Dr. Sam Ko (@drsamko) is an emergency physician from Southern California. Wellness is something very important to him, and it totally reflects on how present it is in his daily life. From practicing daily rituals to scheduling time for regular meditation, he always takes the opportunity to live in the now and be present. Here’s how he stays healthy in EM!

  • Name: Sam Ko, MD, MBASam Ko
  • Location: Southern California
  • Current job(s): Associate Medical Director at San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: Balance
  • Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Creating space and time to enjoy life and be healthy so I can bring the best version of myself to patients and colleagues.

What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?

  1. Meditation. I practice a breathing meditation regularly. There are lots of thoughts, emotions, ideas, worries, and feelings percolating in my mind. To get a break from this, I spend at least 20 minutes per day meditating. Two great resources to begin with are two apps: HeadSpace and Calm (no financial connection).
  1. Rituals. I have rituals for the beginning and end of my days. During the morning, my ritual consists of making the bed, writing in my journal, and meditating. About an hour before bed, I turn the house into night mode, i.e. dim lights and decrease screen time. Then, I journal on the laptop about the events of the day.
  1. Travel. This quote from Pico Ayer sums it up for me: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”

What’s your ideal workout?

Yoga. I usually do yoga at a local studio, 2-4 days per week. Also, I have a couple of yoga videos to use at home. Amazingly, I feel refreshed and more energized after a yoga class compared to other forms of exercise. My favorite pose is savasana (corpse pose) which is performed at the end of a session.

Do you track your fitness? How?

Yes, using the FitBit Blaze.

How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?

Sleep in as much as possible during the day of the night shift; at least 9-12 hours.

Schedule all the night shifts in a row. Then take a few days off after doing this stretch of night shifts. Sleep in as much as possible the day before the first night shift. Sleep as soon as possible after the night shift. When leaving the ED in the morning, I decrease exposure to the sunlight by wearing sunglasses on the drive home. Lastly, while sleeping, I use eye masks, ear plugs, and cool down the house dramatically.

How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?

Eat a little bit throughout the shift. One new tool I purchased was the Ninja Blender, which I use to make veggie/fruit smoothies.

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

During a shift, focus on the patient in front of me. Be fully present to each person while in the room. One tip is to get centered and present by taking several deep breaths before entering the room.

What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?

Burnout.

I address this challenge by taking complete ownership of my health and wellness. Learning to say NO. Recognizing when I need to take time off to recover. Keeping expenses low so that I am not obligated to work more shifts than I really want to.

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

You can only give what you have.

Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?

Kathy Clem
James Rhee
Viam Dinh

Zafrina Poonja, MD

Zafrina Poonja, MD

Editor, How I Stay Healthy in EM series
Emergency Medicine Resident
University of Alberta
Zafrina Poonja, MD

@zafrinapoonja

Emergency Medicine Resident. Assistant Editor @ALiEMteam. Lover of travel, soccer, and boat shoes.