LOS ANGELES – Working as a general physician can quickly become “medically and professionally unfulfilling,” says doctor-turned-actor Ken Jeong.
“There is a lot of burnout in primary care because a lot of times you are the gatekeeper in the HMO and [the patients] just want to see a specialist…you are just pushing papers.”
“There is a bit of that kind of burnout or medical groundhog day. Just the drudgery of it. Anything that is repetitive and unfulfilling can sew the the seeds of burnout.”
Still, the star of ABC’s new comedy “Dr. Ken” isn’t ruling out a return to medicine one day.
“I miss the patients,” he admits.
Jeong, 45, logged 90 hour work weeks at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans before moving to Los Angeles to pursue stand-up comedy in 1998.
He hung up his stethoscope for good in 2006 just before landing his breakout role — ironically as a doctor — in the Katherine Heigl comedy “Knocked Up.”
“I have never been financially motivated in anything I have done,” Jeong tells Fox411.
“I was a partner in my HMO. I had a very comfortable six figure salary. So to me, [giving up medicine] was very scary.”
“Luckily, I had support from every single person in my family. Everyone important to me said, ‘Yeah. You have got to pursue this.’”
Now, after hitting it big on NBC’s “Community” and in a trio of “Hangover” movies, Jeong is playing a practitioner once again.
“Dr. Ken” follows the day to day misadventures of a quirky but brilliant L.A. physician, who is trying to keep up with his career, wife and two children.
Much of the subject matter is loosely inspired by Jeong’s own life and experiences — sans the show business dreams.
“In the pilot, there is a patient with a hemorrhoid issue that is based on a real patient,” he says.
“Loosely based, of course. We amped it up for comedic effect.”
Jeong admits he has been hit up for medical advice on “ever single production I have been on.”
“The most surreal [time] was on ‘Hangover 2,’” he remembers.
“I was in Bangkok and in character as Mr. Chow speaking very dirty and saying un-PC things and one of Ed Helm’s best friends had food poisoning. [Ed] called me on my cell asking for medical advice.”
“The whole cast and crew was stunned.”
Perhaps that’s why Jeong continues to renew his medical license every year.
“To me it is a reminder to keep me grounded as to where I came from,” he says.
“At this point it becomes more of a symbol of who I am or what my roots are. But I am not trying to sign up for shift work.”
“Dr. Ken” premieres October 2 on ABC.