Med School Insiders focuses on empowering individuals pursuing a career in medicine – more specifically pre-meds and medical students. However, we have received a great deal of feedback that the videos are helpful to people outside of medicine. A portion of the videos are specific to those pursuing a career in medicine, but most videos cover general information that is helpful to all students (i.e. How to Wake Up Early and Not Be Miserable – video shown above).
I graduated from medical school in 2017 and am now in my first year of plastic and reconstructive surgery residency. After the 6 year residency, I will have completed my training and be a board certified plastic surgeon.
I have always loved tutoring and mentoring – back in high school I started a tutoring company with my brother. In college and medical school I continued to mentor others on a volunteer basis. Starting Med School Insiders was an extension of this same desire to teach others and make a positive impact. Due to my obsession with optimization and improvement, over the years I have become a highly effective student and learner.
Rather than speak to one individual at a time in a traditional setting, I decided to use YouTube to share the lessons I’ve learned with a worldwide audience.
I started the YouTube channel during my last year of medical school, which allowed me a higher degree of flexibility than I would have in residency to learn video creation, basic web design, and other factors that contributed to Med School Insiders’ rapid growth. I am fortunate that the channel grew substantially before I started residency, as this allowed me to hire help with tasks that were no longer feasible under a resident schedule. Animating, for example, is highly time intensive, and since residency started in July, I have not personally been animating our videos.
It’s incredibly rewarding to receive comments from viewers that my content has positively impacted their lives, whether that’s acing their recent final, improving their sleep quality, or more effectively achieving their goals.
I believe that at our core we all derive great pleasure and satisfaction from helping others. I am truly fortunate to be able to do just that through YouTube.
Brainstorming is a continuous process. I have a document where I keep a list of video topics organized by category (Student Life, Study Strategies, etc.) and some brief notes to elaborate on what the video would entail. This document is in Google Drive so I can access it from anywhere on any device. If I’m at the gym and inspiration strikes, I can easily take out my phone and jot it down. A great deal of my inspiration also comes from reading. Before residency, I was reading 2-4 nonfiction books every month that helped spark ideas or challenge me to explore topics further. We have even summarized some of my favorite books, the most popular of which is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
For many of my videos I perform research, including reading primary literature from journals. This used to be done prior to writing the script, but I find with the demanding schedule in residency it is more efficient to research and write at the same time. I type out a script in Evernote, again for universal accessibility from all devices, and perform research in a web browser on the side.
Next, I record audio using a Blue Yeti Mic placed on a stand with a Monoprice Reflection Filter to get the best quality sound. I like standing up when I record as it allows me to be more animated with my gestures, which translates to more engaging audio.
The recording is next edited to remove any mistakes and is imported into VideoScribe. Animation is a tedious process, taking anywhere from 2 to 6 hours per video. I used to do this by myself, but now have help from my long time friend Neal. We go way back, and he’s great to have on the team. After exporting the VideoScribe file, music and the Med School Insiders intro animation are quickly added in Final Cut Pro X.
[Daniel: I always thought these whiteboard animations were hand-drawn. I was surprised to learn about VideoScribe. The software allows users to create whiteboard animations quickly and easily with no drawing or animation expertise.]
The YouTube algorithm ultimately comes down to promoting videos that offer value to people – whether that’s entertainment, education, etc. Some people get caught up on trying to game the algorithm. However, because the algorithm is always being tweaked, I recommend focusing on quality content. Med School Insiders’ rapid growth was due to constantly trying to improve both the quality of our information and the delivery. For example, our first video (Pre-med Study Strategies – What I Wish I Knew in Medical School) had the worst production quality – I drew on a piece of paper and recorded with my iPhone 6S mounted to a $15 Amazon tripod.
However, even when shooting that video I took several takes in an effort to do the best I could. Because I was my own worst critic, Med School Insiders’ quality rapidly improved – first we changed to animation software, then we improved audio quality with a dedicated mic.
Promoting externally, I have learned, is not nearly as important as allowing YouTube’s algorithm to work its magic. At the beginning, I would share videos on Reddit and forums, but self-promotion in these avenues is generally frowned upon and usually unfruitful.
One of our videos, How to Wake Up Early and Not Be Miserable, went viral in April 2017. The video was published in December of 2016. Prior to the viral wave, we were at approximately 18,000 subscribers. A week later, we were around 65,000.
While this exponential growth was immensely helpful to the growth of Med School Insiders, it’s important to understand you can have a large and successful channel with steady growth as well.
You are correct that Adsense does not reliably generate revenue – each month is highly variable. However, YouTube ads have been our primary source of revenue. Affiliate marketing through Amazon and others have been beneficial as well.
Generating revenue is important as it allows creators to continue creating. However, I often see creators get too caught up with monetizing prematurely which compromises their quality, credibility, and ultimately, the potential of their channel. Because of these reasons, I was initially more hesitant about sponsors when the channel was nascent, but now we are expanding and allowing more videos to be sponsored. Still, maintaining quality and credibility is key, so we are highly selective with sponsors and have turned down the majority of offers.
Our second channel, Life of a Surgeon, gives viewers an insider’s look on what being a surgeon is all about. I initially uploaded these videos to the Med School Insiders channel, however they did not fit well with the other content. Subscribers expect a certain type of video from Med School Insiders, and intermixing scripted animated videos with vlog pieces was suboptimal. Many viewers will subscribe to both Med School Insiders and Life of a Surgeon, but some may prefer one or the other.
Great question! The Elon Musk biography by Ashlee Vance was a great read that was skillfully executed and provided a great deal of insight about one of the most influential thought leaders of our time. I believe reading biographies is important because they allow us to learn from the lives and processes of impactful individuals.
There’s no need to have everything already figured out with your YouTube channel, but here are some guidelines:
Med School Insiders will continue producing regular videos as always. In addition, I am spending more effort now learning about vlogging, photography, videography, and other skills that will facilitate growth of Life of a Surgeon. We are also giving back by doing collaboration videos with select smaller channels to help them gain traction. Our website (www.medschoolinsiders.com) is also growing rapidly with regular blog posts, newly added premium guides, and will have additional exciting expansion in the near future.
This journey has reminded me that we create our own reality. We are limited by our own beliefs, which are often molded by others. People told me that running a YouTube channel would not be sustainable during residency, particularly a surgical one, but I was determined to find a way. I encourage others to challenge the norm and listen to their own intuition. Find what is important to you and carve out your own path. Helping others is high on my list for career fulfillment and satisfaction, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do that both as a surgeon and a YouTuber.