During a lunch break one day at the OB/GYN clinic where Leanna Alaiwat ’19 works as a physician assistant, she found an empty examination room, and recorded a video for Instagram in which she described the process of getting a PAP smear.
That was the first of hundreds of videos Alaiwat has posted on social media accounts over the last two years, explaining gynecological procedures to the public to educate them about the procedures and their rights as patients.
The response has been massive. Today, she has hundreds of thousands of followers across several social media platforms.
Alaiwat’s videos educate viewers on what to expect during a visit to an OB/GYN clinic.
In them, she speaks in a soft tone of voice typical of ASMR, or autonomic sensory meridian response, a popular type of video meant to produce a relaxing sensation.
“When I was first filming videos, I was a little uncomfortable talking in front of a camera, so I filmed my first video at work talking about a PAP smear speaking softly, so nobody would hear me talking to myself in a room,” Alaiwat said. “It grew into a whole thing, and people really responded to the calming nature of the video.”
“It was through TikTok that the ASMR approach took off,” Alaiwat said. “Then once people started wanting longer videos, I transitioned to YouTube which could support that.”
Her social media sideline combines two of Alaiwat’s longtime interests.
“I identified as a high school senior that I wanted to become a PA, so I looked into programs and found out about Detroit Mercy’s 5-year PA Program,” Alaiwat said. “This was my opportunity to pursue my goal in the most efficient way possible.”
Alaiwat chose to specialize in OB/GYN, since “it provided a psychological component, as well as medical. I get to council patients as well as provide care.”
After graduating, Alaiwat started working at an outpatient clinic, and after a year, made her first video.
“I’m not surprised people responded to this content, because for patients these procedures can be very high stress, and very high anxiety,” she said. “When you add a relaxing element to learning, you are treating the underlying cause of stress and anxiety.”
To create her content, Alaiwat uses the same examination rooms in which she sees her patients.
“I have a designated film day either before or after clinic. I post to YouTube once a week, and for TikTok I will also film three videos at the same time, and post them throughout the week,” Alaiwat said. “A lot of people think I spend a lot of hard work and time on the videos, but it is actually very natural. I look up a topic, research it, and talk about the subject to the camera.”
Alaiwat sees this outreach as an important part of her work as a PA in an OB/GYN practice.
“Growing up in a more conservative family, things like anatomy, and birth control are not open topics. I wanted to give young people an opportunity to learn about things that they may not learn about otherwise,” she said.
What really stands out to Alaiwat are the fans who have reached out to her directly.
“People will call the office from out of state, making appointments a year out to fly in and receive care from my office,” said Alaiwat. “Whether it’s the ASMR aspect, or whatever, it made it so real that there are people who would spend this kind of money to have me take care of them.”
While Alaiwat’s channel continues to grow, she plans to continue providing care at her Lincoln Park clinic. She wants to use her channel to help patients know what they should expect when they arrive at the OB/GYN clinic.
“Honestly, the whole goal is for people to become their own advocates. When you are sheltered, you have to rely on other people to make decisions about your body,” Alaiwat said. “There are so many patients that don’t seek out care because of prior bad experiences. I want to teach people how to be a better patient, to know their rights, and to know how they should be treated.”
As far as the future for her content, Alaiwat plans to keep going.
“I don’t know how it got this big now, but there are endless topics I can talk about, and I want to educate people about their bodies, and the choices they can make about their bodies.”