What is the best gift to give a content creator during the holidays? A camera? A light set? A microphone? What if we can gift all three? Content creation has become such an interesting space that the creator economy, worth over $100 billion globally, has creators covering all kinds of niches. Even conventional professionals work with creators to reach a larger audience. Some simply indulge creators to work with them as influencers, while others choose to do both jobs themselves. The latter is how Dr. Chinonso Egemba became known as Aproko doctor, arguably the most popular professional medical content creator in Nigeria.

In his 4th year at the university, while working as a student doctor, Dr. Chinonso came across a patient who had a stroke. It was a transit stroke (a semi-permanent stroke) but it affected the man’s basic routine. Dr. Chinonso witnessed how the residing doctor spoke intensely to the patient on the importance of healthy living or risk worsening the stroke. It seemed like the patient understood. That is until two years later when Dr. Chinonso met him again. “The stroke had worsened, and he eventually died from it,” Dr. Chinonso recalls. “It was like this man had not heard a word the doctor told him earlier.” Dr. Chinonso became inspired to educate people on health care. After two radio stations rejected his proposal for a health show, he turned to social media.

He started by making short videos offering health tips on Facebook, then moved to Twitter and Instagram. Through videos and tweets, he speaks about important health issues infusing light humor, yet in a stern tone. Part of his content involves him telling people what to eat and what not to eat. In one of his popular tweets, he told Nigerians to avoid eating suya, a loved meat delicacy in Nigeria. The tweet single-handedly started a conversation about meat on the internet.

Although Dr. Chinonso has gradually become the internet doctor, (or as I like to call him our mini google on health issues), it took a while to name his brand. He wanted a name that would stick with people. Aproko, a Nigerian slang for someone who pokes their nose into other people’s business, seemed appropriate considering the opinion people formed about his brand. Some medical doctors thought his method of practicing medicine was unprofessional, uninterested peolple thought his messages were unsolicited, and a Nigerian celebrity once referred to his tone as condescending. “I am like the nosy neighbor no one wants to hear from,” he says. Over the years, the Aproko brand has expanded to include writers, researchers, photographers, videographers, and editors. Aproko doctor has been featured in several ads and videos, including the movie Strained, which discusses sickle cell disease. These days, the doctor can be seen on billboards as a brand ambassador for Aquafina and Power oil. However unconventional Aproko doctors’ methods are, they are proving to have a positive effect on people.

Dr. Chinonso Egemba aka Aproko doctor

Creating health-related content requires a lot of creativity and hard work. Unlike entertainment contents, health-related contents are usually serious and can come off as boring. Aproko doctor has to battle for audience attention alongside comic skitsmakers, lifestyle and other entertainment content creators. This is one of the reasons the doctor started customizing his content. For example, he started saying the name Nkechi at the beginning of his female aimed content, as though he were addressing a real person. His team has to research new trends, after which they look for creative ways to infuse the trends into their content. “It is a lot to do. We work hard not to make content seem like a lecture. Especially now that people have low attention span. We have to figure out how to compress all we have to say in a minute or less,” he says.

Aproko doctor

Despite having a busy job, celebration and holidays have never really been Dr. Chinonso’s scene. “I am the kind of person you invite to a party, and I will be in a corner with a cup of water. I’ll probably strike up a conversation with one person and we will talk all through the party,” he says. When he was in medical school, he couldn’t always go home for the holidays. This meant celebrating holidays with other medical students. For Christmas, the doctor and his friends would go to the market, get a chicken, prepare it, play games, and simply enjoy each other’s company. “One time, we got food from a fancy restaurant. It was a big deal for us then,” he says. “Those of us that couldn’t be with our families, we became family.”

His enthusiasm towards celebrations only got worse when he began full-time clinical practice. As a doctor, there is always a high chance to be on call on Christmas day, sometimes through the holidays. “By no fault of yours, you have to be in the hospital,” he says. “Sometimes you find yourself making the selfish prayer that nobody has to come in,” he adds.

These days, the holidays are a bit different for this doctor. Mostly because he now works on his terms. In 2021, he quit full-time clinical practice to focus on the Aproko doctor brand. Although he consults occasionally, the young doctor works at his own pace. Now when the holidays come around, he can decide to take a little break. For this doctor the holidays always start with his super fan, his mum.

Before Dr. Chinonso gained fame as Aproko doctor, his mum was his biggest supporter. She sold akara (bean ball) to support his dreams. Dr. Chinonso now makes it a tradition to celebrate his mum every December. Coincidentally, her birthday is a few days before Christmas.“It’s part of my appreciation of her,” he says. “Growing up I could see the sacrifices she made for me. So dedicating the month of December to my mum is my way of saying, Mum, I see you,” he says. This year, the family is throwing her a surprise birthday.

“I used to associate Christmas with harmattan,” Dr. Chinonso recalls. “On Christmas morning, you would wake up to the aroma of sweet potato frying and the aroma of chicken. There would be salad and Jollof rice everywhere,” he adds as he reminisces on Christmas as a child. These days a typical Christmas morning for the doctor starts with a glass of water. Then he attends the gym if it is a weekday. “It is always funny when people ask what you’re doing in the gym on Christmas day,” he says. “And you say you’re preparing for the feasting that will take place later.” Then Dr. Chinonso spends the day at home with his wife. “I try as much as I can to keep my space on Christmas day. Throughout the year we get a lot of visitors. So for that day, I tell my wife, it is just us. There is no pressure on how to entertain anyone,” he says. The Egembas then attend a service online, a tradition that started three years ago when the pandemic hit but stuck with the Egembas.

The days after Christmas are when the Egembas celebrate the holidays with other people. They cook a lot of food and share it with their friends and neighbors. “Our security personnel would always say “you won’t get anything from Aproko doctor and his wife on Christmas day. But the day after Christmas, is premium enjoyment,” he says. 

This year, Christmas with the Egembas is towing the same line. Although, they plan on taking a mini vacation with his small circle of friends whom he refers to as his Nwanne(s)- meaning the son or child of my mother in the Igbo dialect. “These are friends that have become my brothers, and their wives have become my sisters,” he says.

Meanwhile, the job of a content creator doesn’t stop during the holidays. Because of the dynamic nature of the internet particularly social media, consistency is important for a content creator, or you risk losing your audience’s attention. Yet, one must also consider the saying, all work, and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So the weeks leading up to Christmas, Dr. Chinonso and his team pre-produce all his Christmas content. They take a break right before Christmas day and resume work after the boxing day. They do this for the new year celebration too. “I work harder now than I used to in clinical practice,” he says. “Because there are more responsibilities and people involved. But I have managed to create what I call a work-life integration. Where work has become my life and vice versa.”

Though the work of a creator, in this case, a doctor-creator, never truly closes, the end of the year always comes with an air of gratitude for the young doctor. “I don’t make new year’s resolutions. They do not work for me. I don’t have to wait till the new year to make changes,” says Dr. Chinonso. This year Dr. Chinonso is grateful for family, growth, lessons, and even some of his struggles. “When I was going through them, it was tough. But I realize now that they made me a better person,” he says. 

Next year, the brand plans to go beyond social media. They plan to produce more video content with at least one mainstream movie next year. There are also plans to translate their content into indigenous languages. “We want to be able to truly reach our audience and understand what they expect from us and how best to reach them,” says the doctor. This year the brand screened 400 women in Lagos for cervical cancer and treated some of them for free through the 100k club, a non-profit oragnisatin founded by Aproko doctor. Next year, the plan is to reach at least 2,000 women and take this service to other states in Nigeria.

It is common for people to visit the hospital only when they fall sick and not before. “The truth is, whether we are interested in these health conversations or not, we need to know them. Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of hospital patients every year. Imagine if we can reduce this,” he says. Until then, don’t forget to check your blood pressure. “It sounds mundane, yet as simple as working into a pharmacy to check your blood pressure is, it might just save your life,” says your favorite nosy doctor. 

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