On January 28, YouTuber MrBeast posted a video about providing cataract surgery to 1,000 people.
He worked with ophthalmologist Jeffrey Levenson on the project, which has proved controversial.
Levenson said he did not know who MrBeast was when he first reached out to him, and almost hung up.
An eye doctor who worked with MrBeast for a recent video said he "almost hung up" when the YouTuber first reached out to him because he didn't know who he was.
Jeffrey Levenson, an ophthalmologist and chief medical officer of non-profit eye care organization SEE International, was featured in a video posted on MrBeast's YouTube channel on January 28, in which the YouTuber said he was "curing 1,000 people's blindness" by arranging for them to have sight-restoring cataract surgery.
The YouTuber, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, interviewed Levenson in the video, who said: "Half of all the blindness in the world is people who need a 10-minute surgery."
The video followed patients from various countries around the world who were all given surgery over a three-week period, according to an Instagram post about the partnership from SEE International.
On January 31, SEE International shared a link on its Facebook page to a TED Talk given by Levenson in 2017, called "Ending Preventable Blindness: reinventing cataract surgery." In the talk, Levenson discussed the work he had been doing to bring low-cost cataract surgeries to the world's poorest populations in order to make treatment more accessible.
The caption above the video said that Levenson's TED Talk had led to the collaboration between him and Donaldson.
"I got a call from a stranger. Told me his name was MrBeast, and that he's kind of a big thing on YouTube. He had seen my TED talk, and he told me that he wanted me to help him restore the sight to thousands of blind people all around the world," Levenson said, according to the caption on SEE International's post.
The caption went on to quote Levenson as saying that he did not know who Donaldson was prior to this phone call: "I had never heard of MrBeast so, I almost hung up. But I gratefully did not hang up."
The resulting video blew up, receiving 69 million views and generating a huge amount of online discussion which led to a mixed response.
Some viewers praised the YouTuber for his generosity, while others accused him of performing a stunt for "clout" and views. Others said Donaldson's video pointed to flaws in healthcare systems for people who can't afford or access surgery due to a lack of medical insurance, leaving it up to wealthy individuals like celebrities and influencers to perform charitable acts.
Donaldson became the most-subscribed individual YouTuber in November, overtaking gaming and vlogging creator PewDiePie, who previously held the title for nine years.
He has developed a reputation for giving away large sums of money, rising to fame in 2018 for viral videos where he donated thousands of dollars to small streamers. In 2022, he gave away at least $3.2 million - plus a $2.5 million jet and a private island - in challenge prizes, according to all the YouTube videos he posted that year.
The YouTuber previously stated in an interview with "The Iced Coffee Hour" podcast that he reinvests all the income generated from ad revenue on his videos into making new content and giving away prizes, adding that he is not concerned about his own financial future. Across all of his YouTube channels, and including marketing for a line of chocolate products and a burger restaurant chain that he owns, Donaldson said on the podcast that he spends between seven and eight million dollars per month.
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