Dr. Kelly Williamson is an emergency physician and Assistant Residency Program Director from Advocate Christ Medical Center in Chicago. Keeping active and eating right are core values when it come to Dr. Williamson’s wellness. When she’s not spending time in the clinical or academic setting, Dr. Williamson can be found running on the lakefront or spending time with her family. Here’s how she stays healthy in EM!


  • Name: Kelly Williamson, MD
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Current job(s):  Assistant Residency Program Director, Advocate Christ Medical Center
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: Enthusiasm
  • Primary behavior/activity to help de-stress:  Running!

What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?

  1. Physical activity! Exercise is a daily priority and I mix it up to keep things interesting. Running along the lakefront in the warmer weather months in Chicago is my favorite activity and I do the Chicago triathlon every year to encourage cross-training.
  2. Nutrition. I worked with a nutritionist as a resident who introduced me to Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food”. The concept of eating real food was completely eye-opening and continues to affect my health on a daily basis.
  3. Travel. It is completely rejuvenating to explore new cultures and experience new places. I always come back to work refreshed.

What is your ideal workout?

Running along the lakefront in the warmer weather months in Chicago is my all-time favorite activity. My dog leads the way for each of the 6 miles and takes a well-earned swim in the lake at our halfway point.

Do you track your fitness? How?

I have tried several trackers and am currently loving my Fitbit with heart rate monitoring. The social aspect of comparing steps with friends is an added bonus!

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

I think shift variety is one of the best aspects of emergency medicine, though night shifts remain the most challenging for me. I always work out in the morning before a night shift, have lunch, and then try to sleep for a few hours in the afternoon. I live by my ear plugs and cushioned eye mask! Dinner at a restaurant before heading into a night shift is part of my strategy. I find leaving the house late at night to be the biggest challenge of night shifts. In the morning after an overnight, I’ll head straight to bed when I get home. I limit my sleep to 4 hours so that I’m able to sleep that night and flip back.

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

I am a tupperware fiend! I cook enough for several meals of leftovers since the initial food prep is the most time consuming. Having plenty of healthy options keeps me satisfied throughout the shift and helps me to avoid the processed foods and sweets that are always plentiful in the ED.

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

I always want to make sure that I am treating people with patience and respect, whether that be family, friends, or patients. If I notice that my patience is waning, then it’s definitely a reminder to engage in wellness activities and refocus.

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

We have become increasingly familiar with occupational burnout and its impact on career longevity. There are challenges in the ED environment that will always be present: difficult interactions, the pressure of time-sensitive decision making, and exposure to patient mortality. Working with an engaged and enthusiastic group of residents is the best way to counter these challenges. The delivery of team-based patient care allows me to cultivate and share the joy of medical practice.

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

Maintaining wellness is an active endeavor that requires an ongoing commitment.

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

Patrick Lank
Jeremy Branzetti
Rebecca Bavolek

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.