Combating Urology-Related Disinformation on Social Media - Justin Dubin

May 20, 2024

Ruchika Talwar interviews Justin Dubin about his use of social media to combat urology-related misinformation. Dr. Dubin emphasizes the importance of educating patients not just in the clinic but also online, where misinformation is rampant. Dr. Dubin co-created the "Man Up" podcast to destigmatize men's health issues and provide accurate, doctor-driven information. He advises urologists to be sincere and true to themselves if they decide to engage in social media, recognizing it can be a powerful tool to reach and educate patients. Despite challenges like trolls, Dr. Dubin believes in the value of social media for patient education and encourages colleagues to explore this avenue while emphasizing the importance of providing excellent patient care.


Justin Dubin, MD, Urologist, Andrologist, Memorial Health System, Aventura, FL

Ruchika Talwar, MD, Urologic Oncology Fellow, Department of Urology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN

Read the Full Video Transcript

Ruchika Talwar: Hi, everyone. My name is Ruchika Talwar. And today, we're at the 2024 American Urological Association's annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. I'm joined by Dr. Justin Dubin, who's a urologist in Florida and a well-known personality on social media. He's going to chat with us today about how he uses his platform to fight urology-related disinformation in our patient population. Thank you, Dr. Dubin, for being here with us today.

Justin Dubin: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be talking with you today.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah. I'm just excited to highlight some of the really important work you're doing, honestly. And so if you don't mind, take me back to the beginning. How did you start using social media to tackle important urology-related health issues?

Justin Dubin: So I think it really started during medical school, where when I look back on the things that I've experienced through social media, I was inspired by several books along my journey. And when I was in med school, there was a book I had read called So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, and it's about people who were basically shamed or lost their jobs by things that they did online. And through that part of medical school, I started realizing that there was an opportunity to kind of create your own narrative because you know as well as I do that patients, before they come to see you, they're going to Google you.

Ruchika Talwar: Yep.

Justin Dubin: They're going to know more about you than your family knows about you.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah.

Justin Dubin: And so I saw that as an opportunity in med school to create a presence online and create a Twitter account, create an Instagram where I get to control the narrative because if I'm not online, someone else is going to have something to say about me, and I want to be the one who's creating that narrative online. So that was the original idea of why I was on social media. But as I started going through residency, I read another book which was Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and it was about networking. And during residency, we always want to meet new people, do new research projects. And what I had realized is the barrier for communication on social media had become so low and I had utilized it in so many other ways that why not that way? And I started connecting with some really wonderful people, Dr. Loeb, Dr. Rubin to name a few, and it really worked out.

As I progressed through my journey, I read another book called Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, which really changed my perspective on this idea of medical information. And I read it after COVID, but the book was written before COVID and it pretty much predicted this idea of misinformation in medicine. And as you and I both know, after COVID, there's been a lot of questioning of medicine, but there's also been this rise in social media usage in terms of medical usage. And I've really become passionate in trying to educate people not only in the office, not only face-to-face, but online.

Because I think, especially when it comes to men's health, most people are embarrassed. There's a huge stigma. And so where do they go? They go to the privacy of their homes. They go online. They go on Instagram. They go on TikTok. They go on YouTube. And that's kind of where I'm at in this journey now, where I think as a provider, I'm finally given the opportunity to help people in front of me in the clinic. But there's a greater opportunity as well to help people at home, where they need it, to prevent misinformation, to stop them from doing something that they shouldn't be doing, or at least to engage in an interesting conversation about their health.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah. I mean, I couldn't agree more and you bring up some really important points. A lot of what we do in urology is considered taboo and patients have a lot of embarrassment and hesitation to bring that kind of information up or ask personal questions about their sexual health, for example, in a clinical setting. And you're right. They turn to the internet. They look it up on their smartphone because it takes a second and a lot of that stuff out there is not accurate. So I think it is super important for clinicians to take control of the narrative and make sure we get accurate information out to our patients. Now, tell me about your podcast. Give us a little background. What is it, who is it geared towards, and what kind of health information do you address?

Justin Dubin: Yeah, so exactly what you said. I was inspired along with my colleague, Dr. Kevin Chu, who also is a men's health specialist. He was my co-resident at the University of Miami. We were inspired by seeing all this misinformation online and noticing all these stigmas of men's health. And we felt that a podcast platform would be a good avenue for people to get good, accurate information, so we created Man Up. It's a doctor's guide to men's health and our goal is multiple things. Really, our goal is to de-stigmatize men's health conversations, de-stigmatize sexual health conversations, infertility conversations, among many other conversations, to motivate men to talk or think about their health, to go see providers that they need to see, who may be embarrassed or scared to talk about these things, and also to provide an accurate place for people to get doctor-driven information that's accurate and data-driven.

Justin Dubin: And so that's what our podcast has been about. Every two weeks, we have a new episode and it's been a really wonderful journey because some episodes are Kevin and me, some episodes are a patient perspective. We have patients come in who we have talked to about their cancer experience, their fertility journey, so it's been a really wonderful and enlightening experience. But I think that there's an opportunity for a lot of us to do more things and I think that's the important thing. There is a space out there and a need for physicians and urologists to combat and address misinformation online and misinformation about our health because if we're not going to do it, who else is?

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah. So true. And you're right in that there's room for all of us because think about it. Patients may check three or four different links and all of those links could be inaccurate. They may watch three or four different TikTok reels about a specific issue. So just because your podcast is out there, that doesn't mean that they're not going to also hear other people's perspectives.

Justin Dubin: Absolutely.

Ruchika Talwar: Now, a lot of physicians have hesitation putting themselves out there on social media because they are going to be judged by their patients, by their colleagues, but also because there are some trolls out there.

Justin Dubin: Oh, absolutely.

Ruchika Talwar: So tell me a little bit about your experience because some of the topics you handle, I'm sure, are ripe for trolling.

Justin Dubin: So there is a lot of misinformation, right? That's the first thing you have to understand. And when there's misinformation, you have to understand why there is misinformation. We looked at men's health topics on TikTok and Instagram and the majority of information there is not accurate. Why? Well, most of it's not given by any healthcare providers.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah.

Justin Dubin: And when you think about that, you have to understand what the motivation for those people is and it's probably financial, right? There was a really interesting survey that had come out where they surveyed Americans. And before Americans actually go to a doctor for healthcare information or guidance, about 33% go to YouTube first, 20% go to TikTok, 40% of people trust social media influencers about their health because they think that they're more accessible.

Ruchika Talwar: Wow.

Justin Dubin: And going towards the last point here is that 50% of Americans have purchased a product for their health online, based on something they saw on social media. So when you look at that, you have to understand that there's a financial desire here. So yes, if you're trying to go out there and you're trying to put accurate information out there, you're going to have people come back at you. And one thing, I think, that I take it as often is it's not a place of meanness necessarily. I think it's a place of lack of education on what they're talking about or what they're learning about. And most of the time, my advice for that is don't feed the trolls.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah.

Justin Dubin: I typically do not address them. I don't engage. Why? Because that's what they want and I don't want to address gross misinformation or abusive behavior. I don't think that there's any benefit to me and I'm giving them satisfaction. But there are often opportunities for education. If you look at Dr. Ashley Winter's Twitter account, she is very good at handling trolls in many ways where she will educate people through inaccurate comments. I think there are different ways to handle it, of course, but it can be scary because people question you. They question your ability to understand the topic. But I think at the end of the day, you have to be confident in yourself and you have to believe what you're doing is right. And as long as you know the information that you're saying, stick to your guns.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah, you're right. I mean, really, it is no different from perhaps an in-person encounter you could be having in the clinic with a patient who may not fully be on the same page with you as well.

Justin Dubin: That's a great point. That's a great point.

Ruchika Talwar: So as we start to wrap up here, tell me what is your advice to urologists who may have been perhaps thinking about dabbling in social media, whether it's a podcast, maybe scaling up their Twitter account, or making a TikTok? What's your advice to them?

Justin Dubin: So I think the most important thing, first off, beyond anything, is be sincere, be yourself, and be true to you. And I think that sincerity is one of those things. It's hard to fake and it's easy to recognize. And when you're looking at what kind of platforms you're interested in exploring or promoting more, I think you have to look towards yourself. One thing I've learned over the years is that you may be fit for a certain avenue of social media or media or ways of communicating based on your personality. And I mean this if you're a talker or if you write, maybe Twitter or podcasting is the place for you. If you're someone who likes to educate through pictures, short videos, TikTok, Instagram, these are great avenues for you. And if you like more long-form, podcasting, YouTube these are great opportunities if you're trying to be on-screen.

Justin Dubin: Now, everyone's different, right? Some people may want to dance or be funny or give sketches. And what's cringe for one person may not be cringe for another, and that's hard to understand sometimes until you go through it. And sometimes, there's stuff that even I've done and I've been like, "Really not my thing, but I've tried it," and I've gotten positive feedback surprisingly. So I think be open, but also be true to yourself. There's a platform for everyone out there. So that's one big thing. I think the other thing is even if you don't want to do all of these things, there's a lot of good ways to educate patients. Being on social media is not for everyone. And that's okay. It takes time, it takes a commitment, and sometimes it's not fun. We're in an age of burnout where everyone's burned out. We're all tired. And if something's not fun and it's not providing you value, just don't do it.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah.

Justin Dubin: But if you do do it, I think you should be professional, I think you should be engaging, but I think you should be personable and kind of figure out your own flavor. But if you don't want to do it, you can always use online resources for your patients. Urology Care Foundation has some really wonderful things. SMSNA has some really wonderful for-patient information on sexual medicine topics. And then also, I think the most important thing that we all have to focus on is providing good bedside manner and good care. We need to be, as physicians, our patient advocates and we want them to be comfortable talking about the uncomfortable in our offices. And at the end of the day, that's what we're really all here for. So by providing good patient care, I think you can hopefully alleviate a lot of the pressures of people going online and getting misinformation. Instead, reaching out to you and getting the appropriate information.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah. Yeah. So I'm curious, what has been the feedback that you've gotten from patients who may have listened to your content ahead of time?

Justin Dubin: It's a very interesting thing because a lot of people have now started coming in and said, "Hey, I listened to this episode. I really liked this content," and it's kind of surreal because you put it out there and you hope people listen. And it's nice that people are listening and they're feeling like it's helping them to some degree, or they're finding me through the podcast or they're finding my practice and then learning about some additional information. And I think the value there is we only have a finite amount of time in the office.

Ruchika Talwar: Yes.

Justin Dubin: And if my patient can sometimes hear my voice on that topic, going a little bit more in depth, I think that that can go a long way for certain people. So I've been a little bit humbled by it, but I think it's pretty cool.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah. Well, I love what you're doing, which is why we asked you to be here today. So thank you so much for sharing a bit of your expertise on this topic and hopefully inspiring a few people out there to jump in.

Justin Dubin: Yeah, absolutely. If anyone has questions, they want to learn more, I'm always happy to help people, talk to them about this. It's fun as long as you make it fun. But if you don't want to do it, once again, I don't think there should be any pressure on anyone to do these things. But there's a lot of good opportunities out there.

Ruchika Talwar: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thank you to our audience for joining us. We'll see you next time.