Dr. James Adams is an emergency physician from Chicago. When he is not busy with his clinical and academic responsibilities, Dr. Adams can be found running along the Chicago lakefront. He uses a positive outlook and good vibes to keep himself and those around him well. Here’s how he stays healthy in EM!


  • Name: James Adams, MDjames adams
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Current job(s): Professor and Chair Department of Emergency Medicine Northwestern University; Senior Vice President and Chief Medial Officer, Northwestern Memorial Healthcare Corporation
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: Gratitude
  • Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Being around people who have positive energy.

To all the people past and present, personal and professional, who have been great mentors, colleagues, family, and friends–current faculty and residents included. I would not be healthy if I have not lived and worked among fantastic people who have given me so much.

What are the top ways you keep healthy?

  1. Eat right
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep well

What’s your ideal workout?

Running slowly along the Chicago lakefront and lifting weights at the neighborhood gym.

Do you track your fitness? How?

Nope, no tracking at all. I have enough tracking, measures, and competition in my life and my exercise is to make me feel good, not for tracking. But maybe someday, I have the wish to run the Bordeaux marathon again. I did it in 2013 with friends. They serve wine along the course, serve cheese, meats, and even oysters. Of course, you want to run it as slowly as possible and taste the great left bank wines of Bordeaux. I have no idea how long I took but if it was less than 6 hours, I wasted some wine tasting time. I recommend you do it.

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

I stopped night shifts after I added the role of health system CMO, but my routine was to make sure that I did not have sleep deficit in the nights before the clinical overnight. My routine included:

  • Not using an alarm on the day before the overnight
  • Kept it light on the carbohydrates 48 hours before overnights
  • Laid down the afternoon/early evening before the overnight and closed my eyes whether I felt tired or not, and made sure it was comfortable, quiet, and very dark or I used eyeshades

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

Eat before the shift, stay well hydrated, and eat during the shift.

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

Eliminate unproductive, unhelpful, or negative thoughts. So much energy is wasted –from non productive thoughts, actions, behavior, and thinking. I watch good people do nice things, who do not think about bad stuff, and choose to be happy. Nothing and nobody makes a person happy. Happiness comes from within. It is a constant exercise, but really is worth it.

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

Task overload is by far my biggest challenge, and I only focus on priorities that make a difference. That especially includes small conversations, lighthearted chit chat, as well as deep and heavy work. I judge much less, see the good in people, and accomplish so much more.

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give. I have no idea who said it. My life is just about giving.

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

Mark Courtney
Chris Beach
Ron Walls


Zafrina Poonja, MD

Zafrina Poonja, MD

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


Emergency Medicine Physician @ Vancouver General Hospital. Assistant Editor @ALiEMteam. Lover of travel, soccer, and boat shoes.