Heart of Gold

An alumnus’ health scare leads to a new diet and success at the Senior Olympics.

Author | Deb Michling

Courtesy of Norman Boeve

Quality has been a driving force in the life of Norman Boeve (M.D. 1965). Dedication to his faith, family, profession, country, and his personal health have all contributed to a unique journey through self-stewardship and well-being. Close attention to personal nutrition and exercise recently culminated in a singular accomplishment for the 78-year-old: eight medals in track events at the 2017 Michigan Senior Olympics, three of which are gold. 

Boeve, an orthopaedic surgeon who practiced primarily in Grand Haven, Michigan, chose his career path following medical school and a tour with the Air Force. "I believe I'm called to serve, and orthopaedic surgery, in particular, is an excellent way to serve, contributing greatly to a patient's quality of life," he says. The mechanical aspect of the work was intriguing to Boeve when he first began his studies, and the portability of his skills enabled him to volunteer on several medical mission trips to Taiwan, Ecuador, and Kenya over the course of his career. 

Maintaining a healthy quality of life became a personal priority for Boeve just over a decade ago, when an angiogram revealed that his left anterior descending artery was dangerously narrowed, a condition often referred to as the "widow maker." He began medical therapy and slightly changed his diet, but found there was little improvement after four years. He and his wife, Carolyn, explored other options and found promising benefits from studies recommending a plant-based diet. 

"I firmly believe that, had we not modified our dietary and activity choices, I would have required bypass surgery or would be existing with a much reduced activity tolerance — a much reduced quality of life," Boeve says. 

Last year, he competed in the Senior Olympics for the first time. "It is a great thrill to be in the home stretch, look over your shoulder, see a competitor gaining on you, but then having something in the tank to turn on and pull away," he says. 

Boeve is quick to emphasize that improvements in well-being are within everyone's reach. "It doesn't have to be running or the Olympics or competition of any kind. Just be a good steward of the awesome body you have been given," he says. "That requires dedication to a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction. With proper care of ourselves, we can add some years to our lives, but more importantly, add quality of life to our years." 

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