A former pro triathlete, Dr. McDonald promotes preventative medicine, prescribing exercise, good sleep, and nutrition to his patients, while working in the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
Alex McDonald, MD, CAQSM, FAAFP was known for being fast as a pro triathlete early in his medical career. Now as a family physician, exercise is still an important part of his life and he makes sure his patients also practice it as well, along with good nutrition and sleep habits prescriptions – what he calls a whole-body treatment.
Dr. McDonald is a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fontana, CA, and specializes in sports medicine. He’s passionate about preventative medicine and lifestyle medicine and believes in a good healthy lifestyle as a way to promote good physical and mental health.
For Dr. McDonald, good health starts with exercise, proper sleep, and nutrition. He recommends to his patients 30 minutes of exercise most days a week, eight hours of sleep at night, a healthy plant-based diet, and some kind of stress relief.
His background in sports ignites this passion. As a former triathlete, Dr. McDonald competed professionally after graduating from medical school in 2008. His training was extensive, from 30-35 hours a week and an average of 20k of swimming, 350 miles on the bike, and 60 miles of running.
In 2011, while on a training ride, he was hit by a pickup truck and broke both of his legs. For the first time, he became the patient. It was when he knew he wanted to treat his future patients as a whole, not just the sick part. For him, a healthy lifestyle is the foundation of any plan of treatment. His patients will leave with an exercise prescription and some kind of dietary recommendation.
He follows his own advice and enjoys biking on weekends.
“I live what I preach,” he said.
Now Dr. McDonald is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight.
On December 3, 2020, at 8 pm, Dr. McDonald adjusted his camera to record the first of a series of videos telling about the physicians’ experiences in the COVID-19 frontlines, an attempt to create more awareness on the pandemic. In the videos he often appeals to people to wear masks, stay home and be safe.
“Please take this seriously,” he says, “this is a horrible disease.”
With over half of his patients with COVID-19, Dr. McDonald saw some heartbreaking cases, such as the healthy 41-year-old man who got admitted with COVID-19 pneumonia, experiencing shortness of breath and with low oxygen saturation. After agreeing to be intubated, he said goodbye to his daughter over facetime.
“It was like he knew what was going to happen,” he said.
Minutes later his heart stopped. Shock and CPR got him back but oxygen levels were critically slow and he died of pneumo thoracic and fluid and air in the lungs.
“A healthy 41-year-old man, no much older than me, died of COVID pneumonia,” Dr. McDonald said.
Dr. McDonald, who is 39 years old, is now the president of the California Academy of Family Physicians of the Riverside-San Bernardino Chapter.
He’s married to Ashley Zucker, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and has three kids – two girls, ages ten and eight, and a four-year-old boy.