Dr. Alex Yudovich Advocates for Health Literacy, Education, and Science
Today we’re delighted to sit down with accomplished pediatrician and Houston, Texas native, Dr. Alex Yudovich. With an expertise in preventative medicine, Dr. Yudovich has a passion for teaching health literacy and dispelling medical myths.
Join us as we chat about everything from Alex meeting his wife at LA Children’s Hospital, to discussing the complexities of ADHD, and the over-prescription of antibiotics, how Alex defines success, and his top tips to managing self-doubt.
He also details how he and a colleague were able to keep their preschool safely open during the pandemic by following CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, as well as advocating for education in preventative measures and medicines.
We also dive into his unexpected Mexican heritage and hear about his unbelievable family lineage, which entails narrowly escaping Nazi-occupied France.
Please hit the play button at the top of the page and thank you for listening to today’s educating episode.
In this Episode
[01:02] Jason introduces us to Dr. Alex Yudovich who flew in from Houston, Texas. He begins by telling us about his undergrad, med school, and pediatrics residency at University of Texas, University of Texas Medical Branch, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles respectively.
[04:43] Dr. Yudovich describes his efforts and sacrifices while on the career path towards becoming a pediatrician.
[09:46] Jason is curious how Dr. Yudovich chose pediatrics. Dr. Yudovich remembers the questions he considered when deciding his medical field and explains why he moved from LA back to Houston after his residency at Children’s Hospital LA.
[15:36] Jason asks Dr. Yudovich about the most important non-medical thing he learned in med school. He recalls problem-based learning where he learned about the importance of talking to people, being empathic, and instilling hope in patients.
[17:30] Dr. Yudovich mentions how he’s been a doctor for a long 10 years. Jason shares a quick story of his childhood doctor, and they discuss why the bubble gum pink medicine that was popular back in the day is no longer readily prescribed.
[21:36] Jason details how one of his son’s struggled with Von Willebrand disease from the ages of 3 through 12. He and Dr. Yudovich go through the symptoms and the importance of safety, precaution, and education with your health.
[26:36] Jason brings up sugar and how bad it could be for your health. Dr. Yudovich compares it to a drug and its links to different diseases, and also how marketing can transmit health misinformation.
[29:44] Dr. Yudovich and Jason explore the effectiveness and safety of medication in treating symptoms for ADHD, anxiety, and depression. They also talk about experimental medications like ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin for treating mental health disorders.
[35:34] Jason invites Dr. Yudovich to touch on his work on the Medical Task Force for his daughter’s preschool and district. The doctor draws out the school’s successful pandemic plan and how schools shouldn’t be a place where COVID spreads.
[39:34] Dr. Yudovich recommends getting fully vaccinated and gives us resources to counter the misinformation regarding vaccines. He also explains the positives of health literacy, vaccinating your children, and gathering information from trusted sources.
[54:10] Jason touches on Dr. Yudovich’s interesting ancestry. He digs into his Polish, Austrian, Lithuanian, and Mexican roots, and divulges his grandfather’s fascinating encounters with Nazis.
[58:25] Dr. Yudovich reflects on the people he considers to be his heroes, what makes him laugh or become angry, his favorite family traditions, the best phase of his life, and more during today’s signature “Hennessey Heart-to-Heart.”
[01:12:02] Dr. Yudovich gives us his Instagram handle and some ideas he has for a future book. Jason appreciates all the wisdom he brought and they say thank you to close the show.
Jason Hennessey: Alex Yudovich, thanks so much for coming down to Hennessey Studios, man, I appreciate it.
Dr. Alex Yudovich: It’s a pleasure.
And now, you didn’t just drive around the corner to be here, you actually traveled to come here.
I flew in from Houston, Texas…
…where I was born and raised. But it’s going to be back in LA because I actually did live here for 4 years.
Tell me a little bit about that. So, what brought you out to LA for 4 years? Around what time did you come out here?
I moved out here in 2010 to do my pediatrics residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. So, as I said, born, raised, educated in Texas, went to medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
And then, wanted to get out of Houston because my father’s a pediatrician and trained at Baylor College of Medicine at Texas Children’s, so I looked at New York, LA.
Luckily, I ended up here in LA because I had a great time, met my wife. Now, I’m back in Houston.
So, you met your wife here?
We actually were set up on a blind date in the place where we met. It was on a bench at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles because she was a volunteer there.
So, we met, and the day before our first date- But we met at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, so a very special city, very special hospital for me.
So, doing the math, 13 years? How long have you been married?
Well, we didn’t get married till 2013, but we met January 3rd, 2011. So, technically, started dating in 2011, married in 2013, and now, we’ve been married 8 years.
Eight years, so you waited a little bit?
My story’s a little different. I met my wife and got married a month and a half later. But yeah, just because I-
When you know, you know.
You do, I guess you do. So, when you are looking to do-
Because obviously, I didn’t go to medical school, I wasn’t smart like that in high school. I was a kid selling you lollipops and stuff in school, that wasn’t really in my cards.
But it sounded like, like you said, your dad was a pediatrician, so did you know at an early age? I’m talking like grade school, middle school, was that what you thought you were going to do?
I think so. I mean, a lot of people were always like, “Oh, you’ll be a doctor like your dad, right,” and I was like, “Yeah, sure. Why not?” But the pressure never came from my dad, the pressure really didn’t come from him.
But in the end, it’s a great field. You get to work with kids, you get to guide parents through some hardships and guide them through some things where a lot of parents lose objectivity with their kids.
And you realize that, I realize that now as a father, you lose objectivity, and so a lot of subjectivity, and you need someone to talk you off a ledge a lot of times. And that’s our job a lot of the time, to just bring back, get parents away from worries.
I got it, yep. Where’d you go to undergrad?
I went to the University of Texas at Austin, the horns, longhorn, where I was also part of a group that got to take care of the live steer, the Silver Spurs. So, I helped take care of Bevo, which is a really cool experience, being 20 years old and hanging out with a steer.
So, after that, graduated, and then went off to- And I’m making this very quick. It wasn’t a quick process to go through undergrad.
But so, then you went to med school? Where’d you go, med school?
Med school. So, immediately after Austin, graduated, went to the University of Texas Medical Branch, which is the original medical school in Texas. It’s in Galveston, of all places. And interestingly enough, I was there during Hurricane Ike, which displaced us.
And so, I got to do a lot of medical school all over the state, in Houston and in Austin and in Galveston, so it was very, very fun.
And did med school come natural to you, or did you have to work really hard?
The interesting thing about me- You said you weren’t that smart. But really, I always found someone smarter than me, and just became friends with them and say, “Hey, what do you study,” you know?
And so, in med school, I found a guy and I was like, “Hey, are you doing all the optional reading.” “Yeah.” I’m like, “Oh, okay. Well, I guess I will too.”
So, just trying to keep up with others who I believe and perceive is smarter than me, so that’s always been what I did.
That’s what I do now. Yeah, they say you are the five people that you hang out with most. And so, if you’re hanging out with those five people in college, you’re probably destined for success, I guess.
Yeah. And I’m proud to say most of my friends from college, and even high school and even childhood, they’ve found success, which is great. And while I went for the career path of medicine, whether you’re an entrepreneur like yourself, success can be defined and redefined, and I think it’s really…
…important to redefine it as you go along.
I’m redefining my success now. I’ve always- Money-motivated, right?
So, for a long time, I wanted to make a living. And I wanted to make a good living and now, I’m trying to make a difference. And as you start to make more of a difference, money has nothing to do with success, as you’re impacting people’s lives.
You learn that as you go along.
To me, I mean, part of going into medicine, honestly, was money anxious, I always wondered what- Being unemployed or between jobs, that was always something that was scary to me, I guess maybe because my dad always had the same job and had a job that was pandemic proof, I guess, if you will, or national emergency proof.
You always need a pediatrician. So, when it came down to it, I think that was also one of the reasons I went for it, just steady- Now, it turns out, pandemic- It was a little interesting being a doctor during the pandemic.
But it’s been a great field, and I’m grateful for my education and grateful for everything that I went through.
Now, here’s a question, so were you at- Because when you’re in med school, you’re still young, you don’t have life all figured out.
You don’t, you definitely don’t. And honestly, at that time, when you’re 22 to 26, as I was going straight from college and so many people you- There’s so many friends who are in finance or whatever it is, making money, taking trips.
And you’re like, “I’m studying for the next month. What are you doing? Oh, you’re going where? Oh, that’s fun.” But the good news is everyone gets it in time. And now, I’m doing those things now, it’s just a little bit delayed.
But there are, certainly, times, especially when you’re doing poorly, if you did badly on a test and you’re wondering, “Oh my gosh, am I cut out for this,” and there’s a lot of self doubt-
And that’s what I tell a lot of young people who are wanting to go to medical school, like, “While you’re in it, you’re going to say, ‘Why am I doing this,’ a few times, especially as your friends start getting paychecks, success, trips, marriage, whatever it is, and you might not be doing that.
But we all know now in our wisdom that everyone was running their own race, and you got to just find your path, continue it if you think it’s right for you, and stick with it through the hardships.”
Well, that’s where I was going with that, is like, “You’ve committed, you’ve committed to this career. That’s not- You just don’t call audibles right after you’ve got this debt from med school, it’s like you are committed, and so that could be scary for a young adolescence that’s still- their brain isn’t fully developed yet, you’re not developed until you’re 26.
Did any of your friends from med school not pursue it after they graduate? Did any of them say, “Hey, you know what, this is not for me. I really want to be an entrepreneur or I really want to do something different.”
You know, you mean a handful. I think it’s happening more and more, where people will finish med school and then realize, just with that education, there’s a lot you can do, consulting or helping out a large corporation with just a very specific niche.
So, there are a lot of opportunities for those who don’t want to practice medicine. For me, it was like, “I made it all the way through. Now, it’s time to do a residency. It’s time to practice and finally get to do my real adult job.”
You know, I’m coming out at age 29, finally getting my first real job out of residency.
At 29. It’s like, “Wow,” right?
Yeah. And that’s just me who had 3 years of residency and then 1 year as chief resident at Children’s Hospital. But some residents have 5, 6 years, plus a fellowship, another 3 years, so there’s some people who don’t start their job till their mid-30s, their adult job, if you will, until their mid-30s.
So, it’s an interesting career path. But once you’re there and you have all this expertise, you have all this knowledge, it’s really helpful. And especially, again, going back, everything for me goes back to the pandemic because it’s all I’ve done for 2 years, just being able to help interpret data or, again, guide parents or guide families with good information.
Got it. So, now, while you’re in med school, do you have to choose, like, “I want to be a dermatologist, I want to be a pediatrician, I want to be a brain surgeon.” How do you start to pick the career path that you like to go down?
Well, certainly for me, pediatrics was always like, “Hey, I could do that.” But there is a thought process you have to go through and, for me, it was, “Do I want to be a surgeon or a doctor?”
And after a few days on the surgery rotation, I realized I’m going to be a medical doctor, I’ll do more prescribing than cutting. And then the question was: Adults or kids?
And I thought I wanted to be an ophthalmologist, and I spent a couple months doing ophthalmology and realized, “Oh, I don’t need a stethoscope for this. That’s odd, I’ve always been told you need a stethoscope.”
But this is in residency, not med school?
No, this is in medical school.
Oh, so this is in med school?
And so, then when the decision came, “Do I take care of adults or take care of kids?” The decision for me came down to feet and poop, in that children and babies really much cuter feet and way more tolerable poop.
So, that’s how I came to be a pediatrician in the end.
[laughs] Got it. So, now, that’s- I always wondered that, like-
Yeah, it’s a process. So, the beauty of medical school is, really, in third year, you do a few rotations of everything. So, when you graduate, even though I’m a pediatrician, I spent 2 months on a surgical floor. We do a couple months of emergency room medicine, we see intensive care units, we see psychiatry units.
So, we learn a little bit of everything, and we see a lot and learn a lot about pathologies of adults, of children, of humans.
I see. And so, when you go to do your residency, how many years do you have to do that?
At least three.
Three years. And you chose UCLA?
No. So, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is actually-
Oh, Children’s Hospital.
It’s actually associated with USC, and it’s in Los Feliz.
Got it, yeah. And so, while you’re there, that’s really more like on-the-job training, is that what that is?
Yes, it is.
That’s a perfect description, it’s learning as you go.
Shadowing other doctors.
Well, no, it’s really taking responsibility. So, you are the in-charge doctor. You have a supervising physician, but you are a resident physician.
The term “resident physician” came from, literally, the doctors used to live at the hospital since they were there so often. There’s rules and regulations now where people don’t live at the hospital anymore, but that is why you were called the resident physician.
Got it. As you were doing your residency there, you thought, “Okay, great. I’m probably not going to stay in LA. I’m going to move back home to be closer to my family, pick my dad’s brain when I need to pick his brain a little bit.”
Is that the decision that you’re making? Because your wife was here too, or your girlfriend at the time, right?
Correct. Yeah. So, that was the tough question at the end, do we stay in LA or do we go home now? I told my then girlfriend on our second date, “Just so you know, I plan on moving back to Houston.”
And where was she from?
She’s from Los Angeles.
So, she is from out here, okay.
And it turns out in the last 8 years that we’ve been living in Houston, so many people have moved from California to Texas. So, we were the pioneers on that, maybe.
But no, the decision was always to go work with my dad. And that was the plan, to work in the family clinic that he started close to 50 years ago. Well, he joined, but then it became solely his almost 50 years ago.
So, it’s been fun over the last 8 years, getting to work with him.
Well, not too many people have a mentor like that, right?
Definitely. I feel blessed that when I did go into my residency, I had already learned so much by just watching my dad, shadowing with him, and in college summers, med school summers, and finally in med school, I got credit for it, but-
So, I definitely was able to focus on a lot of the esoterics of pediatrics because I already knew the basics, just by learning and watching my dad.
Well, that’s what I’m saying. So, you’re reading stuff in textbooks, a lot of stuff like, for example, in high school, I read about the Panama Canal.
Well, a month ago, I went to Panama. And it’s a whole different experience when you go and you experience the culture and the food and you actually see the Panama Canal, and you get on a boat and you drive through the Panama Canal. You know what I mean? Whole different experience.
And so, my point here is that as you’re reading this stuff in textbooks, a lot of this stuff is coming naturally because you can see your dad visually doing what is told in the textbook. So, you had that advantage, right?
Absolutely. When I took tests in med school, that was the first time I was ever good, by the way, at testing. I was terrible before med school, maybe it’s because I finally was learning the things I wanted to.
But I always think of- When I would read a question, I would think of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. In Slumdog Millionaire, he gets presented with a question, and then he would go back to his life and how he learned the answer to that question.
And so, yeah, I was, again, blessed to have had that opportunity to just watch my dad do his thing.
Interesting. So, there’s that old, I guess, saying or thought process where when you’re in the hospital or you go to the doctor, and in walks that young doctor who’s got jet black hair or jet- You know what I mean? Doesn’t look like he has all the wisdom of the senior, more wise doctor.
So, did you get a sense of that when you just finally broke into this, where people are like, “Who’s this new kid?” Right?
Even in residency and just out of residency, it was a lot of, “You’re a doctor?” Yes, this is what a doctor can look like. We can be young and we can know a lot. We don’t have that much experience, but we do know what we’re doing.
Got it. So, what’s something unexpected that you learned in med school that wasn’t necessarily medicine related.
Because for example, most doctors and most lawyers, they’re not the best business people. But is there something that, maybe comes to mind that you might have learned in med school that wasn’t necessarily medicine related?
Well, I think one of the most interesting things I learned in med school- The curriculum changed a few years before I got to med school, and they implemented something called problem-based learning, where we would learn cases, whether they were- I remember the first one was breast cancer, and the second one was Crohn’s disease.
And learning from doctors in small groups and learning the practice of medicine, and not just so much what it says in the books but how to talk to people, how to be empathic, how to ask the question, “Do you have hope?” And just instilling things like that in people because without hope, it’s difficult to see a positive future.
And in medicine, that makes a lot of sense with things that cancer, chronic diseases. You always want people to have hope, whether it’s faith in God and a higher being and spirituality, just having hope.
And so, I remember, that was one of the first lessons I learned in med school, thinking, “Wow, this has nothing to do with science per se, but it has a lot to do with the humanism in medicine.
So, teaching you the soft skills of how to communicate and have more sympathy and empathy?
Interesting. That’s probably like 60% of the battle, how you communicate things to family members and manage the expectations of their loved ones, huh?
Yeah. So, now, you work a lot, you’re a pediatrician. How many children do you think you have seen in your career?
Oh, definitely in the thousands.
In the thousands.
Yeah. So, I’ve been a pediatrician now for 10 full years, I can say. I graduated- Well, 10 years, let’s just say.
10 years, okay.
It doesn’t sound like too much compared to my dad, 50 years, and other doctors with more gray hair than I, but 10 years is a long time.
It is a long time.
It’s funny because as a kid, I grew up on Long Island in New York and most everybody in my little town went to Dr. Soranno. Dr. Soranno was an older doctor.
Maybe when I was going to him, he might have been about 15 years from retiring. He’s now since retired.
But his son was the new kid on the block, and the son would come and see him was also Dr. Soranno. And this was like a little house, you went to this- It was a house, really, but they converted it into an office building. And he was like a staple, he’s been there forever.
People still go to Dr. Soranno, if you look in Lindenhurst, New York. And I remember going there, and there’s always the same thing. “All right, great. Take your shirt off,” like heart rate, tonsils check.
Back then, there was no COVID, it was just, “We had colds and stuff, we would go.”
And the cure for everything was this pink bubble gum medicine that I would get, that was the cure, right? Every time I would go to the doctor, I would actually look forward to it because I knew that I was going to leave there with this pink-
Do you know what I’m talking about?
It’s amoxicillin. People still call it the pink medicine, the “bubble gum medicine.”
Yeah. That was the cure for everything.
And then, if you didn’t go to doctor, Robitussin was the cure. Right? At least when I was growing up. So, that’s still a thing, huh?
Well, we’re trying to prescribe that pink medicine a little less nowadays. The new guidelines, for example, for ear infections, is really try to avoid antibiotics, unless it’s severe and there’s a lot of symptoms.
Antibiotic stewardship is something that’s really been practiced and really needs to be followed, because one day that pink medicine may not work.
Yeah. If you’re familiar with War of the Worlds, it’s one of my favorite references. Of course, I have to tell people, “No, not the book, the Tom Cruise movie,” because otherwise they don’t know.
But eventually the bacteria win. These aliens come through, and they can’t penetrate through their force fields, but what does eventually penetrate are these bacteria.
And so, one day, when our antibiotics don’t work, it’s those bacteria that were here before us that may win the battle when it’s all said and done.
Yeah. Because, nowadays, if I go to the doctor, they want to avoid, at all costs, giving antibiotics. Right?
And so, what’s the reason for that?
Well, just that. Most of the things nowadays, well, a virus is way more common.
When your throat hurts and it’s red back there, it’s way more likely to be a virus than a bacteria.
So, it’s actually a tough conversation sometimes because parents are like, “Wait, you’re not going to prescribe my child antibiotics for the throat infection you told me they have.”
And I say, “Well, again, it’s a viral throat infection.” I say again; we never said it. But maybe this is a viral throat infection. We did a strep test and it’s not strep throat. It might hurt for a couple days but it should go away on its own.
And, of course, if it doesn’t, please come back and we can retest, we can see what other things it is. But the amount of viruses that cause a throat infection or pharyngitis, probably six-plus that we can think of, I can tell off the top of my head.
And strep is just one thing.
Way more likely if your throat hurt. Now, this doesn’t mean that, if your throat hurts, you don’t have to go see a doctor.
Of course. Yeah.
It’s a virus. Please don’t take this as medical advice. I’ve been told I always have to say that.
You have to do. Yeah, yeah. Uh-huh.
It’s just what we know now is different than what we thought back then. Back then, it was probably, “Hey, your throat looks red. Here, take the bubble gum medicine.”
Now, it’s “Let’s do this quick strep test, and if it’s not strep, we feel pretty good that it’s not strep.” Of course, if the doctor still thinks it’s strep, there’s a secondary test, a confirmatory test, that can always be sent to the laboratory.
Interesting. So, many years later, when I had kids, my one son started to get seizures.
Oh, that’s scary.
Very scary, because it was our first child. Right?
And so, he’d turn blue, and we’re like, “Oh, my god,” the ambulance comes to the house. We thought it was a febrile seizure.
Right? That would be the most common thing. At that time, you really don’t know. Right? And as a parent, you’re scared. Right? And so, like you said, the sympathy and empathy of a doctor telling us, “Okay, what’s going to happen? What do we do?”
It turns out we went to one doctor. They’re like, “I don’t know. We need to do blood work.” Right? And then, next thing you know, they started sending us to cancer doctors.
Right? And then, at that point, you really start to think about your life. Right? It’s like everything just stops in a moment. Right?
And so, here we are at a doctor. We were living in Las Vegas. We’re going to see cancer doctors, and so they diagnosed him as having Von Willebrand’s disease.
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with what that is.
Okay. That was part of it, but then he also was diagnosed with epilepsy too. Right? And so, as they diagnosed him with the epilepsy and the Von Willebrand’s, now the practice began with the medicine. Right?
And so, I remember putting him on Keppra–
And there’s probably four other medicines, and we couldn’t break it.
Right? Then they’re like, “Okay, we need to do something a little bit more,” and so then they used steroids to try to break the pattern.
Then my son gained a lot of weight at the time.
And so, we’re like, “Screw this. We want to go see doctors out in L.A. just to get a second opinion on this.” We were going from one doctor to the next.
And so, eventually, what I’m told is he outgrew it, and he doesn’t have epilepsy anymore. Right? But it was from the time he was 3 years old to the time he was probably 12, we dealt with that.
Wow. You know, it’s interesting. When it comes to febrile seizures, the most common is something called simple febrile seizures. Really, that’s what a lot of people fear with fever, is seizure. It’s very few people.
Maybe sounds, maybe different than what your son went through, but, when it comes to simple febrile seizures, which is the most common thing, as you said, it’s scary to see a child seize.
But, if it’s always with a fever and it meets certain criteria, then we know that kid is more than likely going to grow out of it. When I say more than likely…
That’s what we were told.
…it’s 99% will grow out of it.
Of course, it’s scary, because you can never predict. You can tell parents, “Oh, take ibuprofen, take Tylenol.”
But, really, you can have a regular, normal temperature of 97, and it goes up to 99, which isn’t technically a fever, but, if it goes quickly enough and the child has the gene for this, they will have a seizure.
So, really, safety, precautions, and education is really so important, especially because, yeah, you start thinking about seizures and lifelong problems. “I want my child to scuba dive. He can’t scuba dive.” You know?
Scary thoughts like that. But you just stay present and always keep your child. Objectively, how does he look when he’s sick?
Again, it’s hard, but you gotta keep that objectivity sometimes.
Oh, yeah. And so, we’d go and they’d do these EKGs. Right?
I’m sorry about that. EEG. And so, he’d have to wear, I don’t know…
…40 things coming off of his head. Right? Then we would have to take him home like that, and he would have to sleep overnight. Right?
The first time that we seen him seize, it wasn’t convulsing or anything like that. He just turned blue, he couldn’t talk, and he would just freeze. Right? It was really weird. Right? That was real scary.
But then, later on, what we learned after all these different tests was that he had something called epileptic sleep, something. I can’t remember. It’s like E-S- There’s an acronym for it.
But it turns out that he was having seizure activity while he would sleep. Right? And so, he wouldn’t get that deep-
The deep sleep. Right? So, he had a hard time in school as a result of that, his whole life. Yeah.
There’s a great field that’s growing of sleep medicine, both for adults and for children.
Without a good night’s sleep, kids, really, they can struggle in school, they can struggle with behavior, they can struggle with memory.
And so, it’s always important to rule out medical conditions like that.
That’s great. That’s why EEGs are done awake and asleep, because it’s very important.
Yeah. My wife will kill me if she’s like, “I can’t believe you didn’t remember what it was.” [laughs] I just didn’t remember.
Wait, it’s gone now, right?
It’s gone now, yeah. It’s gone now.
What are some other things? Like sugar, right? Let’s talk about sugar for a second.
Because that’s a thing that a lot of kids take, and I would imagine that is a drug, right? Isn’t it?
I believe sugar is a drug. It certainly causes the same effect in the brain, a dopamine release.
It’s the same thing as drugs, and certainly kids are addicted to sugar.
I often tell patients, if you cut out sugary drinks for 3 months, which sounds like an eternity for a child, and for an adult too, 3 months of your life, and 3 months later, you taste that sugary drink again, you’re not going to like it.
First of all, the taste is going to be like, “Whoa,” because it’s not the taste that you like, it’s what you get in your brain that you like. It’s that reward.
And so, yeah, sugar, in my opinion, especially in a drink form- I’m looking at your drink. I hope there’s no sugar in there.
There’s no sugar in this.
Oh, thank goodness.
Yes. Unsweetened black tea. Yes.
Because this, if it had raspberry flavor or something, it’s a lot of sugar. Uh-huh.
Yeah, for sure. Again, I often tell patients, if you’re going to have a snack, you should really limit it to 200 calories. If you look on a 20-ounce can of Coke, for example, a 20-ounce can of Coke has over 200 calories.
So, what are you supposed to eat? Because your snack is supposed to be 200 calories.
So, it sneaks up on you. Causes a lot of insulin release, causes a lot of obesity-related issues.
But really, it is essentially a drug.
And cancer too, right? Yeah. Sugar, right?
Well, certainly diabetes, heart disease, and things like that. I’m personally not sure of any links to cancer.
Okay, then maybe I’m misspeaking.
If there are, I certainly, I’ve been so busy with the pandemic that I don’t know about links to cancer, but…
So, now, it’s easy. Right?
The doctor comes in, says, “Hey, stop taking sugar.” Right? But it’s really hard to hold people accountable.
Because parents, you go to a birthday party, everybody’s eating cake. Right? A lollipop comes in the gift bag that you take home.
Society’s setting us up to fail. Right?
Agreed. There’s so much marketing out there, marketing versus medical advice.
“Milk: it does a body good.” “Got milk?” But do we really need milk?
I’d rather a kid drink yogurt drinks…
…than drink milk, or eat yogurt.
Cheese. But when it comes to that, it’s the same thing as screen time. It’s the same thing as anything. You gotta have limits.
And so, yeah, my kids eat sugar. We have donuts every once in a while for breakfast, but we certainly don’t do it…
…every day, and we certainly don’t do it once a week.
But every couple weeks, if they haven’t had donuts and the kids are like, “Can I have donuts?” Yeah, why not?
Yeah. You can’t deprive them of living.
Also, “Look, we had donuts this morning, we’re going to a birthday party. Let’s have one piece of cake. Let’s avoid the lollipop now, let’s maybe have it tomorrow, with time.”
Halloween candy, that’s a different story. I don’t know how to set limits on that.
You just make exceptions during that one week, right? Yeah.
Here’s another interesting thing. Right? You got a kid, goes to school, he’s got ADHD. Right? You know where I’m going with this question, right?
And he’s not really configured to do well in school because his mind is racing, he’s thinking about other things, and who eventually might be able to innovate something in the world that the whole world needs because of his creativity and the way he’s wired. Right? Like that. Right?
So, now the schools instantly are like, “Hey, we need to do something about this kid because he’s distracting class.” Right? And so, what do they go towards, right? Medicines.
Right? Then it takes that kid from being who he is, the true identity of that person, to being somebody that fits in the box of a kid that should be sitting well in school.
I’m just curious about your thoughts on that.
Well, I will tell you the way you just framed it is something that a lot of parents say. “I don’t want to make my kid a zombie,” or whatever it is. “I want him to be who he is.”
And the truth is a lot of schools will bring up the diagnosis of ADHD at age 4, which it’s a little early to say that, but, as kids get to first grade especially, kindergarten, first grade, you start to realize that those kids, it’s not that who they are is the problem, but the way their brain is wired certainly isn’t allowing them to focus.
So, what I’ll say is studies after studies have shown, especially for kids 6 and up, medication is really the gold standard.
Now, one out of three kids will need medication going into adulthood, but we all know those people with ADHD in adulthood, and they’re pretty successful most of the time.
And even if they’re on medicines, they’re successful. And if they come off of medications, they can be successful.
For me, I remember learning how to learn in middle school. That’s when I learned how to learn, and that’s what I tell all my patients. Middle school, really just practice learning. And if your kid can figure out how they learn in middle school and they can come off medication, great.
There’s side effects to the medications, but they’re really well tolerated. It’s a medication that you can not give on the weekends, for example.
Again, talk to your doctor about your individual cases, but there’s a lot of hesitation to put kids on medicines from parents. But then, immediately after they go on a medication, the benefits are immediate for those children, and they can focus more…
…and they can learn more. While, yes, the one-size-fits-all approach to school clearly is not the best.
The medications can certainly, again, not make them fit in the box, but do better for themselves.
It’s one of those things, it’s like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There’s no right or wrong answer here, right?
That’s the beauty of parenting. There’s very few wrong things. We know what is wrong. Please don’t hit your children.
Please don’t put them in imminent danger.
But the good news is, when it comes to medicine like that, you can start, you can change, you can stop, or you can watch and wait. Eventually, with most parents with the watch-and-wait approach, okay, you’re 6 and we diagnose you with ADHD, they’re not ready to start on our medicine.
Eventually, it becomes like, “Okay, maybe we should start it.”
And then, when they start it, it generally goes well.
Sure, yeah. My sister-in-law was dealing with that with my nephew. She got advice, and people were like, “Don’t do that. Don’t put your kid on a drug. It’s going to,” like you said, “Make them a zombie, make them not who they are.”
And then, in her case, it actually worked out well. It gave him more focus, he did better in school. Hey, that was the right solution for him, at the time. Right?
Definitely. At that age too, it’s just so helpful. Whether it’s ADHD, whether it’s anxiety, the same stigma is with anxiety medications, or depression medications. “I don’t want to be a zombie. I want to be who I am.”
But it’s not changing who you are, it’s changing chemicals in your brain. When your chemicals are-
Your neurotransmitters are imbalanced, it really affects you. By putting them back in balance, of course, pills are not the magic bullet.
This is what we learned in the pandemic. “Well, we’re waiting for this, we’re waiting for that,” but behavior change is what really makes your life better.
What makes your life healthier, going back to sugar, if you have diabetes, the treatment is not just taking medicines, it’s behavior change. It’s taking in less sugar, it’s doing more exercise.
Same thing with ADHD. The pill isn’t everything, the pill is going to help them learn how to learn. And that is so key.
Sure. Then you think about the complete opposite end of the spectrum, like most of the music that we made in the ‘70s was all based on drugs. You know what I mean? Illegal drugs, right?
I don’t think we would’ve had a “Bohemian Rhapsody” if it wasn’t for some kind of- You know?
Well, there’s a psychedelic revolution coming. Not for kids, but for adults, so many psychedelics are being used for refractory mental health problems.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Ketamine clinics, and maybe even LSD in the future, psilocybin, which is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
There’s a lot of good things out there that are being studied carefully, slowly, and methodically that may be going from illicit to prescribed.
Well, we had a guest on the show that got really bad headaches, something called cluster headaches, right?
Yes. I remember that from med school. Of course, yeah.
Yeah. Cluster headaches. It was a thing where his whole world was shutting down.
And so, that’s his thing, is LSD. He goes to these Las Vegas conventions and learns about it. But yeah, it’s fascinating.
And all that comes from nature, by the way.
It does, right?
Yeah. It’s amazing.
Yeah. Okay. So, now, we talked about college, med school, being a pediatrician for over 10 years now, but I understand you’re doing a lot with schools lately.
Tell me a little bit more about that.
During the pandemic, there was a lot of hysteria, a lot of fear.
What I realized was, immediately, at the beginning of the pandemic, I was asked by a patient’s mother, who happens to be the head of school where my kids go for preschool, to be on the medical task force.
And so, with the help of another physician, shout out to my friend K-Chen, we put together protocols to keep the school safe and keep it open during the pandemic.
We were very successful. We used the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, and we had a successful school year during 2020 to 2021, which could not be said for a lot of schools. Especially here, I know, in California, it was virtual pretty much all year.
In Texas, a lot of my patients were virtual pretty much all year. But I was blessed that my kids, with a very robust and layered approach to mitigation strategies, I can tell you that, when they’re put into place, they work.
And so, I had a lot of fun doing that. It was a lot of tedious work, time away from my wife. Shout out to my wife. And so, I got pretty passionate about that.
Yeah. How many children do you have?
I have three kids.
And how old are they?
Almost 6, then 4, and 2.
And so, just the one 6-year-old. Boy or girl?
Fiona is my oldest.
She’s almost 6. She said, “Have fun in L.A. with your cast pod.”
Then Benson is 4 and Lucas, 2.
Got it. Yeah. So, your 6-year-old, with this pandemic, because I’ve got a 5-year-old daughter as well, most of their life has been COVID, right?
At least what they’re aware of, right? Wearing a mask, right?
Yeah. My kids wear masks really well, and it makes me very proud. I was able to take them on trips during the pandemic.
And they’re very excited to almost be done with masks. I believe today the CDC is going to loosen mask guidelines.
Here in L.A.
I think the CDC is going to announce nationwide today.
Is that right?
Very much appropriate for me to be here today.
Huh, interesting. Okay.
But yeah, that’s all they know. I told my daughter Fiona this past week that she has a virus. I also had it.
My tonsils were red and it was not strep. And she did too. And my son says, “Oh, Fiona has the virus?” And I said, “No, she doesn’t have the virus, she has a virus.” It’s not all coronavirus, people.
And we’re coming out of this, thank goodness, where it’s been coronavirus for 2 years. But we’re starting to get back into childhood illnesses, which is good, I guess.
Yeah. I wonder if, I guess, I’m unsure if the schools are applicable to that. If the CDC says it’s okay, it’s still up to the school’s discretion or-
Correct. I mean, in the end it’s the school districts. But if the federal government is saying it’s okay, then it gives us a little bit more leeway on these.
Advisory teams are really at the local level to say, “Okay, it’s okay to scale back because the CDC says so.” There were a lot of people pushing for people to scale back well before the CDC, as we know.
And a lot of parents getting involved because of feelings they have about masks, as opposed to the true issue at hand, which is a communicable disease that for a long time didn’t have a vaccine.
And for a long time after the adults were vaccinated, the kids still were unable to be vaccinated.
And school, as you and I knew it from being children, wasn’t a safe environment. If for adults the workplace was supposed to be a place where COVID was not supposed to spread, school should not be a place where COVID should spread.
At least that’s the idea that I thought we all had, but some people felt otherwise the last couple years.
And what’s your personal feeling on the vaccine?
I’ve never seen a vaccine with such effectiveness in the history of vaccines. It’s amazing.
I’m blessed when at nighttime with my kids we talk. Every night we finish the day with three things. Your favorite part of the day…
…your hardest part of the day, and what you’re grateful for.
And my default, when I can’t think of something germane to the day of what I’m grateful for, I say my education. Because in a world where knowledge is power, which has always been said, nowadays there’s a free flow of information. That’s, you have to choose what’s right.
But having read the phase one, phase two, phase three studies put out by Pfizer–
Which most people don’t.
Right. And peer reviewed. And being able to say, “Hey, guys, this is safe. This is effective. And I understand maybe you don’t understand the technology, but it’s not a new technology. It’s been around for years.”
And I’m also blessed to have a friend who’s a nanotechnology scientist. So, when it came to nanoparticles, I already knew a lot because I got to chat with my buddy Assaf.
What I’ll tell you is, it’s a vaccine. Vaccines have been effective for 200 years. It’s a technology that’s been around for 200 years. The technology started with pus being injected into a child.
A scientist named Edward Jenner, I call him my favorite Jenner. He injected his son with pus, and basically that was the first vaccine, if you will.
And then it turns out that’s the basis for the smallpox vaccine.
And nowadays it’s not pus being injected into people, it’s mRNA inside of a lipid nanoparticle. And giving near 100% protection from severe COVID-19, which is pretty crazy.
In a good year, just to put it in perspective, the flu vaccine gives you about 30% to 60% of protection against severe flu. And this vaccine is giving 90% to 100% protection against severe COVID-19. It’s hard to argue against it.
Yeah. There’s so many- And I would argue that there’s people that also are educated that have a completely different belief than you do. Right?
And I’m just curious, people will claim that they’ve gotten Tourette syndrome because they got vaccinated as a kid, that’s their true belief. And maybe that was the case. But does that mean that everybody should not get vaccinated as a result of that?
Well, the big one is autism.
And anti-vaccine sentiment didn’t start in 1998. Which is when, and now no longer a physician, published a paper saying that Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine is linked to autism.
But the damage was done. And there’s so many studies that have shown the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine does not, is not linked to autism. And there is no link from vaccines to autism.
If people believe that, they believe that. And anti-vaccine sentiment started in the 1800s. It’s interesting that 200 years later people are still fighting against a technology that’s only gotten better and better.
But autism, just real quick with autism, we do have a lot of people who are still concerned for that, when all these different concessions have been made. It was first, “The MMR,” the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine, “causes autism because of the preservatives in it.”
So, then the preservatives were taken out. And then it was, “Oh, see, you took out the preservatives because it was causing something. Now, it’s not causing it.” Well, it never was.
By the way, that preservative was aluminum based, and there’s more aluminum in breast milk than there is in one injection.
Yeah. Much more aluminum in human breast milk than in a dose of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine. Unfortunately, people base their beliefs on their experience.
And it’s hard to take that objective approach, especially if something is statistical. And side effects are 1%, but you’re the 1% that got it.
That’s the thing.
Yeah. So, that’s the fear. People are always fearful of being that outlier and-
And it’s where you consume your media. And where you’re doing your research is where you start to put your beliefs behind. Right?
And especially nowadays, you find yourself finding more of what you already believe. And we know, I mean, literally in Space Jam 2 the bad guy was an algorithm. That should tell you something. Yeah.
Is that right?
Yeah. And so, if we don’t want to say that part specifically it’s, “My news source tells me not to.” Basically.
And, how do you convince somebody? The answer is, you don’t. You just tell them, “This is what I recommend and when you’re ready to talk about it, I’m here.”
So, now, what’s your thoughts about other countries almost going to make it the law? It’s not even a choice anymore.
Well, it’s interesting. Again, we’re halfway blessed here in the nation because we may be getting herd immunity for certain people. For certain populations there’s herd immunity through vaccination. And then for others, it’s through getting the illness repeatedly.
And when it’s all said and done, which one helped? The answer is, both. Which one was more dangerous and reckless? It’s getting inoculated by a virus instead of a vaccine. There’s a great website, historyofvaccines.org. Great timeline of vaccines.
And if you look back, one of the first physicians who wrote a letter to a government stating, really, “We should be pushing vaccinations, and it is reckless to allow people to just get sick with smallpox,” was in the early 1800s.
So, physicians have a pro-vaccine bias, there’s no way of getting around it. That’s something a lot of anti-vax communities say, “Oh, you’re biased. You have an agenda.”
The truth is, the agenda is just to do what I do every day, which is vaccinate kids. Infant mortality, child mortality since the 1800s, just to put it in perspective.
In the 1800s, out of 1,000 children, 46% of them did not make it to their 5th birthday. In 2020, 7 out of 1,000 did not make it to their 5th birthday.
Wow. Medicine has come a long way, right?
Yeah. And so, when it comes to losing the objectivity in your own child, for example, with 103 fever, you may be fearful that your child is about to have a seizure.
And honestly, 25 years ago, 30 years ago, that child may have had bacterial meningitis at age 2, at age 3. But nowadays, as a physician, I don’t have to worry about bacterial meningitis in a fully vaccinated 3 year old.
So, if there’s 103 fever, 104 fever. For me, I’m just saying, “What does the kid look like?” Sometimes we as adults, with a 99, “Ughh,” we’re knocked out.
Kids with 103 fever they’re just sitting there doing what they do. They feel warm and kind of cranky. But of course, sometimes kids do look pretty sick, again, not downplaying anything.
But the truth is, as a physician, I’m blessed. I can’t imagine what it was like being a pediatrician 30 years ago when my dad was in his heyday. Sending kids to the hospitals for lumbar punctures, just to make sure they didn’t have bacterial meningitis.
Going back to needing antibiotics. Nowadays, we don’t need antibiotics as much because of vaccinations.
Oh, yeah. The fact that we don’t have to talk about diphtheria. There were times where diphtheria would wipe out kids in a town.
Actually, when I moved to California in 2010, there was an outbreak of whooping cough. And whooping cough, to you and me, is a hacking cough for 100 days, which is a long time. You lose your voice, you can cough so hard you break ribs. But for babies, they literally stop breathing.
Yeah, of course.
And so, I can tell you, in my first 6 months of residency, so many kids were getting tested for whooping cough. I got bored of it, I was like, “Oh, another whooping cough test. This is probably going to be negative.”
And that’s where we are with the pandemic. We have a lot of physicians, a lot of people in general with just fatigue of the same thing. And a lot of it can be fixed with vaccinations.
And nowadays, going back to 2010, there’s a new recommendation. All new parents, all moms, all dads, all close contacts of infants should get a tetanus. I’m sorry, it’s a Tetanus-Diptheria-Pertussis shot, but it’s for the pertussis. So, a Tdap vaccination.
So, how do we make sure certain things don’t happen? It’s prevention.
It is prevention.
And same thing with the pandemic. It’s not, we’re waiting for a pill or we’re waiting for an infusion. It’s, keep your hands clean. Don’t touch your face. Behavior change.
It’s always behavior change.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. No, it’s interesting. Because most people don’t have the health literacy, I guess, is the right term, right?
Health literacy is a big deal. If you don’t know what health literacy is, please Google it. But when it comes to health literacy, this is actually one of the initiatives of the CDC.
If you look at the CDC website, they have a lot of public health initiatives. Before COVID existed the CDC existed. And health literacy is really important. It’s not surprising that there’s been a lot of issues in this pandemic because a lot of people do not know how to navigate the medical system.
Even nowadays, you get a prescription for something, you take it to a pharmacy. It turns out if you just go to a website, goodrx.com, and there’s others. You can pay a lot less just by knowing that website exists. And that’s interesting enough.
I can tell you an anecdote when I was in medical school, in an emergency room rotation in Austin. I’ll spare you the gruesome stories that I had there. But a lady, again, having commented on my age and my appearance. Before she was getting discharged she said to me, “Let me take down your full name. I want to submit your name to Grey’s Anatomy.” And I said, “I don’t think that’s how that show works.”
[laughs] I’m having dinner tonight with somebody that played a doctor on daytime television.
Yeah. It’s interesting, right?
Well, if that person ever needs help pronouncing certain things, you can give them my number.
[laughs] Yeah. My point about the health literacy, my health literacy is based upon my life. I lost both of my grandparents from COVID. Right?
So, sorry to hear that.
They were both not vaccinated. The vaccine wasn’t even out at the time.
Then, my two boys ended up getting it, and they were fully vaccinated. I got it during, I guess, the first version of COVID. And my whole thing was, I just lost my sense of smell. That was it. Didn’t have a fever, didn’t have cough, nothing.
Just, I knew I had something wrong with me because I make coffee every morning and I smell my beans, and they just didn’t smell, nothing. Right? That’s how bad, extreme it was.
And so, when we went and got tested, my whole family obviously got tested. And fair enough, I knew I was going to be positive. That’s pretty obvious.
But then later on, after everybody was vaccinated and my two boys ended up getting it again, the second variant. I’ve got a choice to make with my daughter, 5 years old, right?
And I’m like, “What do we do?” A lot of people are holding out. Don’t know what to do.
And knowing what the extreme of seeing my grandparents being buried as a result of it, with my two boys now in the house, we just went and got her vaccinated.
And I think it was the best choice we probably could have made. Would you agree to that?
Certainly. I think-
She’s only 5, but-
When it comes to the question of vaccines, and people will ask, “Why vaccinate kids if a lot of kids aren’t dying?” Well, first of all, okay, thousands of children are not dying. But it’s almost 1,000 at this point.
But it’s not all about death. It’s about whether or not, when you get the virus, because we’re all going to get the virus. We may even stop checking for the virus at some point. Do you want to have protection against it?
And nowadays the virus is a human virus. It’s less weird than it was 2 years ago when it was a bat virus. And whether it came from a lab or came from a wet market, that’s not for today.
But what we know is, it belonged to a different species and was doing a lot of weird things. So, the fear was justifiable, certainly at the beginning. But nowadays it is less virulent. It is causing less weird issues, if you will. But a lot of that is also showing to be the case that it’s less in vaccinated people.
Including children. So, if you’re hearing this, please vaccinate your children.
And at what age though, 3 years old?
Well, right now it’s approved for 5 and up. And hopefully it’ll be approved for 6 months and up. I can tell you that I vaccinated my 2-year-old and my 4-year-old.
Yeah. I wanted my family completely vaccinated, when it comes to this pandemic. And an interesting thing about the pandemic is, it affects so many people, but illness happens an individual at a time. So, you really have to protect yourself, and as a parent, you have to protect yourself and your children.
And when it came down to it, I knew it was safe. I had already vaccinated hundreds of adults before it was approved for children. And then when we were vaccinating children, and also for myself, it was fine. I had arm pain for a day.
Now, there are some adults who are feeling very knocked out, but remember, when you feel knocked out by a virus- Sorry, let me start over. When you feel knocked out from a vaccine, it’s your own immune system making that immune response. When you feel cruddy the next day, you least know something’s happening.
For those who have no side effects, not even arm pain, you’re like, “Oh, I hope it’s working.”
But yes, I would recommend it. And if you decide not to, again, discuss with a trusted individual.
One of the big frustrations for me during this pandemic is how many patients would come in and say, “No, I don’t want the vaccine because you know of all the things I’ve read on the internet.” And I tell them, “Well, I’m here in front of you now.”
Going back to what I said, “I’ve read the phase one, phase two, phase three, I’ve vaccinated thousands of children. What questions do you have for me?”
And sometimes they don’t have any questions. They just say, “No. No thanks.” And I say, “Okay. Well, know that I recommend it, and I’m here and we have it. And when you’re ready, come on.”
Got it. That’s good advice. I hear you got an interesting ancestry story.
Oh, yes. Yes. So, I-
Tell me more.
For me, going back to our own experiences, I tend to learn a lot from recent history. And I feel blessed to be an American today. My grandparents emigrated from Europe, from different parts of Europe, escaping persecution. We’re Jewish.
My grandma on my mom’s side has a harrowing tale of survival with her mom and her dad traveling from Austria, getting kicked out, and traveling eastward towards the United States. Going from Austria to Turkey, through Syria, through Iraq, and then living in India for a few years.
And then find only making it across to United States just to arrive when their visas expired. So, she ended up with her parents in Mexico.
At the same time, or a couple years before really, my grandfather, my Papá David, he was born in Poland. And he was, turns out, saved by a dentist who gave him a nose job, who said, “I don’t like your Jewish nose,” and basically changed the way his face looked.
And I actually have pictures of that, I’ll show it to you guys.
And he spoke so many languages, his parents were in education. His family was in education, there was a school in Łódź, Poland called Konstat School, named after his family. And he eventually spoke 11 languages.
And was in Belgium, he was asked to interpret for a random gentleman who turned out to be a Nazi. And then he took him to France and says, “You’re going to be the head interpreter for this Nazi regime in France.”
And so, he lived undercover basically…
Oh, my God.
…as an interpreter.
And I have pictures of him with Nazis.
Eventually one day, a Nazi came up and read his whole list of his family members. And he was found out. And it turns out that person said, “People like you and me are not liked by our Furor.”
And he knew it was time to go. And so, he fled, ended up not getting into the United States, and making it to Mexico as well.
My dad’s parents also fled persecution. They had a great love story. My grandfather moved to Mexico and always sent love letters, and eventually got enough money to bring his then girlfriend to Mexico.
She couldn’t get off of the ship because of a visa issue, so he got someone to go on the ship with him, get married on the ship, and come down.
My parents are from Mexico.
But you have Polish descent too.
Polish, Austrian, Lithuanian.
Is that right? Fascinating. And so, you still have families in Mexico too?
A lot of family in Mexico.
Which is great, getting to grow up going to Mexico, speaking Spanish.
Spanish is my first language.
Couldn’t even tell.
Most people cannot. And flying under the radar with Mexican descent is cool.
Well, that probably comes in handy as a doctor in Texas, right?
Yeah. For sure. And in California.
And in California.
It was a dream not having to use interpreters. So, just being able to speak to more people, again, such a blessing.
Gratitude for my education, and gratitude for my upbringing.
Do your children speak Spanish?
They’re working on it.
My children, my daughter, Fiona, was a lot of, “¡No español!” for a while, but now she’s in a dual language program in Houston…
…where she’s learning Spanish, and she’s showing interest.
And my 2-year-old is speaking a lot in Spanish. So, my 4-year is kind of like, “Oh, I better start speaking Spanish.” So, everyone’s getting into Spanish, which is just lovely.
It’s always that thing, right? I’ve got a good buddy of mine, his parents are Spanish, Puerto Rican. He just didn’t- They didn’t speak Spanish to him.
So, here he is, that’s his whole culture, and he just doesn’t speak Spanish. That’s one regret that he has is that he doesn’t speak his native language. So, that’s great.
I went through a phase where I did not want to speak in Spanish. And then I went to visit my cousins in Mexico, and they started calling me, “The gringo.” And I said, “Uh-oh, I better start learning Spanish.”
Then I came back home, I said, “Mom, dad, I honestly don’t remember how to speak Spanish. We need to work on it.” And thank goodness we did that in high school, because now I speak more Spanish than English most of the time at the office.
That’s awesome. Well, we like to do a thing at the end that we call “Hennessey Heart-to-Heart.” Very simple, we just ask questions, whatever first comes to your mind, you just fire back with.
All right. So, we’ll start off. Who is your hero?
Honestly, my Papá David, and my dad, both overcoming adversity. And Papá David who, as you heard briefly, just had to live sort of a double life in order to survive and make his way to this side of the world.
And in the meantime, helping a lot of people cross borders, including his family, getting them visas through his connections in the government in France.
And then my father overcoming adversity of growing up, his mother died at age 5. And then he moved to the United States and had a decision, “Should we go back?” And then didn’t.
So, all of the decisions that they all made to get me to where I am today, and to realize that the problems that I have there are a little bit different, but still legit.
But my close ancestry really means a lot to me.
Sure. Yeah. What drives you?
I think what drives me is just setting a good example for children and for others. The term influencer is thrown around a lot. And nowadays, an influencer can mean so many things, and for some people, it’s on social media and holding up a product in the background.
But for me, it’s just influencing people by doing the right thing at all times. As much as I try, I’m not perfect.
Even when nobody’s looking, right?
Even when no one’s looking. But it’s just doing what’s right, because it’s just such a great, great thing. Life is a great thing.
And sometimes you learn that the hard way by going through some hardships, and these past couple years have been probably pretty difficult for me on a mental health note.
So, please take care of your mental health.
Sure. It’s so important. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
I would go to 2007.
I always joke that 2007 was the greatest year for music, but I’m sure everyone has their own thoughts at their kid- Their music from their teenage years and young 20s is the greatest for music. But-
A lot of Death Cab for Cutie back then. No, I think I would probably go to the ‘60s.
Just to experience the hippie movement.
That’d be cool.
I think that would be fun.
Yeah, I think me, ‘50s.
Yeah. I think the ‘50s for me. It’d be cool to go see Elvis and grab a milkshake and just kind of live that life, the doo-wop life, I guess, for a little bit.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
A lot of times in my early 20s, it was “Rapper’s Delight.” But then I realized people probably don’t want to see me singing for 12 minutes, but it was a lot of “Rapper’s Delight.”
That’s for sure.
The things that come out of their mouth sometimes is just so funny. And it’s just great. And not necessarily my kids too. I’m blessed to be able to have conversations with so many other people’s kids.
So, just asking kids questions, especially when they come in sick, the parents are eager to tell me the story, but I want to hear it from the kids.
I want to hear it from the 5- and 6-year-olds. And then they tell me that they took this, and they felt better, “And then I put on a Band-Aid, and my pain went away.” It’s the best.
So, just hearing what they have to say, sometimes I want to hear what they have to say more than the parents.
Of course, of course. Yeah.
So, my daughter and I, Sunday, our thing is we watch America’s Funniest Home Videos. And she just cracks up.
She sits there and watches a show, and person slips, falls, there are dogs running around.
And it’s just, that’s our thing, but it’s so fun to just sit and watch her take that in and just laugh. Mostly at other people’s expense.
What makes you angry?
I can say that, plain and simple.
Yeah, I think that people are too close-minded sometimes. Oftentimes they hear something new, and their initial reaction is, “No, that can’t be right.” I wish people would open their mind and say, “Oh, maybe. Let’s see how this could be right.”
And a lot of times, it happens to be an opinion. And nowadays, unfortunately, ignorami also have loud microphones and followers and influence and ignorance.
Yeah. Good answer. How would your friends describe you?
I think they would say I’m jovial. I think I tend to try to make people laugh, hopefully.
Hopefully not at my expense, or other people’s expenses. And just, I think they would refer to me as just a good person.
Well, that’s what you live for, right?
You got one character, right?
What’s your favorite thing to spend money on, and why?
Oh, art is one of my favorite things to spend money on.
Is that right? Art collector?
Yeah. I’m a big- Yeah. When I lived here in LA, I watched the show Exit Through the Gift Shop, not the show, the documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Got really into street art, graffiti artists. I got to meet Mr. Brainwash here in LA. That was pretty cool.
And since then, I have a little bit of an art collection. It’s certainly nothing that’s going to probably be museum- in a museum, but I definitely try to own some pieces of some artists who are in museums that are in my- That I can afford.
And then when I go to museums, I say, “Yeah. I have that.”
I think mine would be sneakers. Yeah, that’s definitely my thing. Yeah. And it’s my kids’ thing too, so both of my boys are into sneakers. I’m into sneakers. I don’t know. It’s just one of those things growing up.
Yeah. Sneakers, “Jordan’s on a Saturday.” That’s a thing.
Yeah. Mm-hmm. Trying to find some of those really hard to get sneakers. Yeah. And then when you walk around, people appreciate it, right?
People know. Of course.
They appreciate it.
Do you usually follow your head or your heart when you make decisions?
Well, since I’ve started meditating, I believe I’ve been following my head. In that, I talk things through, I reason things through. But in the end, it’s the heart that leads the right way, and then you really have to convince, make sure your head is also in the same place.
So, I think people, in general- I think one of the things that has helped me over the last year is mindfulness and meditation and trying to respond and not react. So, I guess you can say it’s the mind, body connection that I’ve been working on for myself.
So, I guess now, I would change my answer where it’s both, because I have the connection, I think, in a good place.
Do you use an app for meditation?
Someone- I got an app gifted to me for a year. The subscription has since lapsed, but I meet up with a group on Tuesday nights.
At 8 p.m. and we meet up via Zoom.
I’ve been doing it for the better part of a year, at this point. On and off, but lately it’s been- I realize that when I don’t do it-
You notice a difference.
I notice a difference. The people around me notice a difference.
It’s really- It really is interesting.
What’s your favorite type of foreign food?
I think sushi.
I was introduced to sushi when I was in my 20s, and I just thought sushi was cucumbers and avocado, because I wasn’t into fish at that time. And slowly, it’s become something that I’d really like to eat.
Of course, Mexican food is a favorite as well. But growing up, I ate a lot of chicken and rice and beans. So, I like to venture out.
Got it. What would you say is your best phase of your life? The best phase of your life up until this point?
I think my entire 20s, I think I was blessed. I was told by my cousin, who’s nearing 50, “Know who you are.” I didn’t understand what that meant.
And during my 20s, getting to party, learning in college, but also outside of the classroom.
And then in med school, learning, getting to talk to so many people and learn so much about everyone, everyone’s different experiences, and just traveling at that time.
So, by the time I was ready to move on and become a physician, a married person, I was ready.
And going back to the pandemic, we’ve all been affected, but I often tell my patients who are in their teens and early 20s, I really feel as though they have had the biggest disservice.
If I was to tell you, “You’re going to have two years of your college be virtual or not have parties and not have this.”
It’s tough. So, when all the stories were outbreaks in this college and that college, I was like, “Yeah, it’s going to happen. Kids are going to be kids, and they’re young.”
Yeah, it’s sad. We’ve dealt with it.
Just high school, but still college is probably different.
What do you think is your favorite family tradition?
I think just getting together in large numbers. We’re blessed to have a big family from all over the United States. And then cousins who marry, we all become family, cousins of cousins.
One of my favorite LA stories when I lived here was I went to a function of a cousin of a cousin, and the seat next to me was for Cousin Perry, and Cousin Perry showed up and it was Perry Farrell. And I thought, “Oh, wow, that’s interesting.”
And he and I got to talking, I got to tell him that I didn’t get to have a birthday party in Austin the year before because he had rented out the place where I wanted to have a party.
Is that right?
And he said, “Oh, next time, call me. I’ll be there.” I said, “Okay. Yeah, sure.”
And then he said to me, “Oh, you’re in your residency, so you’re a DJ?” I said, “No, no, I’m a physician.” And I thought, “Wow, we just- We live such different lives.”
But it was so great to be able to meet…
…cousin Perry that day.
So, cool. What relaxes you?
Just meditating, back to that?
Yeah. A lot of people think that looking at their phone is relaxing, and being on social media is relaxing. But I think being able to live in the moment is what can relax you.
So, whether it’s just detaching from your phone and just enjoying what’s in front of you.
And that’s really what’s been really relaxing me lately.
I just think music relaxes me. That’s one of my things.
Oh, for sure.
2007, I was super relaxed, all that good music.
All the great- The NSYNC and Backstreet Boys days, right?
What is one thing that you’ll never do again?
It is basically hiking in canyons.
So, this was in Switzerland. And unfortunately, GoPros didn’t exist at this time, and I really wish they had.
But you basically walk in through these canyons, and you come up to a cliff, and the person says, “Okay,” throws a rock and says, “You see where that rock landed? Land there.” So, you jump, and you land there.
So, I did it with a bunch of my friends two months before we graduated from med school. And I realize now, years later, I would never do that again.
No canyoning. Who knows you the best?
Oh, yeah. She knows me at this point. Yes. And what a great thing for her to know when I’m about to react and not respond, and say things like, “Hey, go take a beat,” or, “I got this for now.”
So, very grateful for Stephanie.
And last question, out of all your accomplishments in your life, and all your success, what do you think is the one thing that your parents are most proud of you for?
Well, my mom loves saying, “My son, the doctor,” so maybe that.
But it’s got to be my kids.
I think my kids, and that’s what I’m most proud of is being a father. Like a lot of people, that is their pride.
But I realize that, when it’s all said and done, I’m going to get the ability, if I influence people great, if I become an influencer, which, again, don’t want to be, but as long as I can influence my children to be better than me and have a better opportunity than me, and I’ve had a great opportunity, so I hope that I can provide them a great opportunity for success.
And my parents just love being with my kids.
Well, it sounds like that. Well, Alex, I really appreciate you coming down here, being on the show.
It’s a pleasure to be here, just to be considered an interesting person. That’s who you tend to interview, interesting people. So, I appreciate it.
So, if there are any listeners that maybe want to follow you and continue to keep up with you, how do they keep in touch?
I’m on Instagram, @alexyudovichmd. To be completely honest, I don’t post much anymore.
Jenna has my email?
Jenna has your- Well, here’s the thing, maybe at some point, we’ll be blessed.
But eventually, if I do, I will certainly let you know.
Well, maybe we’ll be blessed. You’ve got a lot of wisdom you shared on this, in this.
And at some point, maybe you’ll publish a book or something.
So, we’ll be on the lookout for that.
That’s definitely- I got lots of book ideas for kids and for parents and for grandparents alike.
Awesome. Well, thanks, again, Alex. Appreciate that and safe travels back home.
Dr. Alex Yudovich on Instagram
American Academy of Pediatrics Parenting Website