Finishing up his first year as an emergency medicine resident, Dr. Ryan Tam has strived to integrate wellness into his normal routine. Maintaining his love for cooking and photography has helped provide him with balance over the past year. Being a foodie, he’s got great tips to eating well and hitting all of the essential food groups. Believe it or not, the food still tastes great! He hopes that his small changes in day to day routine, will become permanent habits of wellness. Here’s how he stays healthy in EM!

  • Ryan TamName: Ryan Tam
  • Location: Montreal, Quebec
  • Current job(s): Emergency Resident, PGY-1
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: Be-active!
  • Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Day to day would definitely be cooking and listening to music. If I have some spare time I like to shoot videos and photography.

What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?

  1. Keeping active. No flash or magic with me. I try to keep active and incorporate physical activity throughout the day, especially if I can’t regularly make it to the gym during those heavier rotations. Growing up as a suburbanite, living in Montreal has really helped solidify my “bohemian” lifestyle. I walk and bike everywhere from work to the local watering hole. As a food enthusiast, it is beyond luxury having the option to walk and select between 5 grocery stores and farmers’ markets every other day!
  1. Get enough sleep. Gone are my med school days powering through lectures with coffee and getting kidney stones (a story for another time). I really make it a priority to get 6-8 hours of Zzz’s every night. The benefits are a no-brainer. I feel not only more energized but motivated to make the most out of every day. Eat, Shift, Sleep, Repeat!
  1. Eating well. As much of a foodie as I am, I am also super lazy. I get my servings of fruits and veggies because they are both easy to prep and ultra portable when I’m on the go. Other things I’ve found to be essential to eating well with a busy schedule: 1. investing in a blender (smoothies/sorbets are your friend) 2. Kale is not only fashionable but tough (it won’t wilt if you dress it in the morning) 3. Want to make your dips healthier, incorporate lean protein into your meal, and make breakfast cereal portable? Try Greek yogurt- it will transform your life!

What’s your ideal workout?

I like to start off with 30 minutes of cardio whether it’s a run, spin or stairs. Then I hit the weights. Although there are more functional and efficient ways of working out, there’s a certain charm in lifting dumbbells, trying out new exercises, and targeting specific muscle groups. I like to finish off with some swimming, mostly because I’m too lazy to stretch and what better way is there to cool down? I’m not into routines so I always try to incorporate new exercises into my regimen. I might finally try hot yoga one day!

Do you track your fitness? How?

Through the power of technology! I’m currently using a fitness tracker on my phone. Apparently we accumulate up to 10,000 steps per shift?! I really find it helps to quantify and keep my OCD at ease particularly as I don’t keep a regular exercise schedule. While I don’t have any particular goals, trending those calories and steps provides insight that helps me to make small adjustments in my activity level throughout the month.

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

Preparation: I like to wake up normally and have an earlier dinner coupled with a 2-3 hour nap right before the shift. I usually sip coffee throughout the night and have a mug around just in case the yawns sneak up on me around 4 am.

Recovery: Recovering from the night shift is simple for me. I turn off all my alarms and give my body as much rest as it wants. It often turns out that I wake up in time for an early dinner and if I have another shift that night then I’m right on schedule!

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

I’m always hangry! I would say the various bar shaped snacks + veggies + fruits that I attempt to stuff into my scrub pockets. We have resident meal cards here so sometimes the cafeteria burger helps hit the spot.

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

By keeping in touch with friends and family. I often will be in the zone for a few weeks- working, reading and breathing medicine. While it is engaging and interesting, I always find it surprisingly refreshing to step away from it all, interact with people who aren’t in medicine, and connect with the rest of the world. Whether its a phone call, skype or a weekend getaway, I find it really helps strengthen my emotional footing when I start to work again. The most important thing I’ve done this year is putting in extra effort to schedule time to see my friends and family, because there’s always going to be another epic shift waiting for you.

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

I’m going to go with shiftwork. As much as there is to love about not having a 9 to 5 job, I suspect shift work will get less exciting as the years go by. I’ve had many mentors talk about transitioning my practice as I progress along your career. I’m not sure what specific challenges will lie in my future but so far the EM community around me has been very supportive!

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

Make it a seamless part of your life. Small, sustainable changes make a big difference over time.

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

Jeff Yoo
Nidhi Sahi
Mahmood Hasan

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.