Doctor Mike is a Russian-born New Yorker that gives George Clooney circa ER, a run for his money. The world of celebrity, especially #InstaFame, is flooded with negative stereotypes. Spending an afternoon with Mike completely shattered those misconceptions. Not only a doctor as a profession, Mike is a highly self-aware individual with a passion for contributing to society. Now with nearly 2 million Instagram he’s using his internet fame to give back through his non-profit Limitless Tomorrow.
Tell us about your background.
I was born in a small town in Russia and moved to Brooklyn when I was 6 years old. I lived in Brooklyn for 10 years.
What brought your family to America?
My parents came as refugees. My dad was a local doctor but they saw a better future for me and my sister in America.
Do you still connect to your Russian identity?
I connect to both my American and Russian identity. I think I blend the strongest parts of both cultures. From my Russian roots, I take after the quality of being very headstrong. I persevere; my career requires it. You can’t be lazy and succeed. Americans tend to be very introspective compared to Russians. I’m constantly reflecting on my decisions and actions and how they affect other people.
Tell us about what you do now in New York City.
I’m a second year resident in a hospital. I practice general medicine and want to specialize in sports medicine.
Why did you want to become a doctor?
I saw the field through my father’s work. He was very well respected in his community. I also think it’s a good fit for me because I’m a very investigative person.
Is you father your mentor?
I try to take after his strengths.
Was there a moment that you realized you wanted to practice medicine?
It sounds funny, but there was an episode of “Friends” where George Clooney and Noah Wyle from ER came on as a cameo. The admiration they received from Rachel and Monica attracted me to the idea. Being a nerd as a kid, I never got that kind of admiration from girls. Before high school, I knew nothing about fashion or girls. I realized I couldn’t approach girls; I was terrified of them.
Now as a doctor do you feel like you receive that recognition?
At work I do. It’s important to work somewhere where people know you’re not just there to make money. On Instagram, I also feel like I receive recognition.
Speaking of Instagram, with nearly 2 million Instagram followers, what do you think attracts so many people to your page?
Medicine has been touted as a field where you have to give up your life; I work really hard to battle that. You have to love it, and want it more than anything. You are going to miss really important events like weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays. It’s a commitment but if you love it, it prevents you from being rundown. If you can picture yourself not practicing medicine — don’t do it. My followers on Instagram are interested in seeing that it’s possible to keep a balance between work, fitness and your social life.
You have a track record for using your internet fame to contribute to society, tell us about some of the ways you have impacted charitable causes?
I have always been passionate about giving back. Some days I would receive up to 300 emails from my followers about health and living a balanced life. It’s taking me a while but I’m responding to each and every one of them.
I also recently started my own foundation called Limitless Tomorrow which donates scholarships and grants directly to students who are in need of financial assistance to achieve their goals.
How is your foundation different than a typical scholarship?
We are not solely an academic focused organization. While we believe grades are important, they are not the answer to the many tough questions facing society today. I grew tired of seeing scholarships, grants, and financial aid given to those with perfect grades and no substance. I’ve always seen myself as an anomaly. I was hungry for life, hungry for knowledge and somehow that worked against me. I never want this to be the case again.
In what other ways have you used your fame for the greater good?
For the St. Baldrick’s Children’s Cancer Foundation I have shaved my head before to help raise money. Because of my Instagram presence, we were able to raise a lot in a short amount of time. I’ve also participated in the St. Jude’s Walk in Miami and have spoken to several universities and med schools about practicing medicine. This is something that I really enjoy and continue to do.
For all of the fans on Instagram, what’s one interesting fact that they might not know about you?
I won the U.S. Open for Taekwondo when I was 13 years old.
Let’s talk New York City. How has growing up in New York influenced your life and character?
I was independent at a really early age. My friends are from all different countries so I also grew up surrounded by worldly vibes.
Does New York inspire your work as a doctor?
New York is a place where you can start from scratch and build something out of nothing. The American Dream — if it’s possible anywhere, it’s possible in New York. I get to meet really successful people who’ve achieved a lot. Sometimes, I even meet them through Instagram. How does a kid like me who grew up in New York, end up here?