John McHugh is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN), physician, and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Before joining the Zócalo/California Wellness Foundation event, “Can California Lead a New Reproductive Rights Movement?”— put on in partnership with Esperanza Community Housing’s multidisciplinary arts festival South Central Innervisions: An AfroLatinxFuturism— McHugh spoke with us in the green room about the calming side of rough water swimming, why Brussel sprouts are the vegetable, and why we should stop checking our emails after 3 p.m.
What’s your favorite relaxing activity?
I like rough water swimming. I love to get out in the water and kind of just forget the whole world.
When are you most creative?
First thing in the morning. I wake up really early–it’s something I’ve been doing since grade school–and I can’t wait to just start writing.
What do you think your strongest attribute is?
Seeing a couple of steps ahead. Sometimes it can annoy people, like, “Hey we’re not ready to talk about breakfast yet, we’re at dinner.” And I’ll be like, well, you know, let’s make a plan!
What’s the last song you listened to?
Probably Cat Stevens’ “Another Saturday Night.”
Who’s someone, living or dead, that you’d love to have a meal with?
There was someone I was thinking about tonight as I was getting ready to do this, a woman named Akilah Weber, who’s an OB/GYN and was elected to state legislature. So she’s not just seeing patients; she’s also going and writing laws and changing things.
What’s a guilty pleasure or indulgence?
I definitely love stopping work at 3 o’clock and jumping into the ocean and taking the rest of the day off. Start early, end early.
If you weren’t a doctor right now, what do you think your alternative career would be?
I had a different life before, as a high school teacher. I dug it. Part of why going into medicine was funny for me is because I like working with young people. A lot of medicine is dealing with not-so-young people.
What’s the strangest thing you have in your medicine cabinet?
My Waterpik. I had braces for two years—I just came off them a couple of months ago. It makes the upkeep fun.
What advice do you have for students dealing with imposter syndrome?
Gary Hart, a senator from Colorado running for president a while back, said you spend the first six months wondering, “How did I get here?” And spend the next six years wondering, “How did you all get here?” Once you realize who you’re dealing with, you realize very quickly what a good job you’re doing, and what a good job you can do. Because there’s a lot of people that need you, and you just gotta get out there and assert yourself.