OB/GYN Draws Passion from Focus on Humane Living
Mar 12, 2014 | Ed Rabinowitz
Michael Foley, MD, was at a crossroad. It was his sophomore year in college, and he was torn between playing professional baseball or moving on to medical school. His future wife, whom he had known since he was 15, cast her vote for medical school. After much contemplation, Foley decided to follow her lead.
“I did so because I really wanted to offer those skill sets, and the fulfillment that one gets from caring for other people,” says Foley, who today is the academic chairman and program director for the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Arizona-based Banner Health, and a tae kwon do black belt instructor.
Any regrets? Foley laughs and says, “It’s more along the lines of thank goodness I decided to move in that direction.”
And the hundreds of people whose lives he has touched feel the same way.
Training the mind and body
Foley was a 7-year-old growing up in northern California when his brother, who would go on to become one of the first Navy Seals, brought him to a hand-to-hand combat training session. His status as an observer quickly changed when the instructor involved him in the training. And as a young person during the 1960s, the Bruce Lee era, Foley found himself drawn to the martial arts.
“It’s the narrative that most of us have about martial arts, you know, the punching and kicking,” Foley explains. “And then as I continued to train with a number of masters over the year, I’ve come to learn more and more that the true intent of the martial arts is about understanding and developing relationships within yourself, and with others and the environment.”
Foley says he learned that a peaceful resolution to conflict is the ultimate victory, thus avoiding the violent aspect of the training. The purpose of learning the physical aspect is to be able to feel comfortable and confident enough that you don’t have to defend your ego, and need only defend your wellbeing.
“There’s a big difference,” Foley says. “In society, people tend to tie wellbeing and ego together, and they get just as insulted by getting cut off in traffic as they do if someone put a gun to their head. They have the same fight-or-flight mechanism. The martial arts training over the years taught me to understand what a real threat is, and how to deal with it.”
In the early 1990s, Foley and his family moved to Arizona, and he sought a martial arts school where his children—2 daughters and a son—could benefit from the training he has received. But all he found were the schools that advertised to the widely accepted narrative the public had about martial arts: competition, trophies, and championships. That wasn’t what Foley was looking for, so he took a different approach.
“I actually talked my wife into building a martial arts school in the basement of a guest house that we had here,” Foley recalls. “From then on I brought in patients, kids, nurses, and doctors. And I did it for free. I did it under a pay-it-forward model. So, if you train with me, then eventually you’re going to have to give back to the community the gift of training that I’m giving you.”