Tag Archives: Dr. Zubin Damania

Disappointed.

That moment when someone who’s inspired you turns out to be a jerK? I experienced that this week.

There’s a doctor in Las Vegas, who goes by the moniker ZDoggMD online. He’s gotten a lot of notoriety over the years, been on cable television news, recorded videos, and basically, developed a significant social media following. I’m not going to go into too much detail… in my opinion, he doesn’t deserve any more help than he already has.

So why am I writing about him then? I think I need to get this off of my chest.

I saw Dr. Zubin Damania deliver the keynote address at the initial HealtheVoices Conference two years ago. I was inspired by how he seemed to take a different approach to health care, and how to deliver the important messages that patients needed to hear.

I’m a big fan of Turntable Health, the health care initiative he got off the ground in downtown Las Vegas with the help of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. After seeing Dr. Damania speak in 2015, I made an appointment to tour Turntable Health when I was in Vegas the following March. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the story I wrote about my tour published; I couldn’t get my facts double checked by the staff there, and I didn’t feel it was right to publish something that might not be entirely accurate. But I was very impressed by Turntable Health, and by Dr. Z, as the staff there refers to him.

Fast forward to this week. Using his ZDogg online persona on Twitter and Instagram, he posted a photo designed to shame and guilt People With Diabetes. It was remarkably horrible. It was junior high school level crass.

Cue the immediate backlash from the diabetes community. Many advocates stepped forward to voice their disapproval. Reaction was swift, and at times, it was pretty intense. Which elicited responses from Dr. Z himself.

Later, he took to Facebook Live, along with a couple of friends (or employees or accolytes or something), and he tried to explain the posting. He went to great lengths to explain that he was only reposting an existing meme. Yeah, that makes it aaalll better.

He complained a lot about Type 1s and how they were overly sensitive, and how this post had nothing to do with them, and how it was really directed at Type 2s. At the end of the video, he deleted the post, and then mocked deleting the post, both at the end of the video and afterward in comments on the video.

It’s easy to get angry about behavior like this. It attempted to shame People With Diabetes… ALL People With Diabetes. It allowed people to laugh at those living with a chronic condition they will have to live with the rest of their lives. It gave voice to countless medical professionals who believe the message in his post is the proper way to treat People With Diabetes.

In addition to violating the sensitivities of everyone who believes in treating others with common decency, Dr. Damania violated two of the most important tenets of internet communication:

1. Consider carefully all the implications of what you’re posting, before you post.
It’s like salt in your stew: you can always add more, but it’s really hard to take any away.

2. You can almost never recover your reputation by complaining about the people you’ve already offended.
It’s the social media equivalent of kicking someone when they’re down. It confirms your status as the bully.

I’ve posted things I’ve had to take back. At one point or another, just about everyone does. In fact, two of the most difficult things for me are to apologize for posting something that bothered someone else; and to be happy for people who get to experience things I’ve always wanted to experience.

Those things are hard for me to do, but the difficulty I have with them is no excuse not to do them. In my case, I must express these things exactly when they will mean the most. Even when I’m not sure how sorry I am that I bothered someone, or I’m not sure how happy I am for someone else.

It’s not important how I feel about those things. It’s important how they feel about those things.

There are gray areas in reacting to social media backlash too. But what I’ve seen through this episode… from the original post, to the hurtful comments from others who chose to Do No Harm by becoming healthcare professionals, to leaving the post up and letting animosity boil until deleting the post toward the end of a less than sincere video rant… shows me that for Dr. Z, there is no gray area. He didn’t leave himself any.

If you know me, you know I’m the kind of person who tries to consider all sides of an issue before saying anything about it. I admit it… I was inspired by Dr. Z previously, and I wanted to believe he would act with compassion, if not empathy in this matter. I not only wanted to believe he would, I wanted him to act with compassion so I could believe in him again.

Which leads me to my final piece of social media wisdom: It’s okay to be unhappy. Bitterness? You own your bitterness yourself.

You have to live with your bitterness. You have to live with the cause of it. You can’t escape it without contrition.

Will I have more to say about this? Probably, in another form, in another venue. Truly, I am disappointed. I want to laud Dr. Damania, and I want to celebrate his successes. After this week, however, I find myself fearing for his patients, and fearing for the patients and acquaintances of those he has influenced.

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