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April 20, 2017
An excerpt of this story appears in the spring 2017 edition of the Northwest Alumni Magazine. To view the current issue of the magazine, click here.
While reviewing Dr. Manon Boddaert’s extensive list of experiences, presentations and achievements, it might seem that Northwest Missouri State University is just a footnote to her career in medicine. But the 1982-1983 academic year, when Boddaert left her home in the Netherlands to study abroad at Northwest, was a transformative one that helped her develop a self-confidence that benefitted her in her career.
An expert in palliative care for patients with life-limiting illnesses, Boddaert has served since 2014 as medical advisor and project manager for the National Quality Standard for Palliative Care at the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organization.
She is a frequent lecturer and author of several articles on the topic, and she returned recently to Northwest to speak with therapeutic recreation students and faculty in the School of Health Science and Wellness about her work.
“It’s great to give back to the University that helped me find my place in life,” she said.
Boddaert returned to campus with her daughter, who is considering attending Northwest in the fall, and accompanied her on a tour of the campus. The tour rekindled Boddaert’s memories of her year at Northwest. “It was definitely a trip down memory lane,” she said. “It was really fun.”
In 1982, Boddaert chose to study at Northwest because it offered more diversity and opportunities than other colleges she was considering.
“I knew I wanted to go into pre-med, but the fun thing about being over here (at Northwest) was that I was an undecided major,” Boddaert said. “I could take whatever classes I wanted to take. I took a wide variety of classes just to get a feel for other directions of studies.”
Boddaert took courses in American history, computer science and jewelry making. She joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and practiced drownproofing and rappelling from the roof of Colden Hall. She even had a stint on the Bearcat women’s tennis team.
Shy and not outgoing when she arrived on the campus, Boddaert acclimated to the Midwest and established friendships she still maintains today. She found the environment at Northwest to be inviting and comfortable. She enjoyed the compact campus and close-knit student body that was unlike the urban university settings in her home country.
At times, merely her European fashion instigated a conversation.
“Because you are from abroad, they are interested right from the start and they come look for you,” she said. “That made it easy and that made me realize that I could be who I was instead of having to adapt to fit in. It really helped me to find my individual persona.”
Sensing pre-med was a good fit for her, Boddaert took a physics course at Northwest and entered medical school at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam the next fall. She graduated from VU with honors and began practicing medicine as a registered medical doctor in 1991.
She added a bachelor’s degree in 2002 and a master’s degree in 2005, both in palliative medicine from the University of Wales College of Medicine in the United Kingdom.
In palliative medicine, Boddaert comforts patients who are nearing the end of their lives and assists them in dealing with physical, psychological and spiritual discomfort. She found her passion for the approach when, during her medical school residency, she was placed on a ward for children with AIDS, other immune deficiencies and bone marrow transplants. She gained valuable experience in treating young patients as well as consoling their parents.
It’s a complex but rewarding profession, she says.
“Society is about fighting and not giving up,” Boddaert said. “Patients and family put that on themselves that that is how they should cope with their illness. But that means that if they don’t survive, they weren’t very good fighters. That’s a tricky position to be in.”
Palliative care, Boddaert says, is not about fighting or giving up but about coming to terms with an illness and helping families find relief. It’s an open conversation about death.
“We don’t want to be confronted with our own death or the death of somebody else,” Boddaert said. “If you can make the transition with the patient and the family to accepting death and to life completion, that’s very rewarding.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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