Readers of the Bangor Daily News may wonder whether there really is a Dr. Paul Donohue who writes the health column that appears on the paper’s comics page.
Yes, there is a Dr. Donohue. When asked about his staff, he replied by email, “One — me.” He writes the column in the afternoon in his home office in Detroit. He reads medical journals in the morning, his favorite being the New England Journal of Medicine. He has been writing six columns a week for 32 years, with answers to two or three of the flood of questions that come in from readers.
In a telephone interview, he said he was told when he took over the then-30-year-old column that it was getting 250,000 letters a year. He has never counted them.
What subject is he asked about most frequently? Cholesterol, followed by arthritis, heart disease and blood conditions.
He gives straightforward medical advice but can add some humor, as when he wrote about “the trickle-down theory of post-nasal drip.” He sometimes cheers up a worried questioner. An older man with an eyelid disease feared that taking a prescribed cortisone drug the rest of his life would put him in receivership. Dr. Donohue told him that the ointment should provide a short-term cure: “It won’t bankrupt you.”
To a man with embarrassing stomach rumbles, he said that the name was borborygmi and advised him to eat some crackers before a meal, avoid carbonated drinks and don’t gulp food. See a doctor if pain accompanies the noises.
He often calls walking a fine exercise, with 30 minutes as the ideal duration. For a balance problem, he suggests rising from a chair with arms folded across the chest, many times in a row and several times a day.
Dr. Donohue earned his medical degree at the University of Michigan Medical School (followed by advanced study at Tulane and University of California at Davis). He served two years in the Army medical corps and 18 months in the 173rd Airborne Brigade as a parachute jumper, receiving two Bronze Stars, one of them for valor in combat. He practiced medicine for 25 years, partly overlapping his column writing.
He considers himself boring, but he does recall receiving a letter threatening to kill President Reagan. He turned it over to the FBI.
Two things he keeps to himself: his opinion of the new health care law — “I have put it on the list of things I must read.” And his age — ”between 40 and 80,” with no present thought of retirement.