Dr. Alice Domar is a leading expert and renowned professional in the field of mind/body medicine. In addition her position as an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, she is a best-selling author, has made multiple appearances on national television and been a columnist for Redbook and Health magazines. She is currently the Executive Director of the Domar Centers for Mind/Body health and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. Her interview inspires us to keep ourselves open to unlikely opportunities and to achieve a science-based integrative model in our holistic practices.
What initially inspired you to pursue mind/body medicine?
My original career goal, decided upon when I was 13, was to work with children about to undergo surgery, in an effort to reduce their fear and anxiety. It is no coincidence that just before I made that decision, I underwent some minor dental surgery, in the local community hospital where I was a volunteer. I later decided that if I, who was so familiar with all the hospital routines and procedures, was so terrified, that other children would be even more so. Ten years later, this led to my decision to attend a Ph.D program in health psychology, to best prepare me to counsel children pre-operatively. However, to my chagrin, I found that lots of other people had apparently had the same idea, so by that point most hospitals had excellent pre-operative programs for children. It burst my pioneering bubble! My second love was women’s health, so I focused on that for the rest of graduate school. And when I did my dissertation with Dr. Herbert Benson in the field of behavioral medicine, my career was determined.
Your accomplishments are incredibly inspiring. In addition to being an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, you’re a best-selling author, founded the Domar Centers for Mind/Body Health, have been featured in Athleta’s 100 Women to Watch in Wellness, the list goes on. What has been your road to success and the most important success factors along the way?
To be honest, it is a combination of being in the right place at the right time, so luck, plus I truly do my best to be kind to everyone I encounter. Here is an example. More than 20 years ago, I was asked to speak at a medical center in the central part of the state, to do ob/gyn grand rounds. Which I agreed to do, despite it being a long drive with no compensation. After my talk, one of the retired faculty members came up and asked me question after question, which I apparently answered very patiently. A few days later, I got a call from a producer at CBS Evening News. She had spoken to that doctor for some reason, he told her about my work, and she decided to do a segment on the mind/body infertility program I had recently founded. This was not only my first national tv exposure, but a medical writer Henry Dreher happened to be watching the news, saw the segment, and called to ask if we could write a book together. That was my first book, and my seventh comes out in 2016.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced professionally and how have you overcome them?
The field of mind/body medicine is highly competitive and there seems to be a lot of jockeying to get the most attention. So I have had a really hard time when I hear that people say things about me which are hurtful and aren’t true. Being fair is my of my most cherished values. I guess I will forever be at the age when I want everyone to like me! In addition, when I published my first studies on the relationship between stress and infertility, I was vilified by the infertility community. That was really hard. I wasn’t making up the data which showed a connection, but I was constantly getting accused of blaming the victims. Who were exactly the individuals I was trying to help.
Were there any initial mistakes you made that you would tell a new wellness entrepreneur to avoid?
Watch your back. Seriously. I was clearly naïve about the competitive nature of academic research. But more importantly, you can’t go wrong if you stick with the science.
Vogue Magazine named you “The Fertility Goddess”. If you could give one piece of advice to a holistic practitioner wanting to support their patients and clients with fertility, what would that be?
Never let anyone call you a fertility goddess! I still get teased about it. But I would also caution other practitioners not to let only your intuition or clinical impressions guide patient care. You have to know and understand traditional approaches and respect what they can do, and also understand how to interpret solid research. Integrative is the goal.
What is your morning routine?
Wake up. Watch a bit of The Today Show while checking email. If it is an office day, I shower and get dressed, then walk the dog, and eat breakfast while reading the front sections of the New York Times, then drive to work. If it is a work from home day, the dog and I walk five miles before I shower.
What is your favorite indulgence?
Chocolate. Dark, maybe with salted caramel. Ice cream is a very close second.
Most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?
When I was 16, in Thailand, there for my father’s work. Took one bite of local food and it was so spicy I couldn’t taste for hours. I ate a lot of rice after that.
Last book you read?
A historical novel on Eleanor of Aquitaine. But it is usually lighter than that. I love Jodi Piccoult.
What is your go-to breakfast?
Weekdays it is eggs and a banana. Weekends we do brunch and rotate making pancakes, waffles, popovers, bacon/eggs, bagels and lox, omelets, or French toast.
What do you love most about the work you do?
I love giving talks the most- seeing faces in the audience light up as they realize that they can easily learn to take better care of themselves. I also like making the audiences laugh. And it is fabulous when a patient tells me that she feels so much better because of the work we did together. And patients bringing in their babies is unbelievable.
Dr. Alice Domar is an author, speaker and the Executive Director of the Domar Centers for Mind/Body Health based out of Waltham, Massachusetts. You can find out more about Dr. Alice and her work by visiting www.dralicedomar.com.