Between working shifts, keeping current with medical research, managing life outside of work, and maybe raising a family, most emergency physicians have a lot on their plates. Now imagine adding a grueling filming schedule and the publicity appearances and other responsibilities that come with being a television star to the mix. That’s just what emergency physician Damon C. Kimes, MD, and his wife, Heavenly Kimes, DDS, a dentist, decided to do when they joined the cast of the Bravo reality show Married to Medicine. The show follows the lives of several Atlanta-based physicians and their spouses as they work to balance careers, family, and friendships.
Dr. Kimes recently spoke with ACEP Now Medical Editor-in-Chief Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, about why he and his wife decided to join the show and the challenges of juggling career, family, and TV. Here are some highlights from their conversation.
KK: Where are you located?
DK: We’re about 20 minutes outside of Atlanta. I did my training at Grady Memorial Hospital for Emory. I was there from 2001 to 2004.
KK: How long have you two been married?
DK: Almost 20 years. This past August 16 will make 18 years married, but we dated for about three years before that.
KK: You thinking you’re going to make it to 20 years? 🙂
DK: Oh, yeah. If nothing else, everything that’s transpired has really made us a lot closer. Probably the opposite of what people might think, just doing something where it’s you against the world, it’s really brought us really close.
KK: Let me tell you what brought you and I together. So here I am on the elliptical, and Bravo is on the TV, Married to Medicine. You two are going out on a date night, and your daughter told your wife, “You are not going out dressed like that!” Then it comes out in the discussion that you’re an emergency physician. “Oh, my gosh! It’s one of my colleagues,” I thought. I got really interested in it at that point. When did you get involved with the show?
DK: Actually, we were involved from the onset. There is a young lady who is on the show, Mariah Huq, who heard about us through mutual friends. Dr. Eugene Harris and Toya Bush-Harris are friends of ours also. I actually helped Dr. Harris get his first ER job. Toya was already on the pilot for the show, and she said, “You know, I think Heavenly Kimes would really fit well.” We made it on one of the episodes, a very controversial episode. There was actually a fight between a couple of young ladies.
KK: It wasn’t a fight between Heavenly and some other lady?
DK: Oh, no. No, no, no. We were just innocent bystanders. They showed Heavenly and me, and she had a pretty dramatic reaction to the fight. She was actually really shocked and saddened that it had gotten to that level. My wife has owned up to seven dental practices, and I’ve been sort of her protégé in terms of business because she’s really taught me a lot about how to manage a business. We thought, in addition to having some laughs and doing something we could tell our grandkids about, we would maybe inspire somebody who may be pigeonholed into one career and won’t really get to try anything else. A lot of emergency physicians are super-talented folks and are capable of doing many things.
KK: How long is the filming season?
DK: It’s several months. It can range anywhere from five to seven months. You do an intense filming where you’re filming three to four times a week for about five to six months. Then there are little pickup episodes where they wanted to get a little more information about certain scenes.
KK: How many hours in a day and how many days in a row are they filming?
DK: Usually, you get a couple days off during the week, like Sunday and Monday typically. You end up filming between two and five hours a day.
KK: Damon, you seem like a pretty polished guy. Is there any portion that’s scripted?
DK: Honestly, it’s completely reality. At first, I was very nervous while being filmed, and I don’t really think I was giving a total reality just because I was so aware of the cameras and things going on around me. Then after a while, it becomes second nature because these folks are in your home. After a while, it becomes routine.
KK: How are they always in the right place at the right time?
DK: Well, if you put a couple folks together and they all have strong personalities, you’re going to get a good story. It may be that they filmed for a couple of hours, but you only see about 30 seconds.
KK: Have you ever realized that you said or did something that you just wished you hadn’t?
DK: Oh, yeah. All the time and also on film as well.
KK: What’s your best example of, “I cannot believe that I just said that”?
DK: They didn’t actually show this, but I was joking around with my wife about her doing some surgery or something, but it was something that was sensitive to her, so she really got upset. I was so thankful that they didn’t show it because I immediately apologized. I didn’t realize that it would hit her that hard.
KK: Can you remember feeling, “Oh, no, that did not just happen”?
DK: Well, my wife uses curse words a lot more than I would. Almost every time she says a curse world, I cringe. You can imagine, if you watch the show enough, that I’m cringing almost constantly.
KK: Has this opened up any other doors?
DK: Sure. My wife has opened up a dating app. It’s piq.dating. That’s really gone pretty far. She’s been on countless interviews and other television shows that have highlighted what she does and her personality. It’s really opened a lot of doors. And, for me, ACEP Now is interviewing me, and I think that’s pretty awesome.
KK: I’m not pressuring you, but it would be interesting to people to know: Do you get compensated for being on the show?
DK: Yes, we do.
KK: You’re giving your time, you’re exposing your family, so why not?
DK: Especially for physicians and dentists and other professionals, this is real time that’s away from your practice or in addition to your practice. I don’t get compensated because it’s really my wife who is the main character, but she gets compensated.
KK: Are there other emergency physicians involved?
DK: They’ve also got Dr. Eugene Harris, Dr. Darren Naugles, and Dr. Aydin Huq.
KK: Well, I really appreciate it, and you have a great day, Damon.