Just Beat It: ZDoggMD Blends Parody And Public Health

Is that Michael Jackson? Back from the dead with a message for mankind about….testicles?

The video above, “Manhood in the Mirror,” tweeted by TedMed yesterday, may provoke a double-take.  It features what looks like the late King of Pop in a bathrobe urging male viewers to “reach in (their) thongs” and perform a self-check for testicular cancer.

But on closer inspection (of the video, not the contents of your undergarments), behind the black wig, mirrored aviator sunglasses and single sequined glove, is Stanford-trained hospitalist Dr. Zubin Damania.

Damania, also known as ZdoggMD, offers a biting new spin on the stereotypically yawn-inducing world of public health messaging.  He has made over 50 videos that use satire, rap and song to advocate for everything from keeping up with your vaccinations to practicing safe sex.  Though medical music videos may seem like something of a niche market, it turns out that this genre has strong popular appeal.  According to a Time article published earlier this year, Damania’s videos have racked up approximately one million views.

The Time article articulates notable outcomes that followed when Damania released a music video parody of a One Direction hit –- titled “One Injection — about the flu vaccination:

Not long ago, Damania was invited by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to move to Las Vegas to work on his videos and help start a primary-care clinic downtown as part of Hsieh’s vision to revitalize the area. The flu-shot video was filmed for viewing at Zappos’ all-hands company meeting in August. Many of the dancers in the video are Zappos employees; the company has since notched a 35% increase in flu shot adoption over the previous flu season. “We had a big bump in January when flu hysteria kicked in,” says Damania. “It gets tweeted a lot.”

And ultimately, as fun as the videos are, that’s the point — to get public health messages heard. Even though this season’s flu vaccine is estimated at just 62% effective, it’s hard to argue with any approach — irreverent or not — that persuades more people to get immunized.

Though his knack for spoof and squib are undeniable, Damania also brings a serious side to his profession.  He is outspoken on his view of the lifestyles of modern American physicians, describing the design of their days as grueling, bogged down by mountainous and complex insurance-related paper work, concerns and confusions.  He thinks that this compromises doctors’ ability to have meaningful interactions with their patients and provide them with quality care.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Early this year, Damania gave a TedMed talk on the de-humanization of patients and physicians called “Are Zombie Doctors Taking Over America?”

USA Today recently wrote about a new project Damania is spearheading in Las Vegas that takes a stab at the inefficiencies of the standard care-delivery design of many American primary care clinics.  Here’s what it had to say:

The idea of “disruption” is a buzzword for doctors and hospital leaders who are hoping to change the health care system. Damania said he was inspired by Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Prescription, who suggests developing new ideas on the fringe of the health care system.

The Vegas project fits that idea of “fringe” with a diverse community that includes small business owners, freelancers, artists and non-unionized workers – and not enough primary care to serve the people who live and work there.

Damania said his new clinic is partnering with Iora Health, a company that has implemented a team-based, primary care model in Brooklyn, Atlantic City and other areas. The model will be tweaked for the needs of downtown Las Vegas.

“Zubin has a broad view, a systemic view of what needs to change in the health care system,” said Alexander Packard, CFO of Iora Health. “He saw that we had the kind of culture that makes people feel well served.”

Under the Iora model, there are health coaches, ideally from the local community, as well as nurses and physicians, working to treat each patient. Each morning the entire staff meets in a huddle — a meeting to discuss each patient they are scheduled to see that day. Damania calls this a “non-hierarchical” approach, where time and money is preserved by realizing “not everything has to be done by a doctor.”

Readers, reactions? Further reading on health care messaging:
One Doctor’s Quest To Change Medicine Through Song

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