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Retirement is a relative term for Peter Doran '58. "When he was teaching, at least I knew where he was," said his wife, Lois. Now she finds it hard to track which meeting her husband is at, when and where. The schedule might be new, but for Doran the goal is the sameto provide Mainers with tools to improve health through education and prevention.
How did Doran's B.A. in psychology from Colby evolve into two doctorates and a lifetime investment in health education? "Working in community and public health, I could reach a lot more people using education as a vehicle . . . [putting] a lot more emphasis on the values of wellness, on positive health behaviors," he said. "I discovered prevention and health promotion."
In 1966 Doran decided to quit work as "a professional student" at the University of Southern Illinois-Carbondale and began looking for ways to put his theory into practice. Settling with Lois on Messalonskee Lake in Belgrade, Doran hit the ground running as a consulting psychologist for the state. Within six months he was appointed by then-Gov. Kenneth Curtis to direct the Commission on Rehabilitation Planning. By 1970 he had worked with the Maine legislature to bring about a major reorganization of rehabilitation services.
Doran and fellow prevention proponents suggested that there was a link between the challenges in rehabilitation and the lack of health education in Maine's public schools. That got the attention of the president of the University of Maine at Farmington, who, in 1971, asked Doran to spend a year there helping develop programs in rehabilitation services. "I'll just be there a year," Doran recalls thinking at the time. UMF held onto Doran for another 25 years.
In their own community the Dorans began the campaign that created the Belgrade Regional Health Center, a nonprofit medical care facility that serves all area patients regardless of ability to pay. The couple helped pull together a major benefactor, $20,000 in fund raising, building materials, a site (the old abandoned schoolhouse nestled in the middle of Belgrade Lakes village), a primary-care provider and a lot of elbow grease from the community. In November 1977 the Belgrade Regional Health Center's doors opened and have stayed that way ever since.
Around the same time, Doran was opening other doors for UMF students in the university's health education and rehabilitation services programs, placing more than 1,500 students in full-time internships with Maine health agencies. Today, Doran says, the vast majority are still in Maine. Some graduates work in the same agencies they started in, some are presidents of hospitals. "It's amazing the kinds of things they doway beyond my wildest dreams," he said.
Over the years in his work in health and human services, Doran has found that "good ideas are only as good as their timing." With dedication and persistence, he and fellow supporters have made great strides in health education and prevention. Whether he's lobbying to raise air-quality standards for Maine's schools and workplaces or pushing for reform of Maine's Workers' Compensation system, Doran has taken responsibility for the well-being of Mainers.
Mainers have honored Peter and Lois Doran for their outstanding work in the community. But the Dorans insist that their own good fortune is being able to live and raise three children in such a supportive environment. In short, they believe that giving back is a must, and, Doran said, "a very important, informative part of learning to live in a society."
--Leila Porteous '02
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