As the world continues to battle a global pandemic, one of the most scary and stressful places to spend your days is inside a hospital. Knowing this, one doctor in Portland, Oregon devotes the limited downtime he has to spreading joy to patients, colleagues, and millions of strangers online. Dr. Jason Campbell, a resident physician in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, has quickly grown a large following around the world through dance videos he posts on the video-sharing app TikTok, earning him the nickname Dr. TikTok.
The 31-year-old got the idea from a first year medical student who suggested Campbell use TikTok to connect with younger patients during the pandemic. Campbell is always humming a tune or practicing his two-step, so he figured filming short music videos wouldn't be too much of a stretch.
In the last month alone, Campbell has posted more than 20 videos of him and his coworkers dancing to songs like "Cha Cha Slide," "1,000 Miles," "The Cupid Shuffle," and "Funkytown." All of the short clips are filmed right outside the hospital, in the hospitals' hallways, and even inside the OR.
The viral fame is flattering, but the doc is happier about his ability to bring people some cheer and positivity during this difficult time. "Grandparents and elderly folks have told me that having these videos to watch while they are alone have warmed their hearts," Campbell told Woman's Day via e-mail in between shifts. Plus, sharing his videos is a way these patients can interact and bond with their sons and daughters who aren't able to visit. "Watching my videos bring a smile to their face and a momentary reprieve from this current situation."
So how is it that this doctor's videos managed to stand out among TikTok's dance stars and capture so many hearts? Campbell's hunch: "People enjoy seeing healthcare professionals smile" and in situations that show them feeling more light-hearted and upbeat.
And, as it turns out, these types of videos may actually help doctor-patient relationships. A January 2020 study conducted by the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that strong digital connections may be just as beneficial as in-person social interactions, especially in a time like this.
"Social media may provide individuals with a platform that overcomes barriers of distance and time, allowing them to connect and reconnect with others and thereby expand and strengthen their in-person networks and interactions," Mesfin Awoke Bekalu, a research scientist in the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness, wrote.
Campbell believes that mood matters when it comes to health, and that apps like TikTok are bringing much-needed positivity to people through screens in a time when in-person interaction is limited if not impossible.
"Everyone wants an anesthesiologist that is safe and good at their job but they also want to be greeted with a smile and they deserve both," he said.
While many viewers at home have expressed their love for Dr. Tiktok's dance moves, some have been more critical, arguing that his videos make light of these challenging times. Campbell is aware of their concerns, and explains that he aims to approach each video with respect and thoughtfulness.
"I recognize there has been much discussion around the professionalism of creating videos in the hospital," Campbell said. "My response is, I never create these videos in patient areas, never make fun of or attempt to humiliate a patient, and I am always creating these videos on my own time when my work and duties at the hospital are complete."
While medical professionals on the front lines are putting themselves at risk every day, Campbell acknowledges that people at home are also grappling with an incredible amount of stress and anxiety. For this reason, he hopes to continue bringing a little joy to everyone's lives.
"The dancing, smiles and laughter is not meant to detract from the seriousness of COVID-19 or minimize its severity," Campbell said. "It is a small chance to change someone's day, to lighten the mood if only momentarily, and to work together through this tough time."