Tok Doc: Dr. Kara Wong Ramsey

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Screengrabs from Dr. Kara Wong Ramsey's TikTok videos.

On Instagram she is @dancingdoctormom but offline she is Dr. Kara Wong Ramsey, neonatologist and assistant professor at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine (UH JABSOM). During the early COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she admired how other doctors including JABSOM alumnus Dr. Daniel Sugai, were using their platform as medical professionals to share information on social media and decided to make and upload her own videos with the intention of raising awareness about COVID-19 and addressing vaccine hesitancy.

“There’s always been a huge problem with vaccine misinformation out there on social media,” Wong Ramsey said. “It’s something that’s dear to my heart as a pediatrician but especially during the rise of COVID and the pandemic, it became even more important to highlight.”

She considered it her kuleana, or responsibility, to provide pillars of truth amid all the COVID misinformation on social media. With many of her videos being shared by family and friends across different social media platforms including Facebook and instagram, some people have personally messaged her with further questions or simply to thank her.

“Sometimes they (my followers) have told me in gratitude that they thought some of the information I shared was helpful to them in making a decision about the vaccine for themselves or their family and for me– hearing that was really the best compliment,” Wong Ramsey said.

Wong Ramsey initially initially posted videos on TikTok with the handle @noelani82 but has since fully migrated to Instagram as @dancingdoctormom, finding the latter’s video editing tools more user-friendly and easier to cross-post to Facebook. Although more than half of TikTok users in 2023 are Gen Zers, Wong Ramsey’s videos have reached far beyond that demographic.

“What has surprised me is that my colleagues, other attendings or faculty within the hospital, as they walked past me in the hallways sometimes they would say, ‘hey I love your videos,’” Wong Ramsey said.

She was even asked to present her social media videos to the faculty with a lens of microeducation, or breaking up complex information into smaller bite-sized pieces with the idea that a learner who is exposed to pieces of micro-education repetitively may be more likely to retain that information.

Wong Ramsey, grew up in Kahaluu and is a proud graduate of Kamehameha Schools. She graduated from Harvard Medical School in 2009 but made it a point to return home to train at the UH Residency Program in pediatrics.

“I think my love for my family, my community here in Hawaiʻi really was a long striving force behind me in pursuing medicine and is the particular reason I chose to stay here in Hawaiʻi Nei for both my training and my career,” said Wong Ramsey, who graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed both her pediatrics residency and fellowship in neonatal/perinatal medicine at UH.

“I think, as a Native Hawaiian, having that high value for my family and my community is really important to me and something that I hoped to convey in my videos,” she added.

Although she no longer posts about COVID-related content every day, she hasn’t shied away from posting about her life, whether it involves aspects of being a hula dancer, doctor or mom to keep the younger generation interested and engaged.

“I still enjoy making fun videos and transitions for personal enjoyment and to keep my video skills sharp as new features are added to the platform, but I also hope to build additional videos related to medical education pertinent for medical students that I can use off-line for my other teaching endeavors. For example, I made a short video about hyperbilirubinemia management for my grand rounds presentation at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, which is now also being used regularly by our NICU nurse educator during her educational sessions with new NICU nurses,” said Wong Ramsey. “I also enjoy making other fun videos based on some of the other educational activities I do with various trainees to show that a career in medicine can still be fun despite the long hours of training.”

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