Las Vegas’ ZDogg MD hopes viral videos will change our approach to health care

Updated May 6, 2017 - 3:14 pm

The table is barren save for the highly trained medical professional hip-thrusting atop it, rapping about apple-bottom scrubs and fur-lined Crocs.

“We put a disco ball right there,” says Dr. Zubin Damania (aka “ZDoggMD”) after a brief salvo of sing-songy rhymes, surveying a room where a nurse once pole-danced around an IV stand for a video shoot. “It was dope. Until we set off the fire alarm.”

It was in this space, the now-empty offices of the Turntable Health clinic in downtown Las Vegas, that ZDoggMD, the “Weird Al” Yankovic of medicine, filmed the clip for his parody of Flo Rida’s “Low,” which he transformed from a club-worthy ode to booty-dropping honeys to a club-worthy ode to outpatient clinic workers.

Wearing faux dreads and a gleaming grill in said video, Damania turns the song’s mildly titillating original lyrics (“She turned around and gave that big booty a smack”) into a far-less-than-titillating rundown of a nurse’s day-to-day duties (“Turned around and gave that big booty a pap”) as various health professionals mean mug the camera and gyrate to the beat.

The video is but one of dozens that Damania has produced in the past few years, ranging from Taylor Swift parodies about prescription drug abuse (“Blank Script”) to serious ruminations regarding end-of-life care (“Ain’t the Way to Die,” a play on Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie”) to wonky reimaginings of Garth Brooks hits (“Friends With Low Plateletes”), which contains the immortal, karoake-killing couplet, “Ohhh, I’m not big on thrombopoiesis / Think I’ll skip on down to plasmapheresis.”

They’ve helped ZDoggMD become one of the medical profession’s biggest internet phenomenons, with nearly 500,000 followers on Facebook, whose videos have racked up millions of views, who’s become such an in-demand speaker at medical conferences, he’s got gigs booked all over the country through November.

He has hundreds of thousands of converts, many of them medical professionals from here to … you name the state, Damania has fans there.

“I share most of his videos with my peers, because they’re hilarious and educational,” says Sharon Cranford Boyd, a registered nurse in North Carolina for 25 years. “I’ve shared a couple with patients as an educational tool — testicular self exams for the younger men — and they loved it.”

Adds Marie Stephanie Lapid, a registered nurse at Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center who appeared in the “Low” video: “I think Zubin’s music videos are a great outlet for the medical community, because he says things that we’ve always wanted to say to patients or administration.”

All this from a man willing to dress in drag to make a point about the harmful effects of UV rays on one’s skin and who has authored a song titled “Nothing Compares 2 Poo.”

The laughs are a means to a bigger end: ZDoggMD’s ultimate goal is to use his music to help transform the way we approach medicine.

“We need re-personalized care where we’re paid for actual outcomes, where we work as a team, where the human relationship is at the center,” he says. “We’re paid to do things to people instead of for people, and we’re powerless. Patients need to hear that we’re humans. The hope is the music will be a vehicle to trigger a movement and change.”

If this seems an overly ambitious aim, well, what are the odds that a frustrated doctor on the edge of burnout would become an internet sensation, racking up YouTube views at a pace normally reserved for viral novelties starring techno vikings and dancing hamsters?

And yet, this is what ZDoggMD’s done, one poop joke at a time.

A Dogg is born

In a crowded Summerlin cafe, Damania sings of grabbing his crotch as clearly and freely as the table next to him orders their lunch.

Looking like a bald, hoodie-wearing Michael Jackson, he recites a few lines from his testicular-self-examination anthem, “Manhood in the Mirror.” The reworking of Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” is one of Damania’s earlier videos, released in late 2010.

He slips in and out of character so frequently — and seamlessly — it becomes evident that ZDoggMD is less a persona than a natural, undistilled expression of who Damania is.

Seldom can the man contain himself — he’s a blur of one-liners and bouncing-off-the-walls energy, equating his personality to that abdomen-exploding space thingy in “Alien,” something that defies human confinement.

By the time Damania was in his early 30s and got hired at Stanford, where he did his residency, he was already feeling the strain of trying to be the buttoned-down, stern-talking, authoritative presence that doctors have traditionally been expected to be.

For Damania, playing that role was an unnatural, suffocating feeling. A people person to the bone, he wanted a connection with those he was treating, not professional detachment.

He started to feel like an impostor.

“I got very sad and had that early middle-aged crisis at 35,” he acknowledges.

And so he turned to the same thing that helped him as a kid: music.

“Someone asked me, ‘What would you do if you could do anything you wanted to do?’ ” recalls Damania, a family man with kids who’s married to a fellow medical professional. “And I was like, ‘Make parody music that would educate people about medical stuff.’ So the guy said, ‘Well, there’s YouTube, just go do that.’ ”

With that, ZDoggMD was born.

The persona enables Damania to give voice to all the things that he couldn’t at his day job, to call out the bureaucracy of the industry, the bottom-line-first mentality that he saw as being far too prevalent in his field, the stifling of individuality in favor of sticking to proscribed roles.

“ZDoggMD was like my id for a long time,” he says. “He was the guy who could say those things that you would normally get in trouble for saying.”

Every Dogg has his day

The lid has been pried off an economy-sized can of stupid.

Back at Turntable Health, where Damania was CEO and founder, lured to Vegas in 2012 by Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project to start the clinic before it closed in January after three years, he and his crew are filming a skit where Doc Vader has left his lightsaber in a patient’s posterior.

“I’ve been here 30 years, I’ve seen everything in the rectum,” Damania assures a Vader in denial, who, for this shoot, is being portrayed by actor-director Tom Hinueber, a bear-sized dude who has to practically shoehorn himself into Damania’s “Star Wars” costume.

The bit is a play on the climactic scene from “Good Will Hunting,” where Robin Williams’ therapist character consoles a teary-eyed Matt Damon.

“It’s not your fault,” Damania tells the soon-to-be-sobbing archvillain. “It’s not your fault.”

Afterward, Damania and Hinueber giggle constantly while assessing each take like a couple of coaches breaking down game film.

“This is the beauty of having a show,” Damania says. “It’s a container of stupidity.”

Maybe so, but as with pretty much everything else he does, there’s a point behind the punch lines, some real sentiment to go with the fake get-ups.

“When doctors make mistakes, they have no one to turn to,” he explains of the video’s larger message. “They can’t tell their colleagues, because they feel like they’re going to be judged. So if another colleague’s coming up, like, ‘It’s not your fault,’ it’s a hugely powerful thing.”

Shooting clips like these has become a full-time thing for this bunch, whose productions have grown so popular, they now have some of them paid for by various sponsors in sync with ZDoggMD’s message (their clip for ZDoggMD’s take on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was financed by an electronic health records company).

Damania says he’s turned down offers from companies whose products he doesn’t endorse, like a vape pen manufacturer, as well as various drug companies.

“The Doctor Ozs and those guys, they’re board-certified physicians too, but once they start selling (crap) on TV, they lose credibility,” Hinueber says. “We don’t ever want to do that.”

What they do want to do is keep growing and laughing, if not necessarily in that order.

Time will tell if Damania will be able to change the industry the way he envisions.

But at least one thing will never be the same: the man beneath the blond Taylor Swift wig.

“In 2010, I was a type-A, high-strung, achievement-oriented, typical Bay Area doctor,” he says. “In 2017, I travel around the country intuitively feeling that we’re part of a wave of change that’s going to transform and re-humanize an industry. And that transformation never would have occurred had I not put that first video on YouTube.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
TLC by the Numbers
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
5 must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
Five must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table.
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Get a sneak peek at Palace Station's newest renovations
Station Casinos spokesperson Lori Nelson gives a first look at what Palace Station's $192 million renovation will bring. Some areas will begin opening to the public next week according to Nelson. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
New Marilyn Musical Brings Screen Icons Life To Strip
Paris Las Vegas hosts musical bio featuring new, old tunes. (Carol Cling Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life
Kids become firefighters at Fire Station 98 open house
Henderson residents wore fire hats, learned about CPR and met firefighters at the Fire Station 98 open house Saturday, August 11, 2018. (Marcus Villagran Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
People from all over the world attend RollerCon 2018
RollerCon 2018 is a five-day convention focused on the roller derby community and culture at Westgate in Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Las Vegas police officer on being PETA's Sexiest Vegan Next Door
Las Vegas police officer David Anthony talks vegan lifestyle and how he feels about being voted PETA's sexiest Vegan next door from his home on Monday, July 9, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Bark-Andre Furry meets Capitals superfan Ovie the Bulldog
Two of NHL's furriest fans met at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace on Tuesday, June 18, 2018, in Las Vegas. Vegas Golden Knights superfan Bark-Andre Furry and Washington Capitals superfan Ovie the Bulldog shared a plate of meatballs and spaghetti with help from Logan, "The Girl with the Hat." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like