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Personal discipline and “quieting of the mind”

March 2009

Published in the March 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

PEDIATRIC HOSPITALIST JEFF GILL, MD, took his first judo class at age 6, around the same time he became enthralled with Bruce Lee movies. But it wasn’t until junior high, when he was looking for some form of athleticism and tired of “getting thrown in garbage cans” that he began what is still a serious commitment to martial arts. He received his first black belt (he now has two “one in kempo and one in taekwondo) the same month he graduated from medical school.

“What drew me is that martial arts are explicitly oriented toward individual progression and achievement,” says Dr. Gill, who is president and CEO of Inpatient Specialists Medical Group Inc., in Brea, Calif., a private group of eight pediatric hospitalists.

Another dimension of martial arts that has kept his interest: the strong sense of community and respect, regardless of age or rank, that he has found at individual studios. “That appeals to me as a pediatrician,” Dr. Gill explains, “because I think children are often ignored in adult social exchanges.”

Since moving to Southern California five years ago, Dr. Gill has enrolled in a taekwondo studio where he now studies “and teaches “along with his wife and their two small children.

When he worked as an outpatient physician, Dr. Gill used to recommend martial arts to families whose children were disruptive or in some form of crisis. And because taekwondo is one of the most popular children’s sports in Southern California, his martial arts background now serves him well in the hospital.

“I can connect with my patients because we share a similar interest, or I at least have a language I can use to talk about discipline.” For children who have to take medications or peak flows twice a day, for instance, “I can say, ‘This is like . . . ‘ and use a martial arts analogy.”

Outside of tournaments, Dr. Gill says that he’s never been in a fight. But the “personal discipline and quieting of the mind” have been invaluable in his medical career. “The achievement of a black belt is not at all the end,” he points out. “It’s certainly a goal, but it’s really a beginning.”