Las Vegas, NV — Tony Hsieh makes no small plans.

When he founded Zappos, he fought back the expected drudgery of call-center work with a quirky, first-of-its-kind corporate culture that earned enthusiastic employees. Then he caught the eye of the world’s biggest online retailer to give his shoes and clothes an even larger stage.

His latest endeavor may be bigger still: Hsieh’s Downtown Project is attempting to transform the area from a decaying afterthought to an incubator for new businesses and a burgeoning sense of community. He’s invested both himself – including nearly $400 million of his fortune – and his company there. The Zappos headquarters will be moving downtown in just a few months and Hsieh wants it to become the kind of place his people will want to work and live.

The biggest driver of change, though, is Hsieh himself. He’s a networker with a cause – meeting, one by one, with the leaders of technology start-ups, education initiatives, entertainment venues, and others to build a coalition of change through investment in Vegas.

One of his recruits was Zubin Damania, a Stanford-trained doctor, known online as ZDoggMD. The rapping, straight-talking, “slightly funnier than placebo” doctor isn’t exactly who you’d expect to take on Hsieh’s challenge of changing healthcare in Vegas, but his big ideas are exactly what Vegas – and maybe America – have been looking for.

Like a lot of innovators, Damania’s interest in reinventing the system came from his own bad experience in it. In a recent talk he described a moment when his daughter was playing with his stethoscope, saying she wanted to become a doctor someday: “The thought that my daughter might go into medicine was horrifying to me,” he said. “I looked in the mirror and all I saw was a disconnected burned out zombie with a stethoscope. What happened to me?”

He knew he wasn’t doing the right thing for himself or his patients. He wanted to work another way.

So, when Hsieh told him about the Downtown Project, Damania and his wife Margaret, both physicians, moved to Las Vegas.

Since he arrived, Damania’s had dozens of meetings with health care experts, insurance representatives, doctors, group managers and potential customers. The model of medicine his new venture will be offering represents an entirely different approach to primary care. One that clears up one of the blindspots he sees in typical medicine: “in order to take care of people, we must prevent disease and promote wellness.”

The new downtown clinic will include unlimited primary care access, access to health coaches and classes for nutrition, cooking and yoga, for a flat monthly fee. That offer may expand to other wellness-related amenities, such as a gym.

Damania believes the improving care at the primary level can cut into the cost of more expensive chronic and catastrophic care, saving money for patients and employers. To that end, he doesn’t see this model as a choice just for individual consumers. Instead, he thinks it could provide significant cost savings to self-insured employers and government agencies by putting effective, fixed-price primary care at the center of medicine.

For himself, Damania wants to bring human connections back to the center of care – to not feel like a miserable zombie in a system that dehumanizes doctors and patients. This clinic is the first step. But, certainly not the last we’ll see from ZDoggMD.

Oh, and if you’re deciding which ZDoggMD video to start with, let us suggest one of his greatest hits, like Flu Shot Anthem or Dysentery: The Musical (these are work safe because we work in healthcare

Posted by: Leigh Householder

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.