May 23rd, 2022

In Praise of Dr. Glaucomflecken

In the Ophthalmologist’s Office, 1930. William Sharp.

Sometimes there is someone so good at something that there is universal agreement we are witnessing something special.

Babe Ruth, Serena Williams, and Michael Jordan competing at their peaks. Charles Dickens or Jane Austen creating whole worlds out of invented characters and plots. Vladimir Horowitz performing Rachmaninoff at Carnegie Hall. Bernini creating sculptures from cold, hard marble that still take our breath away when we see them for the first time, 400 years later. Velazquez featuring himself and other onlookers in the greatest painting of all time (OK, my opinion), Las Meninas.

And, in the category of “Creator of Short Satirical Videos about the American Healthcare System,” we have Dr. Will Flanary, more commonly known by his stage name, Dr. Glaucomflecken.

Unlike my crowning the Velazquez painting the greatest ever, I’d argue this one is not just my opinion. It’s a fact.

Flanary’s short videos — featuring him (and just him) playing a variety of doctors, nurses, and administrators — have earned him universal praise from the medical community. We gobble up each release on Twitter or TikTok or YouTube, and rapturously respond with recognition about the eccentricities of our specialty, or the absurdities of American medicine. Often both.

How did a private practice ophthalmologist in Portland, Oregon, become the universal spokesperson for frustrated clinicians everywhere? As noted in a recent profile, he was always funny — doing stand-up comedy before medical school, contributing to a satirical medical site, posting on Twitter.

Then he nearly died — literally — suffering ventricular fibrillation at home in May 2020. Fortunately, his wife performed CPR until EMTs arrived, and he underwent placement of an implantable defibrillator during a short hospital stay.

But this experience didn’t only leave him with a lifesaving device. It also gave him first-hand experience navigating the insane complexities of the U.S. healthcare system, one so Byzantine that people who move here from Canada or Europe shudder at the prospect of dealing with it. Flanary took out his frustrations by skewering the system in his short videos, which have a gargantuan following.

Some choice examples: Prior authorizations. Hospital budget cuts. Academic publishing. The medical residency match.

How popular has he become within the medical community? He has over 1.5 million followers on TikTok, more than half a million on Twitter — that’s a lot. He’s the commencement speaker for today’s Yale School of Medicine graduation, quite the honor! I’m hoping to interview him for our inaugural podcast on Clinical Infectious Diseases, but not sure he will have the time — the invitation is currently sitting in his email inbox.

However, maybe he ultimately will agree to the interview, because he seems to have a soft spot for our quirky specialty. In these videos, watch him quite brilliantly capture our penchant for obsessive histories, long notes, and responsible antibiotic prescribing — and never once does he make fun of us for not doing any surgical procedures. Enjoy!

1. Medical student arrives for his ID rotation.

2. Ace your interview for ID fellowship.

3. How to think like an ID doctor.

4. … and let’s finish with a timely one.



6 Responses to “In Praise of Dr. Glaucomflecken”

  1. Loretta S says:

    Agree 100%. I “discovered” Dr. Glaucomflecken from reading this blog. As I am laughing at his videos, I am always thinking how he has captured the essence of a particular medical specialty or a healthcare system absurdity perfectly. Thank goodness for Dr. Glaucomflecken — and this blog. 🙂

  2. Sara Rudge says:

    I could not agree with you more! Dr. G is a master at his craft. We all relate to him- and he had provided such a bright light during the darkness of the pandemic. Thank you!!!!

  3. Amutha Rajagopal says:

    Truly one of a kind! He has done a great service to all of us by sharing his humor!

  4. Pascalis Vergidis says:

    This means we should encourage young people in becoming YouTubers and influencers (?)

  5. David Hurwitz says:

    Love Dr. G’s unique style of playing all of the characters to perfection and come back to viewing his spot on videos again and again.

    “Bill Orders Antibiotics” is another great ID centric video.

  6. Loretta S says:

    His Monkeypox video is so funny. When he says the line, “His histories are so good, he gave Ken Burns Imposter Syndrome”, I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

Biography | Disclosures | Summaries

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