Behind The Model: Saiken’s Fight Against Medfluencing

Saiken is in an illustrious club of 'doctor VTubers', and using his experiences to push back against the medical field grindset.

Saiken has been beating around the streaming space for some time. VTubing isn’t his first rodeo with content creation. He has been streaming since 2018, using the medium as a way to blow off some steam while going through the perils of medical school.

He didn’t want to throw away his routine or lifestyle despite the high-stress environment. Quite the opposite—streaming was a perfect escape from the stresses of the field.

“Streaming was something that I could do to keep in contact with my friends from after university. I would be able to basically still play my games with my friends, be able to show off how average I was at League of Legends and continue to play new releases for an audience.

“I started off as a normal webcam kind of streamer, three concurrent viewers for like four years. I was in medical school during this time, so I was only streaming once or twice every other week.

“It was just a creative outlet that I could still enjoy having fun playing video games, keeping in contact with my friends over the internet and all these other things.”

VTubing opened up a world of possibilities for Saiken though. It came at a very opportune time. The wild schedules of med school meant he wasn’t connecting with the same audiences as before. But what he could consume were the Japanese VTubers just starting to take a grip on streaming.

Having already been introduced to the medium, all it took was a small push to pursue it. A scare during his practical rotations, with a resident physician finding his Instagram and his Twitch channel through it, had him rethink his presence online.

“He just got super judgmental about it,” he continued. “I will say I just felt very exposed at that moment. Somebody later down the road who… would be my patient and could just Google up my name and get attached to my Twitch channel and watch me doing all these things.

“I decided that VTubing would actually be a really cool outlet for me to pursue, being able to kind of put on this anonymity while still being able to kind of show off the lifestyle, the grind or lack thereof, in my case of being a doctor and a streamer.”

Instead of getting a model commissioned like many in the VTubing space, Saiken went a lower-budget route. He scrolled through marketplace Nizima to find a model that spoke to him, and ended up only ¥3,000 out of pocket to restart his streaming life.

Since then, he has grown even further from those three CCV days. While his schedule is still sporadic around his residency, Saiken has focused his streaming energy into ‘de-medfluencing’.

To backpedal slightly, ‘medfluencing’ is a term coined in the medical space for the rise of influencers promoting the field’s immense workload. Aligning with the ‘hustle culture grindset’, there are innumerable videos and messages about study hacks, working 100-hour weeks, and devoting your whole life to med school and eventually your future profession.

“In recent years with TikTok and Instagram getting bigger and bigger, I did start to notice that there is kind of a trend of just like these people that just want to show off how hard they have their nose to the grindstone,” he said.

“If you're like a young college student, a pre-medical student, or somebody who wants to become a doctor or just in health care in general, I feel like you would get discouraged by seeing these types of videos.”

Saiken was never a part of that, and instead uses his place in content creation to break down that stigma and promote a healthier work-life balance.

“[I'm normal]. I didn't fail out. I graduated medical school. I got my M.D., I matched into residency. That is the majority of doctors. And a lot of doctors really just put in their 40-50 hours a week, either in the clinic, the hospital, the operating room, whatever, and they don't take anything home with them.

“Part of my VTuber brand was kind of wanting to do that… normalizing that you can be a normal guy and still work in this field.”

Saiken is by no means the biggest medical content creator. He isn’t even the biggest ‘doctor VTuber’⁠—there is a cohort of them that lurk around online. But his brand of content has managed to reach some students fretting about their future, helping ease some concerns.

“It makes me happy to know that there are other people like me out there,” he mentioned. “Some of them are my senpais in VTubing and my senpais in doctoring also, which is really interesting.

“The ones that are still in medical school are streaming their study streams, and we're in the chat kind of joking like ‘oh yeah, that works, but wouldn't you want to get an MRI first?’ Like doing questions online on stream together, which is really fun.”

And for himself, he wouldn’t have made it through medical school without streaming as a creative outlet. As for the future? As long as VTubing remains a hobby, you’ll find Saiken trying to keep his sanity through it.

“Thinking back to like six years ago… I could have put my nose to the grindstone and lost everything that would make me, me, right? Playing video games, hanging out with my friends, being chronically online.

“I could have studied twice as hard, twice as much, gotten more awards, and had better grades. But, you know, at the end of the day, I still have made my dreams happen.

“I don't think most people know or care if your doctor was in the top 1% of their medical school class 40 years ago. If you're able to do your job, it shouldn't really matter what you do outside of work.

“VTubing, streaming, whatever hobbies you have, I feel like you should be able and be free to pursue those things without having anything like a higher moral obligation to society kind of dragging you down.”

Learn more about Saiken in his Behind The Model episode below.