Many people go to TikTok to destress, be entertained, have a good laugh. But to get medical advice? Hmmmm, maybe not.
Dr. Winston Kilimanjaro Creones Tiwaquen initially thought so, too. This Baguio-based licensed physician used to think the platform was not the right fit for a medical professional like him. That is, until he amassed 3.3 million followers on the video-sharing app. And all for posting health-related content.
In TikTok, Dr. Winston is Dr. Kilimanguru, friendly and bright as sunshine. He does the occasional TikTok challenges, including the latest trending dance moves. But mostly he gives health advice and debunks common health myths by giving science-based answers to questions as “Nakakalagnat ba talaga ang pagligo sa ulan?”, “Nakakataba ba ang pag-inom ng tubig?” and “Nakakalaki ba ng tiyan ang pag-upo matapos kumain?” He’s so good at what he does that he won the Top Creative Award in the recent first TikTok Awards.
Also earning likes and shares are his easy-to-understand explanations about different illnesses and health conditions, from aneurysm to Covid. He speaks mostly in Filipino to be better understood by a wider audience. He injects funny skits and hugot lines to make his videos more entertaining and relatable. He’s also known to spout the occasional “Char!” which is why some of his social media followers also call him Dr. Char. BTW, Dr. Char is, IRL, also currently taking up his specialization on lifestyle medicine.
How did a 25-year-old doctor end up on the most wildly popular social media app of the moment?
Dr. Kilimanguru admits he’s always had aspirations of becoming an artista. In fact, he took up Mass Communications at St. Louis University in the hopes of establishing a career in film and entertainment. But without the industry connections, he realized Baguio offered no opportunities when it came to forging an entertainment career.
So he set aside his artista dreams and pursued a more stable career as a doctor. It was an easy choice to make. His mother is, after all, also in medicine—the pathologist Dr. Christine Ayochok. Winston completed his medical studies also at St. Louis and finished last December. He currently works as a physician in the teleconsulting platform Konsulta MD.
Over the past nine years, social media had become Winston’s outlet to practice his passion for performing. Before Dr. Kilimanguru, he had been producing social media content on Facebook and YouTube. But it wasn’t about health and wellness yet.
It was only on December of 2019 when Dr. Kilimanguru was born. He first came out on Facebook dispensing medicine-related information, except it was packaged as a funny skit poking fun at how Filipino patients answer medical questions from their doctors. “Ang Filipino patients kasi they don’t answer ng direct to the point, and marami ang naka-relate dun,” Dr. Winston tells ANCX.
The growth of viewership, he found, was quite slow on Facebook and YouTube. So when TikTok became hugely popular, people started telling him to give it a try. “At first, I kept refusing. I was like, ‘Parang hindi ata ako bagay diyan?’” he says, convinced then that the only TikTok content that goes viral are those that involve dancing.
Naliligo ako kung kailan ko gusto. 💪 Patient Education by Medical Post Grad Intern Kilimanguru. 😉♬ original sound - Kilimanguru - Dr. Kilimanguru
Riding the wave
But he finally rode the TikTok craze June last year and was surprised to find there are a lot of educational content on the app. “I thought maybe I could contribute some medical information,” he says, noting the very few Tagalog speaking doctors on the app at that time. The first video he did was a skit about the crazy misconception about placing an IV line. “Akala ng iba, kapag nagsuswero, naiiwan yung needle sa loob ng balat. And I debunked that misconception. It went pretty viral after a few hours,” Dr. Winston shares.
The popularity of that first video made him realize there is a space in TikTok for doctors like him.
Dr. Winston decided to continue producing this kind of content. The next TikTok content that went viral the same month was his answer to the question, “Pwede bang maligo kapag pagod na pagod o pawis na pawis ka?” He knew people keep coming across misconceptions and misinformation on the internet. And someone needs to straighten things out. He makes sure to communicate his answers in the simplest terms, in Filipino or Taglish, without sacrificing the essential details.
“I make sure that the viewers, especially the masa, won’t get intimidated by big words. Kasi whenever they hear medical jargon, they will automatically tune out na parang, ‘Ay, ayoko na makinig, wala na kong pakialam.’” To maintain the accuracy of his discussions, he says he always refers back to his medical books and does additional research.
Being playful and fun-loving comes naturally for Dr. Winston. He’s always been the life of the party, anyway, whether at home, in the classroom, or at the hospital. He was once called out by his professor for injecting a sense of fun in presenting a class report. “Parang na-hurt ako dun kasi that’s my personality,” he says. “So it was like asking me to remove that part of my personality.”
He maintained the same lively personality during his hospital internship. “Kahit na toxic, kahit madami nang pasyente, madaming nag-aagaw-buhay, I try to keep the energy up,” he confesses. “Kasi minsan ang itsura ng mga kasama ko dun parang halos mamamatay na [sa pagod]. Parang, ‘Ha? Ikaw ba yung doctor? O ikaw yung pasyente?’”
Breaking the mold
Dr. Winston makes it a point to make all his content entertaining. “I want people to know that health can be fun. At the same time, doctors can be fun, too. Kasi I think merong stereotype image ang doctor, na we are always serious, masungit. I hope to be the one to break that stereotype,” he says, smiling. But he makes sure to still present the information in a manner that does not disrespect or compromise the medical profession.
Dr. Kilimanguru says regularly producing medical-related content for TikTok can be challenging and tiring, especially since he does everything by himself—research, writing, shooting, editing, and posting. “It’s been a struggle the past couple of months. Medyo nawala ang drive ko,” he admits. The TikTok award came at a perfect time. It validated his efforts and inspired him to continue what he started.
“The award reminded me that my content is actually helping a lot of people, that my content does have a purpose, and that’s to make sure the people get the right information about their health. When you know the right information, you get to take care of yourself better and prevent yourself from getting sick.”