Living by Example
Advice from the best … secrets to health and happiness from Hermosa’s Dr. David Wallis
- Written byStefan Slater
Dr. David Wallis fully understands the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle. The 41-year-old Hermosa Beach resident specializes in family practice and sports medicine, and he also serves as a team physician for a number of professional sports teams, including the Los Angeles Galaxy and the U.S. National Soccer Team.
When he isn’t helping professional athletes recover from their injuries, he’s usually doing what he can to stay in shape (triathlons are a favorite) while also making time to spend with his family. Dr. Wallis shared his thoughts with us about the complexities of sports medicine, why it’s important to stay active and how the South Bay is a truly one-of-a-kind community.
Thanks for taking time in your busy schedule to talk to us. Share with our readers how you got into sports medicine.
Dr. David Wallis: I went to UCSD for medical school. I planned on going into orthopedic surgery—I’d always loved working with my hands. I was a wood shop and auto shop TA in high school, and I helped my dad with construction when I was growing up.
I was planning to become a surgeon, but towards the end of school I realized that I really enjoyed getting to know the people I was working with in the clinic (rather than in the operating room). I receive more of an emotional paycheck in getting to know people and helping them with whatever ails them, so I changed my focus to primary care and sports medicine.
Can you walk me through a typical workday?
DW: Most days I try to get up and work out in the morning. Then I get ready for work and have a little quiet time praying and reading with my wife before I go to work or meetings, usually starting by 7 a.m. I usually roll from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. without much of a break, and then I try to connect with my family for a couple hours before I have to log back on and finish my labs in the evening. Depending on the season, I may also have a game to cover at one of the stadiums after work or on the weekends.
My patients are a mix of everyone from age 10 to 100, and most are actually non-athletes. Probably a third of my practice has to do with musculoskeletal injuries, and the rest focuses on managing issues like diabetes, blood pressure and the like. I do a lot of physicals and preventive visits as well, usually seeing 20 to 30 patients a day.
How many individual sports teams do you work with?
DW: Currently, it’s primarily soccer and baseball. I started working with the U.S. national soccer team as they were preparing for the 2004 Olympics, and it’s been a privilege to work with them ever since.
Since then I’ve also been fortunate to work with the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA of Major League Soccer and have joined the medical staff working with the LA Dodgers. I also have been fortunate enough to work with individual professionals from almost every other sport, such as surfing, tennis, boxing and cycling.
What sorts of physical challenges do your athletes seem to deal with the most?
DW: Obviously each sport has its own particular injury pattern—and yet there are many medical issues that cross over to almost every other sport, such as medication management, work and life balance, performance psychology and even the pressure of being a celebrity. From mangled toenails to concussions, there’s very little that doesn’t come into play with sports medicine, which is one of the reasons I’m thankful to have such broad training. I don’t consider myself a world authority on anything, but I love working with a good team—a physician is only as good as his medical team.
You have a strong relationship with Torrance Memorial Medical Center?
DW: We are really fortunate to have such a great medical community in the South Bay. The medical team at Torrance Memorial Medical Center allows us to take great care of our patients with confidence here in our own area. From the great cardiovascular institute to the local physicians, we’ve got resources here in the South Bay that most community hospitals couldn’t dream of.
How do you and your wife like raising a family in the South Bay?
DW: We love it. Just last year my wife opened her own firm doing family law mediation right on Pier Avenue in Hermosa. This year, I was able to relocate my practice with Torrance Memorial on the same street.
We can now walk to each other’s offices for lunch, have a cocktail watching the sunset for happy hour on date night and even walk the kids to school in the morning. Who gets to do that in LA these days? It’s an amazing privilege to be able to both live and work here.
I know you spend much of your time keeping others in shape, but HOW DO YOU stay fit?
DW: My favorite sport is long-distance triathlons. I admit I’m not a very good patient though. I sometimes don’t listen to my own advice, and I try to ramp up too hard or too fast. Not surprisingly, I end up doing something to hurt myself.
It’s hard to try to cram a lot of training in a busy schedule and not compromise family time substantially. But I don’t consider my struggles unique; we all wrestle with the same constraints of not enough time.
What sort of advice do you have for our readers regarding staying in shape?
DW: I like to remind my patients that our bodies were designed to survive as hunter-gatherers for millions of years. If you didn’t exercise, then you didn’t eat. Period. We’ve turned that around nowadays, thinking, “I’ve gotta eat, of course, and then if I have time, maybe I’ll do a little exercise.”
It’s totally backwards. With jobs where most of us drive to work and then sit on our butts all day, and conveniences where you can have meals delivered right to your front door, it’s no wonder we have the epidemics of so many diseases in our society.
I encourage people to live like they were made to—eating mostly natural foods and getting a lot of exercise. Fortunately, the South Bay is a great place to do that—we have a lot of health-conscious food options out here, and we have weather, parks, gyms and the beach that make it easier to optimize the little time we can carve out for effective workouts as well.
Best of all, it pays off. Studies consistently show that people who work out regularly and stay healthy have more energy, better moods and better qualities of life all around. It’s breaking the inertia and reforming good habits that are usually the hardest part!