Retired Carmel cardiologist shares medical knowledge with readers

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At 83, Dr. Doug Zipes had thoughts of slowing down. Those thoughts quickly passed.

“For 60-some years, I’ve been in overdrive,” the Carmel resident said. “You can’t just suddenly turn it off. I wake up in the morning eager to accomplish something and try to make a difference, try to make a small contribution to the world.”

Zipes writes two online health columns a month for The Saturday Evening Post. One of those columns appears in each of the year’s six print editions.  

“I tried stepping down, but they said, ‘Please stay on, what you are doing is important,’” Zipes said

Zipes, who retired as a cardiologist in 2004, has been writing the column since 2007.

“There is so much misinformation swirling around, it can be challenging to know where to go for reliable health advice,” said Jennifer Bortel, director of online content for The Saturday Evening Post. “Doug’s columns are always based on recent medical and scientific studies. Readers can be assured that the information is trustworthy. And he always has people’s best interests at heart, so it’s like getting guidance from your good friend who just happens to be an internationally acclaimed cardiologist.”

Zipes said the column is a labor of love.

“If you can calculate what I get paid an hour, it’s like $5 an hour,” Zipes said.

In one of his most recent columns, Zipes addressed snake oil charmers who make claims of incredible cure-all remedies.

Zipes said he tries to help readers know what they can believe and document with facts from places like the American Heart Association.

One of his columns came from a comment from his wife, Joan, who asked why doctors keep changing health information.

“It’s because science changes and our understanding of medicine changes,” Zipes said. 

For example, Zipes wrote a column in May debunking previous medical information that small amounts of alcohol have health benefits. Zipes said all alcohol has a negative impact, which increases with how much a person’s alcohol intake is.

“I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since (August 2021) when I saw this data was so compelling,” Zipes said.  

Zipes said writing The Saturday Evening Post health column and editing the two cardiology journals forced him to stay up to date on the medical world.

“It gives my brain work and (I) use that for The Saturday Evening Post articles or reviewing articles submitted to my journal,” he said. 

One of the journals he edits has 92,000 readers worldwide.

After graduating from Harvard Medical School and training at Duke University, he joined Indiana University in 1970 and became a professor of medicine in 1976, a distinguished professor in 1994 and director of the cardiology division of the Krannert Institute of Cardiology in 1995 at the Indiana University Medical Center. He served until 2004.

Zipes was recently elected to the Harvard Medical School Alumni Council. He served as a consultant for Medtronic for 35 years and invented a major part of the implantable defibrillator.

Novel approach

After writing 16 textbooks and helping with multiple updates, Dr. Doug Zipes turned to writing fiction after retiring as a cardiologist.

Zipes is working on his sixth novel, a sequel to his fifth novel, “Ari’s Spoon,” which is about a Catholic surgeon at Indiana University. He takes his baby daughter to her christening and a metal detector goes off because of a spoon hidden inside the baptismal gown that was a family relic. That book came out in December 2021.

The working title of the sequel is “The Last Day I Walked.”

“The father, the hero, realizes his family roots are Jewish and he was raised Catholic because of the Nazis,” Zipes said. “He becomes Jewish, and while operating at IU, a killer storms the hospital because the hero had operated on the hero’s mother who had died post-op and he is coming for revenge. In saving people, he gets shot and becomes paraplegic.”

Zipes has given talks to four book clubs across the U.S. about “Ari’s Spoon.” He has visited virtually at three of them but recently appeared in person at one in Indianapolis.

Zipes published his first novel, “The Black Widows,” in 2011, followed by “Ripples in Opperman’s Pond” in 2013, “Not Just a Game” in 2016 and “Bear’s Promise” in 2019. The books are all published by iUniverse in Bloomington.

“There is something of you in all of them,” Zipes said. “With each one, I had a goal in mind.’

Most of the books have a medical component or a connection to Nazi Germany. From his research, Zipes said he believes that Hitler didn’t commit suicide, but fled Germany for South America.

In addition, Zipes wrote about his own journey in life, “Damn the Naysayers,” in 2018.

Zipes finds writing fiction challenging.

“To look at the empty screen and fill it with something you are going to enjoy reading, and is a new idea, is a challenge,” Zipes said. “I give a lecture on transitioning from writing science to writing fiction or going from ‘Who’s who to who’s he?’ which has happened to me. In writing the fiction, you have to become the character and remember the scene.”

Personal: Dr. Doug Zipes and his wife, Joan, have three children, Debra Zipes, 58; Jeff Zipes, 57, and David Zipes, 55. Debra is retired, Jeff is an attorney and David is a hospital pediatrician. The Zipes have five grandchildren. 

What he does to relax: Begins his day working out at home in Carmel. While spending winters in Bonita Springs, Fla., Zipes bikes to the gym. He usually unwinds by listening to opera. He also enjoys his role as the primary cook for the couple’s meals. 

For more, visit dougzipes.com.

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