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“Being a Nerd is a Good Thing” With Dr. Travis Stork, Host of the Emmy Award-Winning Talk Show The Doctors

“Being a nerd is a good thing: When you are made fun of and excluded as a kid, it’s easy to become dejected and feel isolated and lonely. I was always jealous of the popular kids but in retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing. I found success in the classroom and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss much by not being invited to hang out with the more popular kids. I became very self-reliant.”

What is your “backstory”?

I was born in Colorado but also lived in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri while growing up. I was what you call a late bloomer and grew up keeping mostly to myself.

Luckily, I always did well in school (math in particular) so after attending high school in St. Louis, I set off to Duke University. While at Duke, I majored in mathematics and economics, but more importantly I was surrounded by an amazing group of people that helped me evolve into an open minded adult (while also learning that I really enjoy beer — ha).

After college I took a job at a consulting firm as an actuarial scientist in Washington, DC. While there, I began volunteering at a free clinic, and was in awe of the docs there — I knew I had found my calling. I took the required pre-med classes around my work schedule and eventually enrolled at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Medical school was a great experience for me because I finally felt like I was learning about things that truly mattered to me. After a rotation in the emergency department, I was hooked on life in the ER. I had found my passion. I eventually accepted a residency position in the emergency department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. That was a very important time in my life, because I learned how to take care of virtually any illness and just as importantly, I learned how to channel fear into focused action.

How did TV end up being a part of my career? I went to dinner after a shift in the ER back in 2005 and was approached by a casting director of The Bachelor. After much contemplation, I took the plunge and set off to Paris where I appeared as The Bachelor in the eighth installment of the series. Although I did not get engaged, it was probably exactly the adventure I needed after spending so many days and nights in the hospital. A few years later, after appearing on Dr. Phil as a medical contributor, I began hosting The Doctors and we are just completing our 10th season! It’s been an unexpected journey to say the least.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you over the course of your career?

In medical school you have to wear a short white coat to signify that you are still in training. (Once you become a doctor you move on to the long white coat.) Well, the length of the white coats at UVa were, shall we say, quite short. I’m just over 6'4" tall and my short white coat barely reached my waist so I would walk around the hospital to the laughter of my classmates wearing a coat that barely made it past my elbows or waist. Needless to say, after graduation, I ordered the longest white coat I could find!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Dr. Keith Wrenn was my residency director while at Vanderbilt. To this day, he is the smartest person that I have ever met. He along with the emergency department chair, Dr. Corey Slovis, demanded excellence in everything that we did. Thanks to them, I came out of my medical training as an extremely confident and well-educated doctor. Whether in the hospital or as a TV host, virtually every day I use a lesson that I learned from them.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

In the ER, we often treat things after it is too late. My passion now is to teach people how to prevent illness before it happens. They say everything in life happens for a reason, and without any expectation of ever being on TV, I feel like my training and personal passion for good health has led me into the perfect position to help guide others on their own journey towards a healthier life.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me” when you first started and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Being a nerd is a good thing: When you are made fun of and excluded as a kid, it’s easy to become dejected and feel isolated and lonely. I was always jealous of the popular kids but in retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing. I found success in the classroom and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss much by not being invited to hang out with the more popular kids. I became very self-reliant.

Dogs don’t live forever: My beloved dog of 17 years, Nala, passed away last year. It’s easy to forget when life gets busy that you’re best furry friend has a shorter expected life span than humans. She lived a good life and 17 years for a bigger dog is incredible. But truth be told, I always took it for granted she would be home to greet me until the very end. She was special and for me, they’ll never be another like her.

Your mother was right — sit up straight: I always considered myself healthy and in good shape. I practiced what I preached. I biked to work every day, I ate healthy food, I did strength training for healthy muscles and bones but I never really paid attention to my body’s structure and posture. 3 years ago I started developing nerve pain and weakness and numbness in my right arm and back. An MRI showed how much I had neglected my spinal health. I never knew a pinched spinal nerve could be so life changing (and not in a good way). I finally had surgery last summer but only now am I beginning to regain the function I lost. I now spend every day thinking about my posture, I stretch religiously and always pay attention to how I’m sitting and holding my phone. I wish I had started before I turned 45. I could have avoided 3 years of pain and ultimately, surgery.

Red wine is awesome: I didn’t really enjoy wine until about 5 years ago. I would occasionally have some cheap wine but about 5 years ago I went to Napa for a wedding and a retiring vintner spent his afternoon teaching me about wine. Now, I love nothing more than a good glass of red wine (in moderation, of course). Cheers to heart health!

Be the CEO of your own health: I hate to be cynical but this is a lesson that has caused quite a bit of consternation during my mid-life. I was optimistic when I went into medicine. But sadly, our health care system is often driven by people and companies looking to make a buck. There are still plenty of wonderful companies, hospitals, and people in medicine BUT, there is a reason why we have the most expensive health care system in the world without the results to show for it. Health care is a money-making business and good health is often a secondary part of that equation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Probably Warren Buffett. He is 87 years old, works because he wants to and not because he has to. But more importantly, he seems content. Being content in life is much easier said than done and the oracle of Omaha seems to have that figured out!

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