Episode 155

Austin Chiang ·  Chief Medical Officer, MD and Social Media Star

“I have always been open-minded a lot of opportunities and open to taking risks and trying new things!”

Dr. Chiang is the first Chief Medical Officer for the gastrointestinal business of Medtronic, the global leader in health technology. He is also currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Jefferson Health (Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals) in Philadelphia, PA, and serves as the Director of the Endoscopic Weight Loss Program and Chief Medical Social Media Officer for the health system. He completed his undergraduate studies at Duke University before earning his MD at Columbia University. He stayed for his Internal Medicine residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and completed his GI and bariatric endoscopy fellowships at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He obtained his MPH from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health before completing an advanced endoscopy fellowship at Jefferson. 


Passionate about empowering patients with accurate medical information online, he is one of the most influential voices in the field of gastroenterology across multiple social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube with over 500,000 followers and over 130 million views. Dr. Chiang has conducted extensive research in social media and is champion of physician presence on social media and is the Chief Medical Social Media Officer of Jefferson Health and Founding President of the Association for Healthcare Social Media (AHSM, @ahsm_org), the first 501(c)(3) professional society for health professional social media use. He has worked closely with all major national GI societies on social media efforts and was 2018’s Healio Gastroenterology Disruptive Innovator of the Year, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2019 Influencers of Healthcare Rookie of the Year, and among 2019 Medscape Top 20 Social Media Physicians, and a 2021 GLAAD Media Award Nominee. He spoke at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2021, and his role in social media has been featured by The New York Times, CNBC, and BBC News. He sits on the inaugural YouTube Health Advisory Board and in 2022, joined the White House Healthcare Leaders in Social Media Roundtable. 


Social media handles:

Twitter: @austinchiangmd

Instagram: @austinchiangmd

TikTok: @austinchiangmd

YouTube: @austinchiangmd

LinkedIn: @austinchiangmd

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Podcast Transcript

Austin Chiang

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, my name is Bryan and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network today we have a very special guest with us, his name is Dr. Austin Chiang. Dr. Chiang is the first chief medical officer for the gastrointestinal business of Medtronic, the global leader in health technology. He is also currently an assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and serves as the director of the endoscopic weight loss program and chief medical social media officer for the health system.

HashSet is about empowering patients with accurate medical information online. He is one of the most influential voices in the field of gastroenterology across multiple social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube with over 500,000 followers and over 130 million views, he spoke at South by Southwest 2021.

And his role in social media has been a feature by the New York Times, CNBC, and BBC news. He sits on the inaugural YouTube health advisory board and in 2020 join the White House health care leaders in the social media round table, Dr. Chiang, welcome to the show.

Austin: (00:01:39) Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here!

Bryan: (00:01:42) I’ve been following you on social media for a while now, and I love your content a lot, but I want to make sure that our audience gets to know who you are. So, Austin, tell us about yourself.

Austin: (00:01:51) Oh, my gosh, where do I start? Well, I’m a physician first and foremost. I’m a gastroenterologist by training. So, I treat conditions related to the gut and all the other organs related, to the digestive system, whether it’s the liver, the pancreas, and whatnot. But within that, I also, have a subspecialty in advanced endoscopy, so I focused on more complex procedures and then from there. So, I kind of have an interesting hybrid career story, which maybe we can get into deeper, but I am not only an assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, where I kind of do my clinical practice, but I’m also the chief medical officer for the gastrointestinal business of Medtronic worldwide and then outside of work, kind of my side gig is a lot of social media-related work which I’m happy to talk about more as well.

Bryan: (00:02:47) That is amazing, right. You embodied the Asian Hustle Network, mentality.

Austin: (00:02:54) It was deeply ingrained in me. I’d say from my parents who, by the way, I should also mention, I am originally from Southern California, but moved to Taiwan when I was 10 and my parents still live.

And I came back for college and beyond, and I can go through that quickly. So, I went to college at Duke in North Carolina. Then after that went to med school at Columbia in New York, and also stayed on to do my internal medicine residency there before moving to Boston where I did my gastroenterology fellowship, which is kind of the specialty training for this for three years at Brigham and women’s hospital, where I also got my master’s in public health from Harvard and then finished my training in Philadelphia at Jefferson. So, it was a total of, I want to say 14 years or something like that after high school, 14 or 15 years too long.

Bryan: (00:03:46) Oh, my goodness. Congratulations. By the way, it’s so inspiring to hear that. You definitely have  walked down the golden child path.

Austin: (00:03:55) I think it looks like but it was along the way there was a lot of frustration as you can imagine, and a lot of expectations.

Bryan: (00:04:06) Let’s talk about that too, like thinking about your expectations and your parents’ expectations, how would you be able to manage both of them and still become the person that you are today?

Austin: (00:04:16) I think that there was a lot of parental pressure. I grew up in a family where my grandfather was a surgeon back in the World War II era. He, unfortunately, passed before I was born. And then, there were several physicians in my family from the generation above mine, as well as my own and so there was always kind of that lingering in the background but I’d say that ultimately when I was evaluating a career path, it was the combination of my interest in science and kind of what my parents instilled in me and the opportunities they gave me as a kid volunteering and kind of helping people out to combine those two and feel that that was truly a good personality fit for me. And so, I came, they kind of gave me the. The space to make that decision for me but yeah, I think it was a product of also my environment of who I was surrounded by going to school, interestingly at middle school and high school in Taiwan, where I went to the international school there, one of the international schools and I think that being in that environment drove me to do better because the pressure just from my peers to do better and so, yeah, it was a bit of parental pressure plus internal expectations for myself and to this day, I think that both continued to drive me to a certain extent.

Bryan: (00:05:42) Just by talking to you during this podcast, I already feel the push.

Austin: (00:05:49) Oh no, I don’t want that to become a thing.

Bryan: (00:05:52) Just kidding but it’s so inspiring you walked through that path. It’s still like, do the things you like to do, right. What is your day-to-day look like? I would imagine you have so much going on and yet you still find time to like respond to my emails, like walk us through day-to-day life, Austin.

Austin: (00:06:10) Right now, it’s particularly busy because I’m juggling, arguably a job and a half and so it does come with a good amount of sacrifice. I must say, this is not, it might look nice from the outside, but there’s a lot of personal life that I’m putting aside for the moment.

I think that I just started the Medtronic role about six months ago. I told myself that while I really wanted to make a strong first impression and put in the hustle a little bit and then we’ll see after things kind of stabilize, then maybe I’ll find some more time for myself, but yeah, a day in the life right now, it’s a lot of travel.

It’s a lot of zoom meetings and it’s very different, from the days that I see. Working in me re Medtronic, with my Medtronic hat on is very different from whatever in the hospital. So, in the hospital and seeing patients, either in an office setting for the entire day or during procedures for the entire day.

And so, it’s very fast-paced and kind of just a grind moment, you step into the hostel until you leave. And then with the Medtronic job, it’s a little more flexible. And because my role is not defined within a function, I oversee medical education and clinical sales training and physician engagement, but I’m also involved in business development and kind of talking to startup companies or involved in helping out with clinical research and marketing efforts.

But it’s all, you know, there are teams devoted to each of those functions. So, I just kind of put my own 2 cents in here and there are those efforts. So, it’s, it keeps things exciting and fun because it’s never just a one-track kind of job. And the travel a lot is to have meetings with physicians and institutions and practices out there.

And it’s nice because a lot of these people happen to also be my friends who I have, haven’t had a chance to catch up with you in person because of the pandemic. So, it’s nice to finally see them.

Bryan: (00:08:09) Well, that sounds, sounds very busy.

Austin: (00:08:13) It is, not going to lie about that.

Bryan: (00:08:15) How could someone just starting, let’s say if they’re like in college or early college, early career prepares themselves to become who you are today?

Austin: (00:08:59) I wish I had a really attractive system to share with everyone to say that I woke up and had a very regimen and routine because I often do hear that successful people, have a very set kind of routine and that kind of reflects their discipline.

I think for me growing up, I do feel like there was a lot of structure and you know what I did, I think part of what my parents instilled in me and what they had me go through was a lot of us played the violin growing up, just like a lot of other people. And then that was a very discipline kind of structure, like practicing every day and preparing for certain things.

But now that I’m here at this stage in my career, I what I learned, especially being in medicine is prioritization because just when you think that you’re so busy in med school, that your responsibilities shift after that and especially when you’re in the hospital doing your clinical work, taking care of patients, there are just things being thrown at you from all different directions without, with very short notice.

And you kind of has to learn to prioritize what is most pressing at that moment. And I think I’ve become pretty good at that because I feel like a lot of people out there maybe have like a first in first out mentality. And for me, it’s just, that it’s a constant prioritization. So, when you talk about the email that you sent me, I knew, okay, this is something that

that I should jump on now that I feel like, especially when I have a moment in time within the several weeks, I feel like, okay, now the timing is right. I should just handle this now, rather than I know, maybe in two or three weeks, Things may seem open, but if I’m not able to commit, if I commit to something, then it may, things may change.

And so that’s how I sort of approach it, but it might not be right for everyone. And I think that that’s also really important to consider is, we all have different situations and different needs and priorities for me, my priority right now, especially being somebody single, who’s flexible to travel.

It’s just like myself and my career and that’s not the case for everyone. So, I can’t say that that, that will work for everybody.

Bryan: (00:11:12) That is a good tip, right. I think you’re right. A lot of things in life are funny. There’s always going to be time, in my opinion, about how busy you are. It’s just a matter of perspective and priorities, right? What’s most important to you? What’s most urgent? This is recognizing those patterns, right? An understanding that once you recognize those patterns, you’ll find actionable steps that will propel you forward no matter how busy you are.

Austin: (00:11:36) Definitely and I know, I think that you know, along the way, a lot of friends and colleagues have always told me about having to learn how to say no, and I’m still learning how to do that. But what I do think, I, and maybe subconsciously I’m doing that already. It’s just that I will agree to do things or be mindful about how I spend my time towards things that I feel are going to serve. The purpose of whatever my objective is and not be too sidetracked, but yeah, it can be very difficult.

Bryan: (00:12:08) That’s one more element. You’re a social media superstar with like over 500,000 subscribers, right? How do you find time for that too? It’s going to blend it until like, I got to give our listeners perspective and like, yeah, you have two jobs.

You’re a doctor. You went to 14 years of school and you are an online social media content creator. Walk us through that.

Austin: (00:12:32) I’ll say that my initial approach was really to combine it, combine my interest in social media with my actual kind of role and job as a doctor. So initially if I was kind of using social media, aimlessly and not productively, then I do think that it would be a giant time sink, but I think I was leveraging social media towards my academic goals at one point.

So, when I first started, my whole social media journey was born out of this desire to combat misinformation online and recognize that as a doctor I was trained to talk about certain things that, if I wasn’t there to talk about it, other people would kind of make things up and come up with all sorts of random theories, which we were seeing a lot these days.

But back then, about a decade ago I decided to really switch over from a person to a professional social media presence. And over the years have kind of adopted different platforms, starting from Twitter, then Instagram, then YouTube and TikTok, and whatnot. But I had been faced some resistance at the beginning, especially because people didn’t quite understand the role of social media in healthcare.

And I was advised by one of my mentors to make it an academic focus. So, I started doing, I started researching social media and how it intersects with health care publishing on it, actually making it an academic pursuit. And that then led me to start a non-profit professional society called the associated association for healthcare, and social media, which then allowed me to work with the social media platforms directly more closely.

And currently, I serve on the YouTube health advisory board. And there are a lot of their efforts are focused on misinformation now. And then from there gained a little more attention and was able to participate in certain media opportunities. And so, it became a whole thing much bigger than I ever anticipated, but I think part of it initially was that I made it an academic.

Kind of pursuit, but I’ll say that kind of on the topic of prioritization, I realized that now that I’m working this job and a half, the one thing that we’ll probably have to take a back seat is social media. So, in a way, it’s good for my mental health because I am doing it on my terms now. And I’ll do it when I have time when I feel like it.

When I feel like I have something important to say, or if I feel like I just want to do something for fun. And it wasn’t always that way. I think at one point I was chasing some sort of. Algorithm or chasing some sort of a product with social media that caused a lot of frustration, but now I’m able to just say like what, this is secondary to everything else that I’m doing. And that balance has sort of found it.

Bryan: (00:15:18) Yeah, that’s a really good perspective too, right? Because of the social media gig, you get unhealthy, really fast. It changes so quickly. You have to be always on the next tread, talking about the right thing, saying the right things, do the right videos. It goes on and on.

So, I’m really happy to hear that you’re putting yourself first, right? You’re taking care of your mental health. Speaking of mental health, I am pretty big on mental health, right? Do you like to have any sort of meditation practices that you practice daily? What do you do when you are overwhelmed right? And what do you, do you have bad days? Like, oh, we just want to hear more about that.

Austin: (00:15:55) I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to bottle up my emotions. So, I will reach out to friends and family in that, in those situations and again, I know that that’s not necessarily how everyone would approach it, but I’m pretty much an open book with people who with a select number of friends who I trust.

And I think that letting that out is important because for whatever. The case might be, that sometimes others have shared the same experiences before and can commiserate and provide guidance. And I am very grateful to have those people in my life who I can lean on in those situations. But I don’t have any sort of structured kind of meditation ritual or something like that. Although I do hear a great amount of benefit from those types of activities and kind of wish that I could learn more about that. And yeah, I do the things that I enjoy and take time for myself and prioritize sometimes I just feel like I have to

drop everything. And just take the time for me and do something I enjoy. Whether it’s gone eat something that I like, or watching something on Netflix and I don’t let work, consume my life a hundred percent.

Bryan: (00:17:10) It is good for all of us to hear that too, because like outside perspective, we’ll be looking at you. It’s like, you must have all these things down, but let’s see your story. Listen to your talk. Yeah. It’s very relatable because a lot of us feel that way, right. So, it sounds really hard on yourself. We judge ourselves harshly, maybe I’m not doing this because I’m not doing that right. But I think that listening to your story is seeing how much you achieve so far as the last. You know, 14 years or two years, it’s insane.

Austin: (00:17:40) I think that I can’t take credit for everything myself, either. I think that I’ve had a lot of support along the way. I’ve had mentors and people who have given me an opportunity, and sometimes there is a matter of luck. And I know that there’s that saying out there that says that what, whatever it is like for luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

And in some ways, I’ve been just, I realize that I am so, so fortunate to have been given some opportunities because I had people who believed in me, people who notice to me when, if I didn’t come across some of these people, I would never have had those opportunities.

So, I think that to a certain extent, I think working hard is an ingredient in this whole recipe, but I think also taking the time to get to know people and to, I don’t want to say network because I feel like some of the opportunities, I’ve gone have not been a product of like networking per se, but just genuinely wanting to meet people and get to know people and taking an interest in other people.

Bryan: (00:18:50) Awesome. Also, what is next for you? What is the next evolution of Austin Chiang? I’m curious myself.

Austin: (00:18:57) Oh, that’s a great question. I think I’ve gotten to where I am today without being too structured in how I plan my future. I’d say, I think I’m intentional with everything I do, but I don’t adhere too much to like, okay, this is my ten-year plan because I wouldn’t have gotten here. If I had my blinders on like that, I had been, open-minded to a lot of opportunities and, I’ve been open to taking risks. And so, I can only imagine, a couple of years down the road, what I might be presented with and part of why I decided to kind of pivot a little bit with my career and take the Medtronic job when I was offered.

It was because I recognized that there may be more opportunities as a result. And so I’m open to everything and we’ll see where it takes me. And if you asked me five years ago, if I would have imagined being here today, the answer would definitively be no. So, I’m just going to keep an open mind and just see where things take me.

Bryan: (00:20:06) I like that mentality a lot I hope that you started, you like oblique your part in Philadelphia. Cause I definitely to watch that show. but yeah. So as our listeners know, at the beginning of our podcast, this episode is promoting the HHS COVID19 public education campaign, and very excited to have Austin talk about the misinformation and talk to you about getting vaccinated, the benefits of getting basket against COVID right and honestly, I couldn’t think of a better person to ask a couple of the podcasts to speak about this besides you, because your content based upon this.

Austin: (00:20:47) Thank you, I mean, at one point, definitely, especially at the height of the pandemic, I think I was speaking about this a lot because I felt obligated to speak from the perspective of a health professional and what we see in the hospital because it’s often behind closed doors and you know, there’s a lot of, theories, conspiracy theories out there and whatnot about all of this and.

And from someone who’s taking care of patients, I think that it was important for us to speak out. So yeah, I mean, I thought it was very interesting that in talking about this a lot, it ultimately landed me on the front page of the New York times at one point, the day that the first vaccine was rolled out and the headline was about how I would talk about this on Tik Tok.

I admittedly talk a little bit less about it now in a while, you know the pandemic has been going on for. For a minute now, but yeah, there’s a lot of misinformation circulating out there and I would just say be careful who you trust online and double and triple check to make sure that they have the credentials to talk about the things they talk about and there are a lot of nuances about this.

And I also kind of along the lines of keeping an open mind the way science is, I think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize that science is constantly changing and we can only operate. The best data that we have available. And if we find new things down the road that lead us to believe otherwise, then we will change our strategy and our recommendations, but things will change over time and we just kind of have to roll with it.

But, yeah, I think that myself, I have been vaccinated boosted the recommendations may change down the road as we see new variants and new developments evolve. But I do still think that it’s the best course of action to prevent severe disease as a result of the virus and it doesn’t you from getting the virus, it just minimizes the effects of it and especially now with a kind of impending surge, it seems it’s really important that we protect ourselves and those around us too.

Bryan: (00:23:00) Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, right. I think now that most mass mandates are pretty lead it down and you don’t see a lot of people where you at, to be honest.

And I find myself not wearing it sometimes till like, oh no, I forgot what mass or whatever right but I know that it’s still very important for us to stay safe out there because this virus is still very much real this they’re still very much here, right? Out of curiosity. What kind of misinformation have you heard about the vaccines before?

Because I think the funniest thing, I heard early on was. There are government chips inside of the vaccine shots and they could track your, every movement right that’s a pretty futuristic way of thinking about vaccines.

Austin: (00:23:41) I made it, I made a TikTok about that actually like early on because I just thought it was so ridiculous. And I think that look, I think that there is, there is a healthy dose of skepticism that everyone can have I think it’s always good too, again, double and triple-check, everything that you’re reading, but at a certain point, like we there are experts out there who are the people who talk about or who have done the research and who are actively involved.

With the development of the vaccines and whatnot, we have to trust otherwise, like there’s a certain degree of trust that we have to do to exercise for everything that we do, and yeah, that is like one of the most ridiculous ones I must say but at the same time, I think it was easy, easier to dispel.

I’m sure there are people out there who still believe that, but there’s a lot that, especially on social media, we see a lot of really random things that, I mean, probably that one, honestly. Yeah. And I mean, there are also things that I think the biggest concern is that there are all sorts of random side effects that people attribute to vaccines. And a lot of this is not based on any data it’s anecdotal, it’s based on faulty reporting and I know it’s kind of can to be scary because it’s sometimes hard to disprove as well, but, and there’s, there needs to be a basic understanding of how the science works, like how these sorts of vaccines are made as well.

That I think we could do a better job with messaging, but yeah, I think that we hope we’ll see that people are understanding of this. I think that I come from a different perspective having I was in Taiwan when SARS hit back in my senior year in high school, I might be dating myself a little bit here.

But I think that plays into why there are cultural differences in how we approach the pandemic too like the mentality that people have approached the pandemic abroad seem to be pretty different than here and mask-wearing and whatnot. It’s kind of why not over there versus here.

It’s like, why should we? And we’ll see, I think that hopefully, we can learn, all learn from this experience so that the next pandemic, whenever it happens because we all know that bound to happen at some point in the future, again, we’re better prepared.

Bryan: (00:26:03) I couldn’t agree more. I think I saw a speech by bill gates or something. He’ll see the scary thing about this pandemic is that what has shown us how under-prepared we are for a pandemic and to moving you forward because of globalization, all these trade things that the pet debit situation for other viruses are going to break out more frequent basis.

Austin: (00:26:32) Yeah, exactly and I think it also shows how important kind of communicating and messaging and media play in a public health response.

It’s fascinating, like in this day and age, how that really can drive public opinion and to think that especially we just hit the 1 million person milestone where there have been a hundred million people in the US who’ve died of the virus and I feel like there’s been very little coverage about this or that there’s been kind of this indifference to the whole thing.

And I get it people are tired of it I’m tired of it too, like who isn’t but one can only hope that yeah, in the future we are more prepared and I know that there are efforts to prepare for the next one, but my understanding was that even going into this one, we had a plan, but it just wasn’t very well executed.

So hopefully, if it’s during our lifetime, we all can remember. What’s what happened here. So that we’d have a better plan.

Bryan: (00:27:38) It says this the same is paid for by us department of health and human services. Go get vaccinated.

Austin: (00:27:45)  I think it, by the way, I think it’s great that they are doing this sort of outreach because clearly, the value, the voice of you and all of us, kind of a grassroots sort of community. 

Type way of approaching it and ultimately health and human services. We depend on that they dictate everything that we do in health care and they do a good job in a lot of ways in regulating. So, it’s something that I care deeply about how healthcare functions and how we make sure people get the right treatment and right prevention and whatnot when it comes to their daily lives.

Bryan: (00:28:28) Austin, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You are a mega overachiever. Honestly, it’s, it’s awesome to hear your story. Thank you so much. All your thoughts and feedback, or getting boosted to vaccinate as well. Could not find a more qualified person for the cover of the podcast. We appreciate you so much.

Austin: (00:28:52) Thank you so much for having me again.

Bryan: (00:28:54) Of course. So, one last question, Austin, how can our listeners find out more about you and reach out to you online?

Austin: (00:28:59) I am very easy to find on the internet. It’s my name, Austin Chiang MD. That’s my handle, basically on all platforms, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTubeand Tiktok. I’m pretty easy to find and, you know, feel free to reach out to me anytime.

Bryan: (00:29:19) We’ll leave all in the show notes. Austin, thank you so much to be on the show today.

Austin: (00:29:23) Thank you.