Summer 2021 (Volume 31, Number 2)
Bringing Patient Stories to YouTube: Violin MD
By Siobhan Deshauer, MD, FRCPC
Visit Dr. Siobhan Deshauer's YouTube channel "Violin MD" at www.youtube.com/c/ViolinMD.
Social media is strongly embedded in the fabric of society,
giving rise to exciting opportunities to engage
with patients and the general public on medical topics.
Four years ago, I created a YouTube channel called
“Violin MD,” which aims to bring viewers “behind the scenes”
in the healthcare system and introduce them to health
topics. The public interest has been overwhelming with
over 57 million total views and 780K subscribers to date.
With the permission
University and the
I began filming my
journey as an internal
being on-call and
allied health professionals
the missing piece
in the narrative was
the patient perspective.
I began collaborating
with patients who were interested in sharing their
experience with rare and chronic conditions.
My first interview was with Doug, a previously healthy
man who had worked in a sheriff’s department before
being diagnosed with granulomatosis with polyangiitis
(GPA). Doug described his clinical presentation and how
he maintains a positive outlook on life. His wife Dot, a retired
nurse, emphasized the impact a chronic life-threatening
disease can have on family members, and her fear of
Doug having a relapse.
After the video was published Doug reflected on the
experience of sharing his story publicly. “I must say that I
stepped out of my comfort zone to participate in the video.
However, after reading the several hundred comments by
viewers, I am very happy with the decision to do the video,
as many people were apparently positively impacted.” His
rheumatologist also watched the video with interest and
noticed a gap between Doug’s perspective and the medical
lens. “It becomes a more personal story… There are some
elements that I didn't reflect on in our interviews as we
focus more on the medical aspect of his treatment.”
With 565 comments on the video to date, the public
demonstrated empathy and awareness for those suffering
with chronic illnesses, creating a community of patients,
family members and health professionals. Many viewers
identified with Doug and shared their personal stories
with chronic illnesses. One 19-year-old shared his personal
struggle, “I just found out I have a rare blood cancer…
it’s so hard not to know what your future holds… I’ll definitely
try to take on Doug’s attitude of only focusing on
what I can control.” Just as patients identified with Doug’s
story, one physician viewer wrote “I have never seen an actual
patient with GPA. This helps me to understand the disease
and the patient’s perspective better.” And a medical
student stated that it’s “more impactful seeing the person
behind the disease and hearing their story. It makes me
want to study more!”
Creating videos and interacting with the public has benefitted
me in ways I did not anticipate. Hearing a patient’s
story in the absence of time constraints and clinical decision
making reminds me what it means to actively listen to
a person—rather than a patient. The supportive comments
I received after showing some emotional vulnerability reminds
me that in the appropriate context, patients often
want their doctors to express sincere emotions. My hope is
that these videos play some small role in bridging the gap
between medical experts and the general public.
Dr. Deshauer interviewing Doug, a patient. To view
the video clip visit youtu.be/pazegLX4ob0.
Siobhan Deshauer, MD, FRCPC
4th Year Resident, Rheumatology