A Q&A with the Dr. Pimple Popper of Back Cracking
Social media is an accessible tool used at times to market individuals and their businesses. So far, only a handful of doctors have found success in marketing themselves or their practice on various online platforms. Notable doctors include: Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, also known as @doctor.mike on Instagram, who is a family medicine physician in New York City with over 3.1 million followers after BuzzFeed published an article titled “Um, You Really Need To See This Hot Doctor And His Dog,” and Dr. Sandra Lee, also known as @drpimplepopper, who has over 3.2 million followers after sharing over 5,000 cyst removal photos and videos. After observing their success, other doctors are beginning to market themselves on Instagram as a way to boost business.
When I met chiropractor Dr. Doug Willen, he had just started posting to his Instagram @thehealthfixer a few weeks prior. The first thing I noticed about Dr. Doug is his eager accommodation. When he greets you, he will shake your hand and before you leave, he will shake your hand again. His hands are soft yet strong, exactly the hands you want your chiropractor to have. He will gladly offer you his cushioned desk chair while he sits on a stiff folding stool. If you have a headache, he will pour you a glass of water from one of the water bottles he keeps in the fridge behind his desk and offer you ibuprofen. He remembers the small details you tell him about your life because he genuinely cares. If you ask him about his social media, he will eagerly show you his videos as he explains everything he’s learned in his few weeks online.
The interview began with Dr. Doug asking the questions.
Dr. Doug: How did you find me?
AW: I searched #NYCdance on Instagram and stumbled across one of your videos and thought, “Not many chiropractors have an active Instagram dedicated to their practice. This guy is unique.” Then I searched further and found your website and was impressed by your many side hustles from your book to your own brand of supplements.
Dr. Doug: Did you see my YouTube page?
AW: I did.
Dr. Doug: I’ve only been on Instagram like two weeks. Everybody has been making fun of me that I’m not on Instagram. I think I’m on my fifteenth day and I’m already getting going on it. I’ve been putting videos up on it and converting videos from my YouTube like I did one today for acne.
Dr. Doug turns to his Mac computer and pulls up a video on his YouTube page. He hits play and a title card zooms out with the words “Acne Scar Remedy.” After a few seconds, it fades to a video of Dr. Doug in his well-lit office saying, “For acne scars, here’s what I want you to try… Aloe Vera.” He pauses the video there.
AW: Do you record your videos all in one take?
Dr. Doug: Well yeah, unless a truck goes by or you hear the jackhammer like…
He makes a guttural jackhammer noise.
Dr. Doug: Then I run it twice, but otherwise I can do these in one take because I know what I’m going to say. I know the remedy. This one is about aloe vera and taking the plant and squishing out the gel and rubbing it at your acne scars. So I’m brand new at Instagram, but I’m not brand new at YouTube.
AW: Who’s idea was it to take your videos from YouTube to Instagram?
Dr. Doug: Well, my daughter has been making fun of me that I don’t have an Instagram account and even Rena, my office manager. So about two and a half weeks ago I started an Instagram account and I’m kind of having fun with it. I’m trying to put up one thing a day now. But I also have an archive of 130 videos so if I feel bored, I pull up iMovie and I shorten them. I clip them down to under a minute mostly by taking the intro off.
AW: Why did you start on YouTube?
Dr. Doug: Originally I thought it would lead to more patients coming in so around 2012 I started making those videos and I would post it and then after two years someone once told me “You know, you could enable advertisements on that.” And they showed me how. A month later I looked and I made $1.11 so I was like, “This sucks. That wasn’t even worth my effort.” And then this year, a week before Christmas, I looked back at it and it says you have $4,000 waiting for you. So it finally did make money but it took a long time. But I never looked! Originally, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could make money and wouldn’t it be cool if it drove patients into my office?” but when it didn’t, I gave up on it. But I still put them up because I liked doing all these health tip videos. “How to get rid of a skin tag”, “How to get rid of a cold sore with nail polish remover”, “How to get rid of bruises with cabbage leaf poultices”, “How to get rid of stinky feet”, “How to get rid of pink eye” So videos like that and I call it The Health Fixer because they’re little tips.
AW: I noticed all your tips are natural remedies. Why natural?
Dr. Doug: Well, because I’m not a medical doctor. You know, there’s good and bad about not being a medical doctor. The bad is you don’t make as much money as they do. For the same 40 hour work week, I’d probably make triple. But what’s nice about it is because I can’t prescribe pharmaceutical medicine, it forces me to see if there are any other things out there. So over the years I kind of got turned a little bit into a geek looking for home remedies for stuff.
AW: I was wondering if you were influenced at all by Dr. Pimple Popper or Dr. Oz because your account seems like a cross over between those two.
Dr. Doug: Well, it’s funny because I know who Dr. Oz is and I’m impressed with his platform but again he’s extremely medical. I don’t know what school he went to but he’s like a Harvard trained doctor or whatever with all the credentials and all the pedigree. I’ve heard of the pimple popping woman. We have this social influencer person who comes in frequently, her name is Karen Robinovits, she has like 60 or 70 thousand followers or something, but she’s more like style and cool stuff. She said to me “You have to do some like weird shit and get on Instagram.” She said, “The pimple popping woman is the best and she got a T.V. show from it!”
AW: How did you get into chiropractic?
Dr. Doug: So in high school was the first time I ever tried chiropractic. I had a neck injury. I was knocked unconscious and when I kind of came to, I couldn’t turn my neck. It like messed up or pinched nerves in my neck from the concussion. The concussion faded but I still had this pinched nerve in my neck and it made my arm hurt all the time. My mom knew about chiropractic from when she was a kid. She was like “We have to go to this chiropractor.” I was wearing one of those foam neck braces. He took it off and he was like
Dr. Doug imitates a neck cracking sound and the accompanying motion with his outstretched hands.
I was like “Woah. I feel so much better.” I was 15 then and I kind of tucked it away as something really cool. Then when I got married when I was 29 my wife was like, “Are you really going to keep pursuing this acting thing?” I wanted to be an actor. “You’re not getting money. You’re broke all the time.” I was like, “Well, I always thought I’d go to chiropractic school.” She said, “Yes! Do that. Do that.” So I applied and I got in. It’s funny when I met her I had an application to circus school. I was possibly going to go to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus School. I was waiting to hear back and she was like, “You’re not going to circus school! I’m not marrying anybody in the circus.”
AW: Did you ever hear back from the circus school?
Dr. Doug: Yeah, I got in. I wanted to be a clown. I could juggle, do back flips and walk on my hands. I was very acrobatic, but I never went to clown school. I went to chiropractic school which is probably very similar because you have to be a clown sometimes too.
AW: I can see that you’re a bit of a clown sometimes in your videos. Do you think that will help your following and build your business?
Dr. Doug: We will see what happens with that. Maybe two years from now I will have 10,000 followers, but right now I have 100.