Meet the millennial doctor using TikTok to help teens stop vaping

Using TikTok isn’t necessary to know Rose Marie Leslie, the viral “millennial doctor” crusading against teen vaping.

The 29-year-old second-year resident at the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Broadway Family Medicine Clinic, has been using the social media platform for only 8 months but she’s won 234,000 fans for her relatable and funny medical PSAs. The doctor has demonstrated the workings of a menstrual cup, lip-synced a segment called, “Is Grey’s Anatomy actually what residency is like???” (Nope and yup, she concludes), and shared the ironies of giving a rectal exam.

But Leslie’s videos on vaping — the rampant use of e-cigarettes that’s been associated with 1,479 lung injury cases and 33 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control — have scored big. In a recent video called, “Explaining a lung X-ray of a person with the new vaping disease” Leslie shared X-ray images of a “normal” set of lungs and one affected by EVALI (e-cigarettes or vaping product use associated lung injury), the mystery condition named by the Centers for Disease Control.

“That’s a pretty gnarly chest X-ray,” says Leslie in the video, “and I would not want to have that disease. If you’re thinking about quitting, now is the time to do it.” That video got 627K likes, 6.8K comments.

A Minnesota doctor named Dr. Rose Marie Leslie uses the social media platform TikTok to reach her young patients. (Screenshot: TikTok/drleslie)

Another video is captioned, “Scared of the new vaping disease????? Here’s what to avoid. Any TCH or CBD products (legal or homemade)...any black market or counterfeit e-cig products!...or just stop smoking anything!!!” The Centers for Disease Control has stated that THC was associated with most of the EVALI cases.

Leslie tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she joined TikTok because it seemed like a fun and unique platform to post videos. “Not many of my friends were on it at the time,” she says. “I started naturally incorporating medical tips into my videos and that’s when things took off.”

Vaping got on Leslie’s radar because her patients reported indulging. “The data we have shows that many users, especially teens, are vaping having never smoked cigarettes before,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They’re curious, enjoy the flavored options, and perceive it as less harmful than cigarettes.”

Leslie says that some patients and even close friends have quit vaping because of her videos, although she cannot provide direct medical advice over social media. “When someone messages me asking for personalized care, I refer them to their own provider,” she says.

She generally posts one video per day, depending on her schedule. “Some videos take 30 minutes of preparation, others five minutes,” says Leslie. “Right now at the clinic, we’re looking at the link between loneliness and heath, so I have all these ideas for the next video.” When Leslie is not practicing medicine, she’s hanging out with her live-in boyfriend of five years and taking care of their dog Mac, a border collie-corgi mix.

Much has been said about Leslie’s age (she’s in her second year of residency), but in her view, youth is a perk. “Younger doctors can relate to hearing comments about our appearance or having patients seek a second opinion because of it, but my age puts me in a unique position to understand the needs and interests of millennials and Gen Z,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

At this minute, that’s vaping and the associated quick-developing symptoms. “The body has an acute and immediate reaction to vaping, unlike other conditions that develop years and years later,” says Leslie. “We don’t know the long-term effects of vaping and that puts everyone in a vulnerable position.”

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