Bahai News - Dr. Peter Boddy, 52; brought health care to poor

Dr. Peter Boddy, 52; brought health care to poor

Jack Williams

18-Jan-2000 Tuesday

Dr. Peter Boddy believed in practicing medicine where it was needed most.

In San Diego, that was at the Logan Heights Family Health Center, where he helped found a preventive medicine department and pioneer AIDS education in the Hispanic community.

In Latin America, it was in remote villages with high rates of infant and maternal mortality and low levels of health care.

Dr. Boddy, who had helped establish a public health program in Nicaragua during the last 3 1/2 years, was visiting his parents in Poway when he suffered an aneurysm Dec. 22.

He underwent surgery Christmas Day and died Jan. 2 at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido. He was 52.

"Peter was planning on staying in Nicaragua at least another four years," his mother, Marie, said. "His goal was to help Indian populations in these countries."

As a public health specialist and educator, Dr. Boddy worked over the years in countries such as Mozambique, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Honduras and Egypt. His work in AIDS education took him to Hawaii, Arizona and New Mexico.

In recent years, Dr. Boddy had been employed by the Boston-based Management Systems for Health and worked on contracts funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

While in Nicaragua, he was in charge of a staff of 34, including physicians, nurses and other health professionals.

"I don't believe I have ever worked with a person who approached his work with such a positive yet selfless attitude," said Kip Eckroad, a colleague of Dr. Boddy's in Nicaragua.

Born in Chelsea, Mass., Dr. Boddy moved with his family to San Diego at age 3. He attended San Diego area elementary and junior high schools before moving with his family to Denver and, eventually, Carmichael, where he graduated from La Sierra High School.

From the time he was a child, his goal was to become a doctor. He took premedicine courses at the University of California Davis and earned bachelor's degrees in anthropology and psychology.

"Being of the Bahai faith, Peter wanted to serve people wherever he could," said his father, Gregory. "He was told that he could do more if he went into public health, where he could serve thousands of people."

Dr. Boddy was on San Andres island in the Caribbean, setting up a business school, when he was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War.

Assigned to Da Nang, he served as a laboratory technician in a field hospital.

After 19 months of active duty, Dr. Boddy settled in Peru, where he faced the daunting challenge of studying for a medical degree in Spanish.

With little background in the language, he picked it up quickly through the help of a tutor and completed his studies in Lima and Arequipa.

"He became an excellent speaker, writer and reader of Spanish," said his wife, Patricia, a former San Diegan.

In 1985, Dr. Boddy returned to his San Diego area roots to study for a master's degree in public health at San Diego State University. While living in Ramona for four years, he worked at the Logan Heights Family Center.

As a first step in designing an AIDS education program tailored for minorities, Dr. Boddy coordinated a survey of 476 patients at the center in 1987.

Of those surveyed by Dr. Boddy, about half mistakenly believed that AIDS could be transmitted through food and water or by touching or being near an infected person.

Dr. Boddy returned to Latin America in late 1989, working in such aspects of public health as management, training, and the design and evaluation of social and economic development programs.

In 1995, he made a nine-day pilgrimage to Haifa, Israel, the world center of the Bahai faith.

Dr. Boddy was elected a member of the Bahai faith's chief national administrative body in three countries, his family said.

Survivors include his wife of 27 years, Patricia; his parents, Marie and Gregory Boddy of Poway; sons, Louis of Peru and William of Richland, Wash.; and a brother, Kim of Seattle.

Memorial services were Jan. 6 at El Camino Memorial Park.

©Copyright 2000, San Diego Union-Tribune

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