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Patrick Dempsey: Cancer Caregiver

You may know him as 'Dr. McDreamy,' but the real Patrick Dempsey is a supportive son who has twice helped his mother face down ovarian cancer.

Patrick Dempsey: Role Model

While helping his mother battle ovarian cancer preceded his People’s Choice Award-winning role in Grey’s Anatomy, Dempsey did channel some of his caregiving experiences to help mold “McDreamy” -- and to foster a new approach to health care for himself and his family.

“I met a doctor who had a really wonderful bedside manner, which I thought fit in with some of the other characters in the show,” he says. “When I started working on Grey’s, the thing that appealed to me was someone who had a relaxed bedside manner and who was not alienating patients and talking over their heads.”

This is precisely the kind of medics Dempsey and his mother encountered -- at first. “There were great doctors when my mom was being treated. But then a doctor retired, and he handed her over to another doctor who was considered very good but had a horrible bedside manner,” he recalls. Fortunately, Amanda was able to switch to a doctor with whom she had a better rapport.

These days, Dempsey is as skilled at being a real-life patient as his TV character is at being a neurosurgeon: “Everything I can get screened for, I screen for. And if it comes back questionable, I look into it further. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

He’s right on track with his regular physical exams. An avid race car driver and cycling enthusiast, Dempsey gets a full physical before each new season of the show. Experts agree that the most important thing you can do for your health is to get screening early and take daily steps to maintain your health. Most doctors recommend men get a baseline physical at age 18, then one every two to three years if they are healthy. Talk to your doctor about what applies to you and how often you should be tested.

Dempsey takes care of himself in other ways, too, and strives to stay fit. “Yoga is great for everybody,” the actor says. “It improves flexibility and immunity and adds to longevity. But,” he adds, “whatever attracts you, you should go out and do.”

Even during tough days on the set, when there isn’t much time for exercise, he does sit-ups or push-ups in his trailer. (Look for those picture-perfect abs on display in Made of Honor, a romantic comedy scheduled for release in early 2008.)

As for the rest of his family, maintaining good health -- physical and emotional -- is a priority. Married for eight years to stylist and Avon color consultant Jillian Fink (whom he met when he walked into her Los Angeles salon for a haircut), Dempsey is the father of 5-year-old daughter, Talula, and twin sons, Darby and Sullivan, born in February of this year. “It’s really hard with the sleep deprivation,” he admits with a laugh.

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