The Dermy Doc is in

OUWB grad has 57,000 (and growing) Instagram followers, subscription box service

OUWB alumnae Fatima Fahs, M.D., poses at a desk

Fatima Fahs, M.D. -- aka Dermy Doc -- has nearly 57,000 followers on Instagram, though she’d rather you not refer to her as an influencer.

An image of the various contents from the Dermy Doc Box

In late 2020, Fahs launched Dermy Doc Box — a subscription box service for skin care-related items, all personally approved by Fahs.

icon of a calendarDecember 21, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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Even though OUWB alumnae Fatima Fahs, M.D., has nearly 57,000 followers on Instagram, she’d rather you not refer to her as an influencer.

She has good reason.

Fahs says the term “influencer” implies one is influenced by money, opportunities, clout, followers, etc. — and she is not.

Rather, she has simply channeled her passion for art and creativity, a love for all things dermatology, and a commitment to her role as a physician — all on a platform and in a way that resonates with others.

In this case, the way is via the “Dermy Doctor” page on Instagram, where there just happens to be 56,785 others along for the ride. It’s also led her to start a subscription box for skin care products called the “Dermy Doc Box.”

“It’s not something that happened overnight,” she says, referring to her following.

“It’s just been a part of my journey and I think people have been interested to follow along and see where things take me.”

Fahs, who insists she is a dermatologist first and foremost, also hopes to inspire others in the field of medicine to never forget who they are and pursue their own passions and interests.

“You can have aspirations outside of medicine and I think it’s so important that throughout your medical journey you cultivate that desire,” she says. “If you enjoy something else, keep that a part of you. You don’t have to let go of the things that you love because you decided to become a doctor.”

‘This is where I’d rather be’

Fahs was born and raised in Michigan. Before becoming an undergrad, she went back and forth between going to art school and pursuing a career in medicine.

She eventually jumped at an opportunity to enroll in an undergraduate program at Wayne State University that essentially guaranteed her a seat in the school’s college of medicine. While in her pre-med courses, she minored in art.

But then, in the early 2010s, she became aware of OUWB.

Even with the guaranteed seat at WSU, Fahs says she felt OUWB would allow her to better cultivate her creativeness. She says the passion behind the medical school was palpable as was the ability to innovate and try new things.

“I was like, ‘I feel like this is where I’d rather be,’” she says. “Even though we would be only the second graduating class, I felt like this is where I belong so that’s why I chose OUWB.”

Fahs says her gut feelings ended up proving true as OUWB students were “very involved in their learning processes…whether that was shaping the curriculum, giving feedback, or being pioneers for something new.”

“It was always preparing me for that innovative mindset,” she says. “Being at a new school was helpful for my future career because it taught me to be flexible, to roll with the punches, to try something new, and to not be afraid of something different.”

Fahs says she didn’t feel like a number, and that she knew — and felt supported by — her classmates, faculty, and staff.

“I felt like people understood my personality, my likes, my dislikes, my goals…and everyone was on the same track of helping each other get to where we ultimately wanted to be,” she says.

While at OUWB, she was introduced to the world of dermatology and fell in love with the specialty.

“It’s a nice mix of medicine and art because you definitely have to be a creative person…you have to be a visual person and notice details and nuances,” she says. “I have a keen eye for things and that’s why the specialty spoke to me.”

Fahs — OUWB’s first graduate to match in dermatology — completed her residency through WSU.

It was during that time that Fahs says she found a new outlet for her artistic side.

“That’s when I started my Instagram,” she says. “It was just a creative outlet for expression, a way to connect with people, share my thoughts, de-stress, get creative with photos…it just kind of took off from there.”

OUWB alumnae Fatima Fahs, M.D. at her commencement

‘A really heavy responsibility’

Fahs says she and her husband talked about many different names, but Dermy Doctor was the one that seemed to stick. She now holds a trademark for the name.

Fahs, a dermatologist with metro Detroit’s Hamzavi Dermatology, says she never set out to build a huge following on Instagram. She calls growth of her page slow and organic.

Fahs says part of the reason is that a lot of thought goes into each and every post, whether it’s a photo of her two children playing soccer or enjoying a day at an aquarium or a post about eczema tips and tricks for October’s Eczema Awareness Month.

“If you’re a doctor on social media, you have to remember that before anything — you took an oath to do no harm, to tell the truth always, and do good by people,” she says. “It carries a really heavy responsibility.”

Fahs says she believes people who follow her have come to trust her due to her commitment to being transparent and genuine.

She says she does make money from her Instagram, but “definitely still needs to be a dermatologist.” The money she makes is from paid advertisements that she says she will take on only after “extreme consideration,” which includes testing products herself, and considering if she would recommend it to patients and family.

“I don’t like to consider myself an influencer, but I know as a physician, I have influence on social media,” says Fahs. “When you are entering social media with a medical degree you have to understand how much weight that carries and how much social responsibility you have on your page.”

Dermy Doc Box

In late 2020, she decided to take things to the next level by launching Dermy Doc Box — a subscription box service for skin care-related items, all personally approved by Fahs.

“I wanted to take matters into my own hands because there was so much I was seeing on social media that was incorrect or ridiculous,” she says. “I just wanted to be able to help people find the right stuff and teach them about it, how to use it, what the benefits are.”

Fahs says she either tests or regularly uses every item that goes into the Dermy Doc Box. Many companies send her items that she tests and don’t make the cut, she says.

“As a physician, and remembering my oath first, I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to be able to cultivate quality skin care, bring it to people for a fraction of the price, and help them reduce that overwhelming feeling about finding good stuff on the internet,” she says.

Each box is $49.99 and Fahs says there’s more than $100 worth of product in every one. A new version comes out for every season. Included with the skin care products is a pamphlet Fahs writes to walk people through each item and explain her recommendations. Boxes also include a “Science of Skin Care” card to help people understand more about the science behind the items in the box.

Dermy Doc Box represents one of the latest steps in the evolution of Fahs, who says she learned how to do it properly by listening to podcasts about subscription boxes and businesses while driving to and from work.

It’s also one of the many things Fahs says she is grateful for in her life.

“If you would have told me in undergrad that this was going to be my life and these were the things I was going to be doing, I don’t think I would have been able to imagine it,” she says. “But it just feels so right. Now I can’t imagine anything else.”

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