Fernando Dominguez, an 88-year-old Mexican immigrant, is an accomplished physician and surgeon, who retired eight years ago but did not want to stop doing activities. He described colon cancer and a knee injury like speed bumps toward his pursuit of a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo.
Dominguez stared practicing martial arts at the age of 75. He said taekwondo keeps him in shape and gives him a strong 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.
His pursuit started around the mid-1920s in the Gulf Coast port city of Coatzacoalcos, located in southern Mexico. He saw doctors, noticed their care for patients and decided he would follow in their footsteps.
Dominguez turned out to be a medical doctor at a university in Mexico City. He practiced general medicine in the city for some time, before eventually moving to America and becoming a surgeon.
Dominguez went to the University of Houston in 1959 and studied internal medicine. He then moved on to the Cabell Huntington Hospital a year later for further training in Huntington. 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.
"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 kept at it and received his third-degree black belt in May 2008. It was essential for him to wait four years before trying for another degree, because he had 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."