The Sledgehammer

The Doctor Will Influence You Now

December 9, 2020

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Who was your first famous doctor?

If you were a teenager in the mid-’90s—with questions about that kind of health stuff—then Dr. Drew Pinsky of Loveline was a godsent guide to getting answers.

Maybe it was Dr. Phil McGraw, the clinical psychologist who rose to fame thanks to his down-home life advice on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Or Oprah’s other medical expert, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who also earned his own TV show by sharing accessible (and later dubious) healthcare guidance.

Perhaps your encounter was more recent: Dr. Travis Stork, who first found love on The Bachelor and then became cohost of The Doctors, or Dr. Sandra Lee, dermatologist on her must-squeeze TV show Dr. Pimple Popper.

Point is, there’s something intriguing about a medical expert with a mass platform—and, until recently, that platform was TV. But, increasingly, physicians are finding themselves wielding influence on a smaller screen: social media.

Take Dr. Damania, for example. In one of his most popular YouTube videos, he’s got on scrubs (and a fur coat) as he croons his version of one of the now-infamous R. Kelly’s hits, “Ignition”:

Now, I’m not trying to be rude
but hey, CHF is killing you.
Lungs congested up with fluid
while my census is 32.
That’s why I’m all up in your grill
tryin’ to get ya to a Lasix pill.
You must be an HMO
the way you’ll NOT be payin’ the bill.

Dr. Zubin Damania, aka ZDoggMD, is a practicing internist in California who turned to social media after feeling demoralized from the “soul-crushing” aspects of practicing medicine (e.g., paperwork, profitability pressures). He uses his platform to address the burnout he felt and to spark change—and while he does have many parody videos on his channel, he also hosts a vlog where he digs into more serious topics. ZDoggMD now has 250,000+ subscribers on YouTube and 400,000+ followers on Instagram, as well as a robust speaking program.

While most healthcare professionals (HCPs) aren’t putting out music videos, they are stepping up their content games to compete with the rest of the social media sphere.

For example:

Dr. Hafiza Khan, a cardiologist, creates swipe-worthy Instagram carousels and IGTV videos that break down clinical data and offer approachable advice for modern heart health.

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A post shared by Hafiza Khan,MD |Cardiologist (

Dr. Rose Leslie, a primary care physician in her early 30s, is slaying TikTok with her hilarious videos that cover a myriad of medical topics. She’s as bingeable as a Netflix show and much more informative.

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♬ original sound – Doctor Leslie

So what can we learn from these HCPs-turned-social media influencers?

HCP influence doesn’t only happen on Sermo, through speaker programs, and at congresses. Just like us normal folks, HCPs’ professional interests can bleed into their personal social media accounts. As we see with ZDoggMD and other HCP influencers, important conversations are happening in a variety of surprising places. So the best spot to reach your HCP audience might not always be a physician-only social network or professional setting; finding them on “consumer” platforms can be just as effective.

HCP-led discussions don’t have to be drab or drawn-out. As many of our influencers have shown, docs are down to be “edu-tained” too! In fact, a typical HCP influencer’s social media account offers a healthy mix of silly and serious content—everything from medical memes to case commentary. Whatever the topic, these influencers know their peers are time-limited, so they use graphics and vocab to get right to the point (often in 150 characters or less).

HCPs are important influencers for patients, too. In many categories, consumers want to hear from the experts, not patient influencers or celebrities. An engaging and knowledgeable physician or nurse can have a significant patient following for brands to tap into, and as HCPs get “better” at crafting more entertaining and mass market communications, their patient audience is likely to grow as well.

So, whether you’re inspired to engage HCP influencers or just ready to rethink your own clinical content, then we invite you back to the original lyrics of “Ignition” and recommend adopting this mindset:

“I’m about to have me some fun.”
(However, we recommend avoiding “sippin’ on coke and rum” as part of the development process.)

At any given time, there are 200+ actual sledgehammers present in the Heartbeat office. To celebrate their first year on the team, each HB’er receives their very own sledge—a nod to our daily pursuit of tearing down tiresome healthcare marketing. To determine what is built in its place, we often turn to outside industries, cultural forces, and personal experiences. We eagerly share them with one another, and now we’re sharing them with you. Clear the way—here comes The Sledgehammer.