Retiree uses martial arts to keep mind, body solid

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Fernando Dominguez’s life is the story of one accomplishment after another.

The 88-year-old, Mexican immigrant is an accomplished physician and surgeon, who retired eight years ago but did so with little desire to slow down. He described colon cancer and a knee injury as speed bumps toward his pursuit of a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo.

Dominguez picked up martial arts at age 75. He said taekwondo keeps him in good physical condition and gives him a solid mind.

“Living should not be stationary,” he said. “We should have a goal, ‘What am I going to accomplish? What am I going to do five or 10 years from today?’ Have a goal and go after that.”

So far, when measured by that standard, Dominguez gives himself a passing grade.

It’s a pursuit that started during the mid-1920s in the Gulf Coast port city of Coatzacoalcos, located in southern Mexico. He saw hometown doctors, noticed their care for patients and decided he would follow in their footsteps.

Dominguez became a medical doctor at a university in Mexico City. He practiced general medicine in the capitol city for some time, before eventually setting his mind on America and becoming a surgeon.

Dominguez studied internal medicine at the University of Houston in 1959, and moved to Huntington a year later for further training at Cabell Huntington Hospital. He became an American citizen in April 1963 and received certificates from both facilities.

The aspiring surgeon practiced full time at Huntington’s VA Medical Center, while he completed the necessary training. He then joined with his trainer in opening a private practice downtown, eventually stepped into his own practice and finally returned to the VA Medical Center where he retired in 2005.

Dominguez had developed a passion for taekwondo a few years earlier. It was born out of a conversation with local grandmaster Chong Kim as Dominguez enjoyed an evening of tennis, another passion of his.

Dominguez, then 75, had an interest in martial arts dating back to television shows from decades ago. Dominguez recalls thinking he might be too old, but Kim insisted he try.

“It was difficult for me,” he said. “In taekwondo, 90 percent of it is kicking. You know, at the age 75 or 76 kicking is difficult.”

But Dominguez persevered attaining his third-degree black belt in May 2008. He was required to wait four years before trying for another degree, a time frame during which he developed colon cancer in June 2009.

“To me, having a black belt second-degree, fourth-degree or fifth-degree doesn’t matter,” he said. “The goal is, like I said, to have good physical condition, good manners to help people and defend yourself if you have to.”

Dominguez’s medical accomplishments include time spent treating civilian war casualties in Vietnam during 1969 and volunteer service in Haiti during 1985. His résumé also features time as clinical instructor for medical residents who visited the VA Medical Center from the University of Kentucky, an accomplishment he holds dear knowing he took those he taught under his wing.

Dominguez still participates in tumor conferences at local hospitals and hasn’t lost his yearning for surgery.

“I miss the OR,” he said referencing the operating room. “I don’t care much about administration, the rules and this and that, but I want to see and examine a patient from the head and down to the toes.”


Information from: The Herald-Dispatch,

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