Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Hillel Z. Harris.
Dr. Harris, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Being active was an integral part of growing up for me. I played all types of sports as a kid – it was my social outlet. I ended up playing several sports competitively, both in high school and in college. But before I was ready for medical school, I had to see how far I could go in athletics. In fact, after graduating pre-med from college, I moved to Colorado to snowboard and started teaching, coaching, and competing. Snowboarding took me places all over the U.S. It was a time of great personal growth and maturity.
I knew that by staying active, I could deliver better medical care to my patients. If you are not taking care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of others? I started as a physician working in the ER, and I played tennis tournaments in my free time. I was fortunate to be surrounded by sports therapists who could quickly identify and treat things like tendonitis. I took an interest in the importance of understanding that what happens in one part of the body affects another. I became more interested in yoga and pilates as supplements to becoming a well-rounded athlete. As a physician, I now am able to bridge the cutting edge exercise science and nutrition research out there and deliver it to my patients in a way they can understand. Additionally, by understanding the habits of elite athletes, how much rest they get, how hard they train, etc., I can customize the information and help my patients achieve their goals.
I have been treating emergencies and dealing with life and death. I see the end product of untreated disease and the consequences of not taking care of oneself. As doctors, what are we doing to promote healthy lifestyles to keep people from getting sick in the first place? I spent my career treating illness, but very little of it towards preventing disease. We need to provide incentives to doctors for keeping people healthy, as this will become the new model for the future of medicine. In Europe and Canada, there are many more studies looking at physical activity and nutrition and how it relates to keeping people healthy. Let’s get the medical community focused on spreading the message that we can help our patients make the right choices that can impact the health of each individual. Let’s empower our patients.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I made a best friend in medical school. He showed me how to study hard enough to believe that there was nothing an exam could ask that I wouldn’t be ready for. It was a formidable shift to go from being scared of exams to being like, “ok bring it on.” One day after an exam that we had been preparing for 6 weeks of studying every day, we took out a couple of ocean kayaks. The weather changed drastically and conditions became terrible. I made it back and got on a speed boat to go rescue him. We never found him after a massive search effort. Losing a best friend who taught me so much has been the biggest source of pain for me. I took some time to myself afterward, but I never thought to stop pursuing my dream. I like to think that I carry on his vision and passion to try and connect the best way I can with my patients because that’s what he stood for – he was a light to people around him
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about MD Sports Inc – what should we know?
I try to partner with my patients and create a plan to maximize their chances of living a healthy, disease free life. Diabetes and obesity are rampant, and this trend is only getting worse. Did you know that exercise, specifically resistance training, can decrease the incidence of diabetes by 30%? Resistance training can also decrease coronary heart disease by 17%.
Let’s focus on what types of physical activity make people happy because invariably that will lead to less stress. I use a personalized approach to treat both athletes, and anyone interested in living a healthier lifestyle. The body strives to be in balance- it wants to be in harmony, in a steady state. Let’s formulate a plan to get there- what activities do you enjoy? What are the obstacles to accomplishing them? What’s holding you back? You have to clear the obstacles before moving to the next level. Let’s review your lifestyle choices. We will create a customized, targeted plan to give you the best chances for success. Together, we can clear the way for you to achieve the goals you want for yourself.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The ability to listen to each patient is most important. Each person is a bit scared on some level and you have to make them feel comfortable to open up to you. That is a real challenge to being an effective doctor. If you don’t get to the heart of the matter, you can be just running around in circles. You have to take the time to establish a rapport, which can lead to trust and in that way you can both get to where you want to go, together.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I like to combine the latest research on sports medicine, exercise, and nutrition with technology. I’ve been traveling to several conferences recently to hear the latest science on exercise, sports nutrition, and the athletic heart. It is now becoming easier to access data from our gadgets, but how can we apply it to our lives?. The research into the field of wearable technology is just starting to emerge. The next generation of fitness trackers is focusing on metabolic use, in other words, how much energy we are using per day. This will yield great insight into what our what our energy requirements will be. Then we can be more specific when we ask what kind of eating plan is right for you? Are ketogenic diets good for athletes? Let’s put all the information together and measure the changes that can occur. The study of sleep is becoming a hot area researchers are now focusing on. We are getting better at measuring sleep data and researching are studying the way it impacts the performance of professional athletes.
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