Dr. Max Feinstein isn’t your traditional YouTuber, but a combination of timing and niche content saw him rise to quick success. Within three years, he went from rarely using YouTube to amassing well over 100,000 subscribers. We recently sat down to chat with the anesthesiologist about how his channel came to be, his goals and his passion for his medical field.
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Content type: Tech
User created: Jul 1st, 2013
A pandemic outlet
In 2020, having graduated from medical school, Feinstein was in his first year of anesthesiology residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. With little interest in social media in general, content creation wasn’t even a consideration for Feinstein. But then COVID-19 hit.
Like so many others, Max Feinstein found his world-changing. “When COVID hit, everything changed in terms of what my work looked like,” Feinstein explains. “I actually ended up with quite a bit of time off. The hospital was trying to reduce burnout — reduce the amount of stress we were experiencing. So I had a bunch of time and was getting ready to start my anesthesiology training formally. There was nothing to do outside of work with COVID, so I started watching videos on YouTube.”
This inspired Feinstein to start his own YouTube channel documenting his experiences in anesthesiology training.
“I thought it might be a great opportunity for me to make some of my own [videos] as I started my anesthesiology training. Documenting that experience to be able to share it with other people, especially medical students.”
Thus, Feinstein’s channel was born. With extra time on his hands, he dove headfirst into the world of content creation. However, with no background in video production, Feinstein had to learn as he went and learn from other outlets.
“I had no background in video production. When I was in high school, I was very interested in audio recording, so I had some familiarity with the basics of sound editing. Other than that, I learned basically everything I know about equipment, filming techniques and editing from Think Media’s YouTube channel. They have just been an incredible source of information.”
When it comes to developing a YouTube channel, common wisdom often says to pick a topic you know. Find niche gaps others might not be covering. That’s exactly what Max Feinstein did. As a result, his channel saw exponential growth and took Feinstein by surprise:
“[I thought] the material I was making would only appeal to medical students. [But] there’s a bigger audience that, over the years, has started to watch the content I make. The majority of people who watch my videos are actually not involved with medicine. They either have an interest in seeing what goes on in anesthesiology, or they have a surgery coming up,” Feinstein says. “I think this is a really important audience I’m able to reach. The people [who] have a surgery coming up don’t have an opportunity to talk with an anesthesiologist prior to their surgery. Frequently, patients meet their anesthesiologist 20 or 30 minutes before they go under general anesthesia. If they wanted to ask questions, it’s such a limited time window in a lot of cases. So there’s an audience in my channel who are interested in knowing what anesthesia entails because they’re getting ready to have it.”
Even as his general audience began to expand, Feinstein wanted to maintain his initial goal for the channel: make content for medical school students.
“I [want] to appeal to people still in medical school, trying to make a decision about what field they wanted to go into. One of the biggest considerations I didn’t anticipate [was] trying to figure out how, if at all, do I change the style of videos I’m making,” Feinstein reveals. “Ultimately, I decided to keep it [how it was]. Basically, I keep it geared toward medical students. However, in post-production, I will put in descriptors and text overlays (translating medical jargon into everyday language) for those who aren’t involved with medicine. For those viewers, they’re able to get a sense of what’s going on. I’ve tried to make it accessible to the lay public while still primarily gearing it towards medical students.”
Making it work
Developing a YouTube channel while also working as a full-time doctor isn’t exactly easy. Feinstein runs his channel on his own, so he has to juggle many hats. However, during our conversation, he quickly emphasizes the support he receives from his home and work is crucial to his success.
“I’m very fortunate my residency program and the hospital system in which I work have both been extremely supportive of my endeavors. Without their support, I wouldn’t be able to make videos showing what goes on inside an operating room,” says Feinstein.
He particularly credits his wife as a significant pillar of his support system.
“My wife is an incredibly important source of feedback and guidance. She’s always great to bounce ideas off of and has been an instrumental supporter. She’s been by my side through all this.”
Max Feinstein’s process
Feinstein handles the entire production process for every video he uploads, from ideas to post-production. He starts the process by generating ideas for future videos he wants to make.
“The idea generation is basically a continuous process. That can happen anywhere, anytime … I keep a list on my phone of ideas, Feinstein explains. “This is something that I would recommend to any content creator; just have a really easily accessible way to write down ideas. Whenever I have time to record, then I take out that list.”
Once Feinstein settles on a topic, he moves to the outline phase. Here, he researches relevant literature to put together a video outline.
“Oftentimes, putting together an outline for me entails pulling out ‘primary literature.’ [This means] going and looking at scientific articles or opening up anesthesiology textbooks to make sure the information I’m communicating is cited in a scientific source.”
Feinstein emphasizes the importance of representing the scientific process accurately in the content he makes: “I make a point of emphasizing that because the way to build integrity as a medical YouTuber is through transparency and demonstrating the scientific process.”
After Feinstein finishes the outline, he films the video. One of the unique challenges that he faces as a full-time doctor is finding a place to record.
“Typically, I’m recording on nights or on weekends, where it’s more likely I can find an empty operating room,” Feinstein reveals. Once filming is complete, Feinstein moves on to post-production, where he edits the video himself before publishing it to YouTube.
In total, for a standard 10-minute YouTube video, Feinstein will invest about 10 hours of his time. He explains: “Overall [between] the research I do for the videos, the recording and then the editing … on average, every minute of footage that I make is about an hour of time invested.”
As his residency program comes to an end, Feinstein has no plans to end the Max Feinstein YouTube channel. “[I’ll] continue to make YouTube videos; I don’t have an endpoint in mind. It’s something I’ve given a lot of consideration to whether I want to have sort of an end goal. There’s something refreshing about having an interest that is just fun to do. There’s not a point I think I’ll reach and decide, ‘I’m done,’” Feinstein says.
While he makes some revenue from the channel, he’s not looking to expand it much beyond what is a fun, creative outlet. That said, he readily acknowledges the opportunities his channel has brought him. “I was invited to go speak at a conference in Belgium about social media. This was a medical conference for anesthesiologists. I wouldn’t have imagined doing anything like that [before].”
Beyond that, Feinstein’s experience with the community — both medical students and people simply interested in his work — keeps him going.
“Part of the fun of continuing to make videos is,” Feinstein says, “is knowing, at any point, something interesting or unique could come up. I really enjoy talking with people and seeing people’s comments. If they [get] something out of the videos, it makes me feel like I have done something. [Whether] I’m helping medical students or the general public get a better understanding about anesthesiology, I think that’s really important.”