Coronavirus

Philly Health Experts Turn to Social Media to Fight Coronavirus Misinformation

Your doctor is going viral.


Doctors like Dr. Austin Chiang of Thomas Jefferson and OB-GYN Dr. Jessica Geida are going viral on social media. | Left photo courtesy of  Austin Chiang, right by RedLo Media

With COVID-19 social distancing measures in full effect, it might be starting to feel like it’s just you and Siri against the world.

Many of us (who aren’t Facetiming with reckless abandon) are turning to social media as an outlet for social interaction while we stay inside. But, in some cases, the uptick in unvetted coronavirus-related content can create a blurred line between speculation and fact. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have since launched new fact-checking features to counteract misinformation. And, answering a demand for expert opinions, some of Philadelphia’s top health professionals have made their way onto social media to dish out advice during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Be Well Philly spoke to a few of these local health professionals and physicians with a knack for social media to learn more about how they’re using their platforms to inform on emotional, physical and reproductive wellbeing (and everything in between) during this pandemic. We know you’re home scrolling — now here’s who to follow. 

Austin Chiang, MD (@austinchiangmd)

Dr. Austin Chiang works at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. | Photo courtesy of Dr. Austin Chiang

Followers on Instagram: 32,600+
Why you should follow him: Famous for totally nailing TikTok dances with an added dose of medically accurate information, Dr. Austin Chiang works at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He serves as director of bariatric endoscopy and chief medical social media officer, a new position that aims to up clinician engagement on social media and promotes the spread of accurate health information. He is also the founding president of the Association of Healthcare Social Media, which was established to guide physicians through the ethics and issues of social media influencing.

Chiang is a digital native and was ahead of the game by bridging the professional and social media gap in 2013, long before the wellness influencer boom. Since the outbreak, Chiang has shifted his content from addressing topics like weight bias and obesity stigma, accessibility, and improving physician-patient trust to breaking down information on the coronavirus and giving viewers a look into how health professionals are adjusting to virus-related changes in the workplace. And yes, he’s still killing it on TikTok. 

 

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Danielle Belardo, MD (@daniellebelardomd)

Dr. Danielle Belardo | Photo by Brae Howard Photography

Followers on Instagram: 143,000+
Why you should follow her: Dr. Danielle Belardo uses her online platform to introduce followers to plant-based nutrition as a viable method of heart disease prevention. As a physician, Belardo embraces a pro-plant holistic method of prevention without advocating against necessary medical intervention. Her podcast “Nutrition Rounds” dives deeper into nutrition and health care, with episodes on hormones and plant-based diets, and the gut microbiome. On Instagram, you can find Belardo busting plant-based nutrition myths and frequenting conferences and panels all over the country, which have been put on hold since the nationwide closures. As Philadelphia’s COVID-19 cases skyrocket, Belardo is reaching out to followers to encourage PPE donations, bust COVID-19 related myths, and even to share some hacks to prevent ear pain while wearing a mask all day. 

 

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Jessica Geida, DO (@smilesandscrubs)

Dr. Jessica Geida is a 4th-year OBGYN resident. | Photo by RedLo Media

Followers on Instagram: 27,600+
Why you should follow her:
Dr. Jessica Geida is a 4th-year OBGYN resident with a passion for inspiring other women considering a career in gynecology. Using hashtags like #ChooseYou and #SoYouWannaDoObGyn, Geida gets real about the long hours that “make a 40-hour workweek feel like part-time,” burnout, and balancing a relationship with the stress and busy schedule of a physician. Since the uptick in Philadelphia COVID-19 cases, Geida has transitioned her content to posts about proper mask hygiene, addressing the concerns of expectant moms, and vulnerably opening up about the emotional toll the outbreak is taking on health professionals.

 

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Karen Tang, MD (@karentangmd)

Dr. Karen Tang uses a targeted approach to share bite-sized takes on expansive health issues. | Photo by Axia Women’s Health

Followers on Instagram: 3,380+
Why you should follow herDr. Karen Tang uses a targeted approach to share bite-sized takes on expansive health issues, trends and hot topics to make the wild world of gynecological health just a little less daunting. Tang is a specialist in minimally invasive gynecological surgery at Axia Women’s Health in King of Prussia and uses her platform to connect with current and potential patients. Tang is intent on using her platform to provide followers with accurate gynecological information, dispel potentially harmful health trends, and emphasize the importance of the patient-physician relationship over the follower-influencer relationship when your health is on the line. Tang is currently using her Instagram to fight against racism, as well as encourage followers to contact their primary care physicians if they exhibit symptoms or have questions about COVID-19. She’s also been advocating for patients to utilize Telemedicine appointments to replace non-COVID-19 related visits and most importantly, stay inside.

 

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Sonalee Rashatwar, LCSW (@thefatsextherapist)

Sonalee Rashatwar works to dismantle wellness standards that often go unquestioned. | Photo by Senna Ahmad.

Followers on Instagram: 103,000+
Why you should follow themSince social distancing has taken full effect, we could all use a little mental and emotional TLC. Serving the emotional and mental wellness needs of marginalized Philadelphians, Sonalee Rashatwar, LCSW, uses their social media presence to dismantle wellness standards and systems that often go unquestioned. On their Instagram page, you’ll find inclusive and body-positive quotes and graphics with thoughtful and discussion provoking captions on topics like toxic diet culture, fatphobia, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and racism. Rashatwar co-owns the Radical Therapy Center in West Philly, where patients are met with compassion and empathy in a safe and inclusive environment. While the stay-at-home order is in place, Rashatwar continues to support their followers and clients by sharing mental health and hygiene resources on their Instagram story.

 

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