Kleinrock, whom Park still addresses as “Coach,” was appropriately enlisted to introduce Park before the virtual meeting, which Park titled “From Iraq to the hospital, and how you can stay out of it.”
He began with a survey of his military career. In 2005, Park began active duty service stationed at Naval Hospital 29 Palms. In 2006, he deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing trauma medical care to wounded U.S. service members and Iraqi Army troops. He left active duty service in 2009 with the rank of lieutenant commander.
“I happened to arrive during some of the peak violence,” Park explained, as he displayed photos of the medical facilities in which he served. “This was a pretty basic set-up; obviously not your modern-day emergency room that we have in the United States.”
While in Baghdad, Park cared for patients who had experienced the worst horrors of war, including injuries caused by roadside bombs and mortars.
“We had a saying that if you can get to our hospital with a pulse, you have a good chance of getting out of there alive,” Park said. “I often get asked what the dangers or the hazards were during my service,” he said, and included in the list the frequent flights on helicopters that were required for duty. “I was in Iraq when there was a rash of helicopter downings.”
Deployed to administer medical aid to American servicemen, part of his duty was to take care of enemy combatants.
“They were blindfolded and handcuffed and I had a Marine escort with a rifle pointed at the patient,” Park explained. “The escort had a code word and when I heard it I had to hit the deck because he might be firing it.”
Park displayed a wartime photo of himself holstering a substantial firearm, which he quipped “is not part of my everyday practice now, but is a unique aspect of military medicine.”
From the comparatively primitive medical facilities of Iraq, Park has advanced to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Baldwin Park, where he currently woks as a hospitalist.
“I specialize in hospital care,” he explained. “If you’re seeing me it’s because you are sick enough to be in the hospital. Basically, if you go to the emergency room and the emergency room doctor thinks you are sick enough to be in the hospital, then he or she will call us, admit you, treat you, and hopefully get you home.”
Staying out of hospitals, according to Park, “is self-intuitive.”
“The more chronic illness you have, the higher the chance that you are going to be hospitalized, and once you are hospitalized, the more chronic illness you have and the higher chance you are not going to do so well,” Park explained. “Our experience with COVID has confirmed this.
“So what can we do to prevent the chance of chronic illness?”
The answers: screenings, vaccinations, diet, physical activity, preventing obesity, chronic disease management and primary prevention, among others. Park recommended regular screenings for cancers, emphasizing screenings for colorectal cancers, which he said have been recommended beginning at age 45 — a number that was recently reduced from age 50. He recommended vaccinations, and encouraged meeting attendees to “get whatever you can as soon as you can” when it comes to the COVID vaccine. He also put in a plug for an annual flu vaccine, which studies have shown “prevented over 100,000 hospitalizations due to flu,” in Park’s research.
On the subject of diet, Park encouraged City Clubbers to “pick one that works for you and one that you can stick with.”
He mentioned calorie-counting apps, which he personally uses. “I suggest you use it for a couple weeks to just to get an idea of your calorie intake to see how many calories you are taking in on a daily basis.
“It’s 2021 and people are still doing studies about how many fruits and vegetables we should have each day,” he said with a good-natured chuckle, adding that three vegetables and two fruits per day was sufficient.
Physical activity, Park said, “is a big one that I believe in.”
“Basically because of the countless benefits,” he said. “Not just the physical benefits, but the mental benefits as well. The point is, physical activity can do so much for you in so many ways. He recommended a minimum of 150 minutes per week spread out among five days as a baseline.
He recommended that viewers conduct a simple review of all medications; that includes “sitting down with your provider, take all of your medications, look at every one of them and decide do I really have to be on this medication.” If you do end up in the hospital, Park advised that “your medical history is everything” and prepare to “tell your story many times.”
In his final review, Park recommended staying up-to-date on screenings, urged a good diet and regular exercise, review medications and see your health care provider regularly. He then challenged club members watching the meeting to take action on just one of those items from the presentation.
Park attended Carver Elementary, Huntington Middle School and SMHS, graduating in 1993. He played football and baseball, earning all-CIF honors in both sports, and was selected as the CIF’s Student-Athlete of the Year in 1993. He completed his undergraduate degree at Stanford, medical degree at Saint Louis University, and internal medicine residency training at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is married to Jennifer Park, an OB/GYN for Fair Oaks Women’s Health. They have two children: Ryan, a freshman at SMHS, and Sydney, a 7th grader at Huntington Middle School. Steve’s parents, Brian and Sharon Park, are long-time residents of San Marino.