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Me and my health: Jim Dornan on his lifestyle


The professor is a well-known local obstetrician and gynaecologist who recently launched a new online service with his daughter Jessica aimed at helping people create lasting memories of loved ones called Jim is married to top gynaecologist Samina Dornan.

Q: Do you take regular exercise - and if so, what?

A: I have been going to a personal trainer at the gym once, sometimes twice, a week for the past 15 years. I did play weekly tennis, but now have arthritis in my foot which is awful. I also play golf, but mostly in warmer climes where I can get a buggy without being thought a wimp!

Q: What's the worst illness you have had?

A: Leukaemia hit me in 2005 when I was 57. It was a game-changer. If I don't die of it, and I don't intend doing so thanks to the team at Belfast City Hospital, then it has to be the best thing that ever happened as I became acutely aware of mortality and all that.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: Good and in recent times better, though I still love potatoes, preferably daily with Irish butter. I like garlic in anything I've eaten since being adult, but hate it in my comfort foods like potatoes, beef, lamb, chicken etc. I love avocado, raw vegetables, eggs and tuna. I haven't got into pasta enough - so everyone tells me.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: I get myself too anguished about local politics and it's purveyors. I attended the Peace and Beyond conference on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in order to try and channel my anger, disappointment and sadness. The good news is there are lots of good people in this country who have the larger good at heart. There is a huge vacuum created by the two parties who think they represent the majority, but in fact represent surprisingly small minorities if you analyse it carefully. Some great new ideas are floating out there. I do think the silent, fed-up majority are considering relinquishing their monastic silence.

Jim Dornan with his wife Samina

Q: Do you drink and/or smoke - if so, how much?

A: I drink alcohol, but not to excess. But remember, a heavy drinker is one who drinks more than his doctor!

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: Green tea, cod liver oil, glucosamine - and I've taken a lead from my grandchildren and rarely consume fizzy soft drinks, opting for cool clear water instead.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I love writing, golf, being with Samina, my grandchildren, watching top sport, talking politics, visiting the west of Ireland, good conversation and travel. Many would say my life is taking time out. But in fairness I do love variety in life.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: Mostly well, but once I awaken I like to get up and go. My pillow is of huge importance; it must be 'soft and supportive' - a difficult mix to find outside the home. I'm also a good 'short napper' - 10 minutes can recharge the batteries so well. I'd love to sleep in like we all did as teenagers.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: Nope, not yet ... too busy. Having said that I do feel the body squeaking which is frustrating not to be able to be as active as I was ... but I'm working on it medically. When I was a junior doctor the age of 70 was seen as being a target age. If our patients got there and then got away, no one was too surprised. Now, expectations are much higher, and that's quite correct, and great, but I do think we, the people, must take more responsibility for our health. Meanwhile, with medical knowledge doubling every 77 days, the scientists and medics are doing their best to keep us above ground. Long may it continue so that we can stay just ahead of the posse.

Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: I honestly don't have one. I redirected my interests six years ago when I left the NHS ... those were wonderful years, but working in it had lost its appeal for me - not the patients, but the management structure. So now I have a very varied life. Professionally I've become interested in preventing and treating pelvic floor damage. I speak quite a bit internationally on this subject.

I have also been involvement in two start-ups - Circular Soccer and along with my daughter Jessica, we started which is a digital platform to help with grieving.

Why Afterbook? Finding peace of mind and improving our mental health is vital. We all encounter times when the challenges of life become overwhelming.

Samina has taken two years out to work in Qatar and is really enjoying being lead senior physician in their Fetal Medicine department, and getting lots of opportunity to hone her admin, teaching and research skills. I get out there for about 40% of the time, and frankly, I chill. It's a fascinating country, and in some ways more west than the west, and yet has kept that captivating feeling of the region.

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