Lauren Boudreau, OMS III, was in the fifth grade on Sept. 11, but she remembers the day’s events in precise detail. Her father, a volunteer firefighter in Halfmoon, New York, was at his engineering day job. She was in class; after her teacher learned that two planes had struck the World Trade Center, the entire class, shocked, watched the news together.
Boudreau’s father, Brian Boudreau, had recently received special training to join a New York state disaster response team. Later that day, he learned he would be going to Manhattan to be part of the rescue effort. He left shortly after. “We were really worried about his safety,” says Boudreau, who attends the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “But his whole life, my dad has been committed to public service, and this was his personal way of giving back.”
Hearing about her father’s work at ground zero—and witnessing his struggles with related health issues later—inspired Boudreau to attend osteopathic medical school. The DO spoke with her about her father’s experience and how it helped steer her to medicine.
After Brian Boudreau arrived at ground zero, he spent 10 days searching the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center for survivors and, later, bodies.
Having been specially trained to work with hazardous materials, he wore a hazmat suit to lead other rescuers through the wreckage. He carried equipment that read the chemicals in the air to determine if it was safe for others to join him there.
“He was looking for anything and everything that they could find,” Boudreau says. “At that point, they were still looking for any parts of planes that they could recover for information. Anything that looked like it could be part of a body, they picked up to try to find DNA to identify the person.”
Ten days of working long shifts, breathing acrid air and comforting grieving relatives gathered at the site took a toll on Boudreau’s father. When he returned home, he had difficulty sleeping. Later, his lung function decreased as well.
He sought treatment for these conditions. Multiple times, he was unhappy with the care he received, his daughter says.
“One time, he mentioned that it was a very brief visit,” she says. “He said the doctor didn’t get to know him and didn’t seem to care about his conditions. He felt a little disrespected, in my opinion.”
Frustrated by her father’s experience, Boudreau saw the difference she could make in a patient’s life if she became a compassionate physician.
“I want to provide optimal care and make my patients feel that they are my No. 1 priority,” she says. “Hopefully, that will allow them to open up and tell me about their experiences, and I can treat the mind, body and spirit—the DO way.”
The first person in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree and attend medical school, Boudreau selected osteopathic medicine because she was interested in the close relationships osteopathic physicians have with their patients.
“I choose to be a DO because I wanted to learn about people’s stories,” she says. “If my patient has decreased lung function, I want to know that it’s because he was a rescuer after 9/11. I want to hear the story and the background.”