Dr. Sara Gray (@EmICUcanada) is an emergency physician and ICU attending at St. Micheal’s Hospital in Toronto. In addition to being the Chair of the CAEP Critical Care Committee (C4), she is also the Medical Director of Emergency Preparedness at St. Mike’s. Despite holding multiple positions, Dr. Gray still finds time to stay well, by staying in touch with her family and maintaining mindfulness. Her love for running and the outdoors, keeps her active and grounded. Check out how she stays healthy in emergency medicine!

  • Name: Sara GraySara Gray
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario
  • Current job(s): Mom of two kids, wife/daughter/sister/friend, staff physician in the ED and the ICU at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Medical Director of Emergency Preparedness at St Mike’s, Assistant Professor University of Toronto, Chair of the CAEP Critical Care Committee (C4)
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: Deep breathing. Yes, I know that’s 2 words.
  • Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Exercise

What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?

  1. Exercise. I love to run or play soccer with my kids. We take them rock-climbing, or on canoe trips. Fresh air and exercise always clears my head and leaves me feeling refreshed.
  2. Mindfulness. I try, (and often fail) to meditate. But even if I only stay still for 2 minutes, I find I can regain my perspective, and occasionally some inner peace.
  3. Stay connected. Spending time with people who matter to me, helps me smile, re-group, and re-engage.

What’s your ideal workout?

I like to run, which I do frequently. I am currently training for a half-marathon. I also see a trainer at the gym, who makes me do exercises I would never do otherwise (sit-ups….argh!). Apart from that, I find that running around after my kids keeps me pretty active!

Do you track your fitness? How?

I use a Fitbit to track my steps. And I often keep training logs, if I am prepping for a race.

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

Preparation: I plan in advance. Exercise early the day of the shift. Stop drinking coffee several hours before the nap. Have a cool, dark, quiet place to sleep – this is critical.

Recovery: After my shift, I go home for breakfast, and then sleep again. I don’t book a day full of activities or meetings. Protecting that time after the shift, is very important. Later in the day, I make sure I get some time outdoors – as daylight helps me reset my clock.

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

Bring healthy snacks and a drink to shift. Always. In desperate times, I at least grab a drink of juice, to keep my blood sugar up for a little while. Learning to recognize when you are hangry – self-awareness can then drive you to fix the problem. Your brain is not as smart during hypoglycemia, keeping your blood sugar reasonable preserves your IQ.

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

Stay focused on the present moment. Breathe slow. And learn to notice when you are doing neither so you can re-group!

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

Not getting cynical. I find we sometimes lose our compassion when the ED becomes our daily grind. I can lose sight of the fact that my patients are having a unique and probably traumatizing day, no matter how small their complaint. Trying to see the encounter from their perspective is a constant challenge for me, which is something I continue to struggle with. Staying mindful helps. Being a patient myself helps. In the meantime, let me know if you have found a better solution!

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

Get excellent childcare you trust. It is not easy to balance kids, work, and my own interests. Knowing my children are safe and happy is a pre-requisite for me to be able to focus on work, and to take some time off for myself.

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

Janet Nuth
Jason Frank

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.