He’s an emergency medicine physician, medical educator and former U.S. Army Ranger—and now, Jedidiah Ballard, DO, has been named this year’s Ultimate Men’s Health Guy, which earned him a spot on the November cover of Men’s Health magazine.
Dr. Ballard, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Augusta (Georgia) University, beat more than 800 competitors for the win, which honors men who are fit, healthy and dedicated to service.
In this edited Q&A, Dr. Ballard shares how he stays fit as a busy physician, how his commitment to health affects his approach to medicine and why he became a DO.
How do you stay fit? What’s your routine?
I work out between 30 and 75 minutes per day and eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates and fats. I avoid eating processed foods, but I don’t weigh out my food or count calories. I enjoy working out with friends—meeting up for a group exercise class or a basketball game is a great social outlet as well as a good workout.
The most important thing for people to know is that fitness doesn’t have to be an all-consuming thing for you to see good results. For me, exercise grounds me—it’s such an effective form of stress relief. You can integrate components of mind, body and spirit into your workout program and really feel a lot better.
How does your interest in fitness affect your practice?
Some patients who come in to the ER are extremely sick, but when patients present with milder complaints, I can take a little extra time to talk to them and figure out why they’re really in there. For example, if I’m talking with a young patient who has diabetes, I emphasize that he needs to manage his disease now to avoid the possibility of developing complications like blindness down the road. Because fitness is so important to me, encouraging people to exercise and eat healthy comes naturally. The ER can be a challenging place to have conversations about prevention, but it’s important to address it when you can, because you might be the only physician a patient sees that year.
Why did you choose osteopathic medicine?
I knew I wanted to be a physician and use manual medicine to heal people, so I only applied to osteopathic medical schools. After my residency, I served for two years as a battalion surgeon with the U.S. Army Rangers, with deployments to Korea and Afghanistan. My DO skills were probably my greatest contribution to my battalion—many of my fellow soldiers had really bad lower back pain because they were lifting heavy objects and jumping out of planes. People often had drastic somatic dysfunction in the sacrum, and I would treat it using osteopathic manipulative treatment.
I remember treating one Afghani soldier who was part of the Afghan Special Operations group we were working with. He had severe back pain and was starting to develop an ulcer from all the medication his doctors had him taking. I was able to resolve his pain using OMT, and every time I saw him after that, his eyes would tear up and he would bow to me. It was humbling and gratifying to have the extra musculoskeletal training to do that.