People in Your Neighborhood: Pulmonary doctor Ken Grudko finds ‘it’s really special to take care of people’

Ken Grudko, a pulmonary and critical care doctor, takes a break with daughter Ava, wife Dina Massry and son Sam.
Ken Grudko, a pulmonary and critical care doctor, takes a break with his daughter, Ava; wife, dermatologist Dina Massry; and son, Sam.

Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light’s People in Your Neighborhood series shines a spotlight on notable locals we wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, call us at (858) 875-5950 or e-mail

Ken Grudko is busier than ever these days as a doctor of pulmonary and critical care with the Scripps medical group.

The resident of La Jolla’s Muirlands neighborhood also is the father of 15-year-old twins Sam and Ava, who are wrapping up their freshman year at La Jolla High School.

And Grudko and his wife, dermatologist Dina Massry, are occupied with the changes to their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, Grudko answers questions about kids, career and moving forward after the crisis.

Q. What’s the best part of your job right now?

A. “Everyone I work with. I’ve always enjoyed the people with whom I work, but over the last few months all of us have gotten closer and closer; we are a second family in a sense. That’s gotten more profound.”

Q. What are the kids looking forward to?

A. “They want to go back to school to see their friends, though my son might deny that. Getting out of the house would be great. They’re looking forward to summer and having some down time, not being wedded to the Zoom classroom and distance learning.”

Q. What advice are you giving your children right now about stress and uncertainty?

A. “Both my wife and I are physicians, so they see what we put into our work. I think the reality of what’s going on in the world has hit them to a certain extent. Ultimately, this their 9/11, so to speak. This is a huge development of who they are. We’re trying to be realistic that we’ll all get through this and we’ll move forward and have a different day, but it’s not going to be the same. We’re doing our best.”

Q. What is it like right now with two doctors in the house? Are you busier than normal?

A. “I’m always busy. My days are 13- to 14-hour days, then I come home and I’m pretty wiped. When I have time off, I’m busy with educational stuff; there are constant meetings and issues I’m addressing. We’re both constantly busy and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of relief. My wife owns her own practice and she’s been through a lot of the issues associated with businesses having to pare down on staff, having a reduction in revenue and safety factors.

“It’s been interesting. I’m grateful that this is what I’ve chosen to do, and I’m happy to do it and take care of patients.”

Q. What do you hope will come out of this pandemic in terms of changes in medical procedure, research or practice?

A. “I wish we were more unified as a nation. I keep harking back to 9/11; that was a big part of many people’s lives and I think that moment in time unified our country. I would hope that a global response to this [pandemic] really moves medicine forward in terms of analytics and learning.

“I hope that people not being complacent — wearing masks, social distancing, maintaining that through this period where we’re opening up — brings us together to keep people safe.”

Q. Restaurants, hair salons and places of worship are opening. Will you be going?

A. “Yep! I’m getting a haircut next week. I want to participate in that. I encourage people to wear masks, not touch their face, wash their hands and be appropriate in this environment. It’s about helping each other out. People really need to protect everyone.”

Q. What about the pandemic crisis strikes you as remarkable?

A. “I also teach for a couple of schools online to train people to become respiratory therapists. One of the things about this crisis is it’s really raised the bar of the value of people who deal with pulmonary disease — what they require when patients get sick.

“I hope more people go into the field; it’s a wonderful field. It’s really special to take care of people and their families; it’s something that really gives me a sense of being.”

Q. What are your hobbies, and are you able to engage in those now?

A. “I love food; I love to cook. It’s been a respite for me for a while. I roast coffee; it’s one of those standards that hasn’t changed in this crisis. I like exercise; we like to hike and ski. I am looking forward to traveling again; I love being outdoors. It’s hard to see what that’s going to be. I’m curious as to what’s going to change as we get through all this.”

Q. Have you always lived in La Jolla? What drew you here?

A. “I’m originally from New York. I grew up on Long Island, went to medical school in Brooklyn and did my residency at NYU [New York University] during the AIDS epidemic and the resurgence of tuberculosis.

“I moved to Pacific Beach in 1995 as a UCSD fellow in the critical care division and moved to La Jolla about 15 years ago.”

Q. What have you loved about living in La Jolla? What keeps you here?

A. “It really is ‘The Jewel.’ There’s not a day that goes by that I think, ‘I live here!’ I knew I was a local when I started complaining about the weather, but it’s beautiful. I love seeing the ocean, walking around in The Cove. The area is gorgeous and the people are really lovely. I’m enjoying myself.” ◆