Zubin Damania is not your average doctor. Sure, he has the white coat and stethoscope as well as thirteen years of experience as a physician at Stanford, where he regularly pulled 36-hour shifts.
But these days, Damania is known more for his punchy lyrics than his pain relief. Better identified by his stage name “ZDoggMD”, Damania produces and stars in a series of clever, weird musical parodies about medicine and policy that have earned million of views. His parody of Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” is spot-on and funny even for non-medical types:
But Damania's main gig is as founder of Turntable Health, a subscription-based primary care clinic in Las Vegas. He started it after years of frustration with a system designed to treat rather than prevent disease. He envisions a world where physicians spend more time with their patients than dealing with insurance companies; a world where a doctor’s goal is quality of care, not quantity. It’s a bold vision, sure. But if his videos, which also serve to open up a dialogue between doctors and patients, are any indicator, Damania has the smarts, empathy and lyrical chops to pull it off.
In his own words, here’s how the doctor/rapper/entrepreneur/family man manages to work sleep into his busy schedule.
I tend to go to sleep early while putting my kids to bed, around 8:30 or 9 p.m. Then I usually wake up around 3:30 or four a.m. This allows me to get work done before the kids get up, and also when I’m the sharpest (after my morning coffee).
I don’t have much of a bedtime habit because I’m usually so tired that I fall right asleep. In the morning, I usually have about two cups of black coffee, answer emails and start writing songs, editing video, shooting segments for my vlog, etc. I also try to meditate for at least 15 minutes every morning while it’s still dark outside.
In my medical residency I would routinely stay awake for 36 hours or longer at a time, at least a couple times a week. Brutal! This was in the days before work-hour laws restricting this sort of abuse. The longest I stayed away was probably close to 50 hours.
After being up all day and night, that next day is a blur. I actually started visually hallucinating once — little stuffed animals were floating around. Not what you want your doctor to be seeing when he’s managing your care. One of my co-residents in training fell asleep on the drive home and hit a tree, shattering his leg.
The main tip I learned was to try and catch mini naps any chance you could get. Those little naps made a huge difference in overall coherence and productivity. But my best advice? Just get some damn sleep. This ain’t a way to live.
In terms of my writing, for me it’s the crack of dawn or nothing. That’s when my creativity is maxed out. I don’t overthink, and ideas bubble up and quickly get written down. I often wake up with an idea, but sadly it’s usually at two a.m. so it disrupts my sleep because I have to run to the computer to write it down. Afternoons are the worst for creative thought for me. I’m foggy and generally unproductive.
In the morning I tend to exercise on a treadmill or stair master. For some reason, it’s during these times that the most insane (and often useful) ideas bubble up. I think the analytical mind is silenced, and creative thought is allowed to arise without overthinking.
I’m always traveling and the key thing is earplugs. Hotels are loud and I have these wax-based plugs that mold to your ear and block out pretty much everything. I sleep really well with them in, jet lag or not. I wish I could wear them at home, but I just worry I’ll miss some household emergency or something.
Coach plane seats are impossible for me to sleep in, even with one of those humiliating neck pillows. Hotels with blackout shades are the best spots to sleep for me. Bonus: no kids to wake me up.
Sleep matters, folks.