Few have excelled at personal branding like Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, better known as “Dr. Mike.” While in his day job he serves as a primary care physician at Chatham (N.J.) Family Medicine, he is best known as a social media influencer and health and lifestyle expert, dispensing advice to over 14 million followers on his social media platforms and YouTube channel, as well as in his many speaking engagements and media appearances.
His long-held motto is that people would do well to be “alert, not anxious” — i.e., that it is best to be educated but not overly alarmist — and to that end he communicates common-sense information about the value of preventive medicine and healthy lifestyle choices. Besides his regular contributions on his personal channels, Dr. Mike has made appearances and consulted on CNN, ABC and Fox News, while also interviewing such notable healthcare professionals as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and Dr. David Feinberg, the head of Google Health.
Dr. Mike is also a regular contributor to such publications as Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Reader’s Digest, the American Academy of Family Physicians Blog and MedPageToday. Additionally, he has presented seminars and lectures for the TEDx Conference and Mayo Clinic, among others.
Varshavski’s high profile and direct approach led in June 2020 to his designation as an ambassador for the United Nations’ “Verified” initiative, which was designed to curtail the spread of misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic. He also donated $50,000 in masks to his local hospital and raised over $65,000 for the CDC Foundation.
In 2015, Dr. Mike launched his charity, The Limitless Tomorrow Foundation, an organization whose goal is to support students in need. He also maintains strong ties with Stand Up 2 Cancer, AmeriCares and Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Varshavski was born in Saransk, Russia, and emigrated to New York with his family at the age of 6. Inspired by his father, a physician, Dr. Mike chose to pursue a career in medicine. He earned his B.S. in Life Sciences and his Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine from the New York Institute of Technology.
It was while he was still in medical school that he first utilized the power of social media, taking to Instagram to show that it was possible to have a social life while still seeking a niche in such a demanding field. Then, in August 2015, he was the subject of a Buzzfeed profile entitled “Um, You Really Need To See This Hot Doctor and his Dog,” which highlighted his physical appearance and his relationship with his Husky, Roxy. Three months later, People Magazine designated him “the Sexiest Doctor Alive,” which took his profile to untold heights. On Instagram alone there are now several fan pages dedicated to him, in addition to his regular feed.
He has leveraged his celebrity status by continuing to dispense sensible advice, understanding his platform is more visible than ever — and, as a result, seemingly no end to the good he can do.
Where did the idea for LimitlessTomorrow.org come from?
I grew up a poor immigrant and had ideas galore on improving the world around me. However, due to the fact that we were struggling financially I was not able to make meaningful contributions to the world until much later in life. I want to break down the financial barrier for the future leaders of tomorrow. We also do not treat applicants like a number. We look at them holistically: What have they achieved, what have they overcome and what can they achieve?
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days vary widely as sometimes I am working at an outpatient family medicine practice, treating patients and teaching students. Other days I am brainstorming ideas for future content that will best educate the world on their health. I say the world because my social media profiles have over 14 million subscribers, a total that is growing daily. I am a big fan of active procrastination. People like to attach a negative stigma to procrastination but if wielded properly it can be a useful tool for getting more important tasks done in a timely and efficient manner.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It starts with what’s going on in the world. What questions do my patients have? What questions do my friends and family have? What is not being discussed intimately enough? From there I work on how to best present that idea to the world. This can be in short-form or long-form video content. It could even be in image form. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for bringing ideas to life. If I want to have a discussion on nutrition, there are so many options to bring that conversation to the forefront of people’s minds. Should it be a study review? An opinionated talking head? A video breaking down myths? Reacting to a piece of content that already exists? Trying out a diet myself? The world really is one’s oyster when it comes to presenting medical information.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The Fauci Effect! The fact that we had such a surge of medical school applicants in the midst of a pandemic gets me excited about the future of medicine!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Working through “I can’t.” This doesn’t translate well to English but there is a Russian saying that my father consistently told me in my childhood that I think applies now more than ever. Think of it as my Russian dad’s version of Nike’s “Just Do It.”
What advice would you give your younger self?
Enjoy the journey. I felt like growing up I had tunnel vision to accomplish all my goals, not realizing that I should have enjoyed the journey so much more. Being in that moment is truly special and many of us look back wishing we smiled more often.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Fame and money are overrated.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Spend time being introspective — meaning that it is critical to consistently evaluate what you could have done better. This doesn’t just apply to business or doctoring but also to being a human. How could I have helped my fellow human or even the world?
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Refusing to listen to severe critics at the outset of my media journey. The phrase “It is not professional for a doctor to be taking selfies” was said over and over again.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I got fired by my MCN (multi-channel network) agency after my first year on YouTube. They felt I did not reach their expectations, as I only gained 300,000 subscriptions that year, and cut ties with me. I then went into overdrive and began creating more and better content. In the next 2-3 months I picked up 1 million subscribers.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Creating a media agency in big cities that has full-fledged production facilities to help new content creators with their content. The fact that someone doesn’t know how to edit or operate a camera should not stop someone’s great ideas from reaching millions.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It was my dog’s birthday recently and I splurged and got him a bunch of bones and toys that he absolutely loves. The joy that animals bring to a human heart is boundless and to watch him play with them day in and day out has been priceless.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Slack. It’s how my team and I stay in constant communication and are able to be organized, with team members sharing different roles.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Learn what your mind really needs for happiness. Use those principles to guide your everyday activities and achieve fulfillment, every single day you spend on this Earth.
What is your favorite quote?
“Nosce Te Ipsum,” Latin for “Know yourself.” I have it tattooed on my body (my only one). In this life I truly believe that in order to make any good decision — choosing a partner, deciding on a career or even what to eat tonight — requires that you first know yourself.
- Enjoy the journey and be in the moment.
- The best ideas are inspired by real life.
- Knowing yourself well should be the foundation for almost every choice.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.