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For most of her early life, Dr. Bonita Carson was at the top of her class – whether it was in high school, the 4-H Club, college or in med school - she was always the brightest star.

Bonita grew up on a farm college, and her father, who was the head of the Agriculture Department, gave her a cow when she was 10-years-old, and the cow had six successive, registered bull-calves – which Bonita’s Dad said paid for her college.

Still shining brilliantly, Dr. Carson is a pillar of compassion and commitment to the community. With her numerous medical honors, certifications and lists of academic/medical staff appointments, you would be wowed by Dr. Carson’s curriculum vitae.

Equally impressive is Dr. Carson’s dedication to kids and people who need help and care. Dr. Carson worked directly with Dr. C. Henry Kempe, the highly acclaimed pediatrician, teacher and pioneering child abuse & neglect researcher, and the founder of the Kempe Children’s Foundation.

Dr. Carson recently lost both of her parents, and this has been a sad time for her. We are pleased to be honoring Dr. Bonita Carson for all of her accomplishments and know that Dr. Carson’s Mom and Dad would be quite proud.

Dr. Carson, you mentioned you worked with Dr. Kempe, the founder of the Kempe Children’s Foundation, can you tell us a little about your time with Dr. Kempe? I worked with Dr. Kempe when I was an Intern and Resident, and he was my mentor in the area of “Battered Child Syndrome” research – as it was called back then. He had retired from the department because of health problems, and I went to work at Rose Hospital in 1972.

I saw Dr. Kempe one day at Pete’s Vegetable Market, and I had my son with me who was quite little at that time. Dr. Kempe came up to me and asked how things were going. I said, “Well, all right. I’m the only Neonatologist at the hospital, and I’m on call 24-7/365, and I’m also trying to finish up my research at the school. I’m just not getting the research done that I want to be doing. He said: “You know my wife (Dr. Ruth Kempe) didn’t start doing her research until she was 50-years-old.” That really resonated with me. I’ve recently talked with the Kempe Center about doing some chart research for them at this time.

What’s the best advice you have for a young woman who wants to become a physician? When I was in school, there were only two women in my class, now it’s 50-50, so it’s good that the experiences are very different today. If you want a family, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s doable, but I regret missing out on certain things – like having more children.

What charitable causes are you involved in at this time? Rotary International, The Children’s Hospital, American Heart Association, Children’s Diabetes Foundation Guild, Kempe Foundation Alliance, Food Bank of the Rockies, AWARE (Alzheimer’s Women’s Auxiliary For Research and Education), and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

What charitable organizations have you been involved with in the past? In addition to the above organizations: The Colorado SIDS Program and Junior Achievement.

What is an event you really look forward to attending each year, and why? The Children’s Diabetes Foundation events. It’s a warm, wonderful group. My mom had diabetes, and what the Foundation does for families is what some of my research in my fellowship was directed towards. Pregnancy and Childhood Diabetes are areas I have great interest in.

When in your life did your interest in medicine begin? My parents had a great sense of patriotism. My dad was in the Navy when I was born, and he and my mom were married for only 10 days before he was shipped out for three years. If you’ve heard of the book You Are What You Were When You Were 10 – When I was ten, “Sputnik” happened, so it was very patriotic to be involved in Science.

I was really interested in Science, and with a college degree in Physiology, I could have gone to vet school, but I really liked people, and thought I’d like to be in med school. When I asked my husband, Stan, back then if he’d still marry me if I went to med school, he said no! Obviously he changed his mind. His mom was a typical stay-at-home mom of the 50’s with several children, and he couldn’t see how a woman could possibly fit everything in; and yes, it is hard.

What is something you absolutely can’t live without? Oxygen.

If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title of it be? From the Farm, to the Nursery, and Back to the Garden. I really enjoy gardening, so it’s like going back to farming for me.

Describe your dream get-away? To go up in space and look back down on earth.

Who would you like to trade places with for a day, and why? I don’t think I’d want to trade places with anybody, because I think I’m still figuring out my own spirituality. I’m thinking I’m here for a reason. Day-to-day, whatever I’m still supposed to do will come to me. No, I wouldn’t want to be anyone else by me.

You are married to a wonderful man, Dr. Stanley Carson; when did you know it was love? I actually fell in love with him at the age of 12 in the 7th grade in Reading Class. I knew we would get married some day. We started going out when I was 14. We went to different colleges, so we had a long-distance relationship. We were married in 1968, right after college and right before med school.

We are so sorry to hear that you just recently lost both of your parents; what are some great words of wisdom your parents gave you? “Always do your best...”

What concerns do you have about the field of medicine as it is today? We didn’t go into medicine to make money; we were from an age where we were very altruistic. Today with so much paperwork, malpractice suites, and so many different things going on, it really has nothing to do with the patient. Medicare is such a tangled mess, and it’s so “bottom-line” oriented.

What improvements can be made? You know it’s such a shame because we have such advanced medicine in this country today. All these advances should be one of our biggest exports to other countries. I wouldn’t want to be sick in any other country but ours. Maybe someone like Princess Di might have lived if she had been treated here.

What is a moment in your life you will never forget? Waking up after my crash C-Section hoping I had a healthy son. I had a very difficult, long, un-medicated labor and then ended up with general anesthetic. It was the early days of fetal monitoring, and my son was clearly troubled. I was thinking the worst, but it turned out well. At least I was awake for my son’s wedding.

Can you share with us the story about the toast your son, Bryan David, made at a recent special occasion? “Mom & Dad, I don’t know how you did it, but I hope to do as well at parenting as both of you have done.” We have always been close, and when other kids were glad to be away from home, Bryan would say “I wish Cal-Tech was just the down the block from home.” He’s not just our son, we are very good friends.

What do you love most about living in Colorado? The friendly attitudes; people say hello and smile at you. And, the beautiful weather and warm, dry climate.

Is there somewhere other than Denver you would like to live? Maybe someday? We also have a place in the mountains. No, I would like to stay here forever.

What’s in the future for Dr. Bonita Carson? I want to continue to be active as a community leader – especially with the Children’s Diabetes Foundation and the Kempe Foundation. I just got promoted this past year to professor at the medical school, and I’d like to be more involved with mentoring the medical students and helping them to learn to communicate better with the patients. I was going to serve on the Admissions Committee, but my parents died, so maybe next year.

What would you most like to be remembered for? For being kind.

Bonita, I feel so fortunate to be able to call you my friend. Your kindness, intelligence, caring and warm spirituality makes you an extra special woman. We are proud to have you as a member of our Kempe Children's Foundation Alliance for the prevention and treatment of child abuse. Love, Georgia
Georgia Imhoff
19-Jan-06