Dr. David Gormsen is blessed with wellness. At 67, Mercy’s chief medical officer doesn’t struggle with health issues and takes no prescription medications. Longevity runs in his family – his father lived until 93 and his mother is an active 97-year-old. Luck and good genes? Maybe. But he has never taken his health for granted.
The Stow resident is reaping the benefits of a lifetime of fitness and healthy choices as he keeps a busy professional schedule, lives an active empty-nest lifestyle with his wife of 40 years, Pat, and enjoys spending time with their three adult children, and two (soon-to-be four) grandchildren.
More than 65,000 miles … and counting
Long before he started his career in emergency medicine, Dr. Gormsen was a college sophomore who was looking for a way to stay in shape after quitting Defiance College’s football team to focus on his studies so he could get into medical school. “I don’t even remember why but I started running the streets of Defiance,” he said.
Since then, he has run virtually every day of his life —through medical school, a 4-year stint as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Navy, a medical residency at Akron General, years of working in Mercy’s ER and serving as department chair, while practicing at Stark County Emergency Physicians (which he founded), and raising an active family.
These days, Dr. Gormsen takes a noon break and runs a three-mile path — tackling Serpentine Hill a couple times and lapping the walking track at the park a few times before heading back to the hospital.
“I don’t like running on a treadmill. I’m inside all day so it’s a great stress reliever just to get outside and run.” Inclement weather doesn’t disrupt his routine. “When I was in med school in Chicago, there were days when the windchill was minus 60 and I’d have icicles hanging from my eyebrows.”
“I’ve logged more than 65,000 miles in my life,” he said. “I’ve gone many years when I haven’t missed a day.” The most he’d missed was 10 days in one year, until he was sidelined when his left hip started bothering him last year. “I took some time off to rest, rode a recumbent bike, and six months later I was back to running, no problem. I’ve been fortunate to run this long without any injuries.”
He also tries to work in 50 pushups a day, sometimes while he’s out on his run. “They’re easy to do and you can do them anywhere, no equipment needed.” Weight lifting at a gym near his home is also part of his fitness routine.
Dietary changes to combat slowing metabolism.
Dr. Gormsen admits it: his diet isn’t perfect.
“Sweets are my downfall. I’ve cut back so I’m not as bad as I used to be.” He has no plans though to forgo his one glass of wine or a beer in the evening. And the self-proclaimed dairy nut – “It’s part of my Scandinavian heritage.”—won’t be cutting back on his habit of going through a gallon of milk in three days. And, forget about switching from whole milk to skim milk.
“Even with exercise, our metabolism slows down as we age, so I’ve started watching it a bit more,” he said. “I do try to eat a complete diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and I avoid fried foods.”
Breakfast is usually a bowl of cereal with bananas and a couple pieces of toast, and his post-run lunch at the hospital is typically a bowl of soup or a protein plate from the cafeteria. “For dinner, Pat’s a good cook so she makes healthy meals or we go out to eat.”
In the summer months, the Gormsens look no further than their backyard for healthy options. For decades, Dr. Gormsen and his mother have planted a garden. “I’m her only child and we’re very close. It’s something we’ve always enjoyed doing together.” Their bounty includes raspberries, rhubarb, tomatoes and peppers.
While he hasn’t had a sip of soda in more than 30 years, he said that he does want to up his water intake. “I know I don’t hydrate as much as I should, especially with all exercising I do.”
Don’t worry, have hobbies
Though he’s spent his career in what can be a stressful profession, Dr. Gormsen doesn’t let it get to him. “I’ve never been a high-stress guy. At work, I do the best I can then go home and don’t worry about things.”
To relax, the sports lover golfs a few times a week, follows the Cleveland Indians and plans on attending some Browns games this season. An avid reader, he favors American history, presidential literature in particular.
Serving others is good for the soul
When Dr. Gormsen’s children were growing up, he often told them, “If you try to make life a little happier for others each day, life will go well for you.”
One of his favorite ways to boost others is by serving on a Mercy medical mission team. He has travelled to countries such as the Dominican Republic or Haiti with a team 16 times, stepping away from his hospital duties and enjoying camaraderie with other Mercy health professionals.
“It’s been so rewarding and a big part of my career,” he said. “It’s an honor and privilege to take care of people who don’t know you but completely trust you to take care of the most precious things they have in life: their children, their family.”
Broccoli isn’t going to taste as good as French fries—but you’ll get used to it.
Baby steps and consistency are what the doctor prescribes to those who want to start a wellness journey.
“You don’t have to train for a marathon to see big results. See if you can take a half hour or 45 minutes every day to do yoga, walk, bike or anything that gets you moving. Plus, make one change to your diet – for example, exchange drinking Coke for water.” The key, he said, is to be consistent.
“Realize that when you’re making a change, it is not going to be fun at first but you’ve got to put some effort into it if you want to see results. Broccoli isn’t going to taste as good as French fries—but you’ll get used to it.”