instagram account went viral.
“My phone started blowing up,” he said. He received interview requests from magazine’s like Cosmopolitan and Glamour, and appeared on shows like “Good Morning America.”
“Do I accept this ‘hot-doctor’ moniker, or do I say this has nothing to do with me?” he said, in response to deciding whether to lean into the fame. “I publish research. I am going to be a board-certified doctor soon; this has nothing to do with me.”
Ultimately, he accepted the new interest in his page and decided he would post content consistently on Instagram, promising himself that once things slowed down with his medical work, he would start a YouTube channel.
First half of the week is for YouTube; 2nd half is for the hospital
During Varshavski’s residency, he wanted to start a YouTube channel but didn’t have the time. When things began to wind down, he launched his YouTube channel, in April 2017, and he hired his videographer Dan to film and edit the videos for him, he said.
His YouTube channel was not an immediate success.
“I launched the channel, and it picked up like 15,000 subscribers,” he said. “It didn’t go anywhere, even though I told 2 million people on Instagram to come watch it.”
Varshavski read articles and watched videos on strategies for building a cross-platform audience.
“I realized I just had to be consistent,” he said.
Since launching the channel, Varshavski said he has never missed a single posting day, and in his second year, he started posting twice a week instead of once. Now YouTube is his main media platform.
“The first half of the week, I am making YouTube videos,” he said. “The second half of the week, I’m in the hospital actually doing the things I’m talking about.”
His videos get 500,000 to about 4 million views on average, depending on if a video is picked up by YouTube’s algorithm and recommended to viewers.
He puts his own spin on concepts like PewDiePie’s popular “Meme Review,” reacting to medical memes and shows like “Grey’s Anatomy.”
From a doctor’s perspective, Varshavski said he didn’t have a problem with social media but, instead, the way algorithms take the most extreme point of view and put it on the front page.
“It forces us as creators to constantly think in this extreme mind-set, ‘How can I get someone to click or be more angry in this thumbnail so that people will see it?'” he said. “That puts stress on us as creators because we are thinking extreme, constantly putting out content.”
Creator burnout, body dysmorphia, and depression are all concerns that come with social media, and he said he has noticed that social media is the most harmful when it’s disconnecting people from reality.
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The business behind influencing
To keep track of his growing online business, Varshavski signed with the digital talent agency Abrams Artists Agency three years ago. His agent works to build up the business aspects of his social media, like landing public-speaking appearances and producing a line of products (which will be coming out soon, Varshavski said).
“We’ve now grown into a multimillion-dollar business yearly,” Varshavski said. He didn’t share how much he earns from his channel on YouTube, but creators similar to Varshavski have said that videos with between 1 million and 4 million views (which is around how many views Varshavski receives on his channel on average) earn them thousands of dollars from ads placed by Google.
Since Varshavski is a doctor, he doesn’t promote many products on Instagram or YouTube like other creators do. He will sponsor an occasional product if it’s a right fit, he said in an Instagram post and story.
“We turn down 90% of endorsements that come our way,” he said. “Because a majority of them are ‘miracle cure-all supplements,’ ‘detox products’ — things I don’t believe in.”
YouTube has allowed Varshavski to make a name for himself in media, and he’s had the chance to appear in several morning shows and is a weekly correspondent on Fox Business Network.
“I took this controversial, superficial angle and allowed myself the platform to talk about things I’m passionate about,” he said. “If you do something you’re good at and passionate about, money will come with time.”
For more on the business of influencers, according to YouTube and Instagram stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts:
An Instagram influencer with 166,000 followers breaks down how much money she earns from a sponsored post: Katy Bellotte, a YouTube creator and Instagram influencer, broke down how much she earns per sponsored Instagram post.
- The top 18 talent agents for YouTube creators who are changing the influencer business and landing deals for their clients: These talent agents help their clients monetize their online brands, build lasting partnerships with companies through influencer marketing campaigns, and develop consumer products.
- A Harvard student with 265,000 YouTube subscribers breaks down how much money she earns as a college influencer: The second-year Harvard student Sienna Santer grew a popular YouTube channel by sharing videos on topics like how to get into the prestigious university and what a day in her life is like.