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Myra Lentz Bomba oral history interview

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Myra Lentz Bomba oral history interview
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interviewed by Unknown Unknown.

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subfield code a C53-000492 USFLDC DOI0 245 Myra Lentz Bomba oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by Unknown Unknown.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.Transcription and timecoding of this interview is underway and will be added when complete. At that time the audio link will be replaced with the OHPi player link (player supporting syncronized audio and full-text transcription).7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local710 University of South Florida.b Library.Special & Digital Collections.Oral History Program.1 773 t USF College of Public Health oral history project4 856 u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?c53.49


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text Charlton E. Prather (CP): Its a privilege to have with us today, Mrs. Myra Lentz Bomba, presently of Avon Park, longtime resident of Fort Lauderdale and the Broward County Public Health Department. I met Mrs. Bomba when she was director of nurses for the Broward County Health Department. Shes not going to let me tell you when that was, but it was not yesterday, it might have been the day before.
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She spent the bulk of her professional career in Florida in public health nursing, but we want her to review today what its like to be a mid-level and high-level administrator during those stormy years that we call the HRS [Health and Rehabilitation Services] years, when public health and the Broward County Health Department were a part of this large umbrella agency called the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.
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Mrs. BombaMrs. Lentz as we called her in those days, or when nobodys watching I called her Myra. Myra moved from the directorship of the nursing program for the Broward County Health Department into the administration inner sanctum of HRS within that HRS district.
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She was a famous person. She was a good thinker. [She] kind of kept the rest of us straight because she would bring to the rarified atmosphere of Tallahassee [Florida] the real-life situation in the field, where the rubber hit the road, where public health was being done.
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Its truly a pleasure, Mrs. Bomba, to welcome you here and to say, on behalf of the college of public health, we just thank you for your willingness to come. I think it would be fun, or I want towhat brought you to Florida public health?
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Myra Lentz Bomba (MB): Well, I came to Florida from North Carolina and had been in public health in North Carolina. And my husband retired, and we moved to Florida. And I wanted to get back into public health but there were no vacancies at the time, and I worked for a few years at Holy Cross Hospital.
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MB: Yes, in Fort Lauderdale. Opened the first intensive care unit that Holy Cross Hospital had which was interesting.
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CP: Which you were a certificated public health nurse.
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MB: Yes, I was.
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CP: Even then, as I recall, you got from the University of North Carolina.
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CP: Prior to all of this.
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MB: Right.
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CP: And you went into an intensive as a clinic nurse?
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CP: Why waste all of that talent?
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CP: You said there were no jobs.
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MB: No job in public health. But I did put my application in and I was called, after some years, a couple of years, and they offered me a position as a special nurse for the follow-up of premature babies.
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As you know, we had a high infant mortality in Broward County. A lot of our babies were dying in the first year after they were discharged from the hospital where a lot of money had been spent to bring them up to their weight so they could be discharged.
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And then, after a few months in the home, they would die, expire, for different reasons: poverty, lack of care, and so forth. We set out to try to reduce that infant mortality in the first year. And I did that. That was the first job I had.
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CP: From your smile, you look back on it with pleasure.
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CP: You did?
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MB: The joints of the very small baby were swollen. I told the head nurse and, at first, they said I had traumatized the baby. That I had handled it too roughly. I said, No, I dont think so. The doctor intervened and, sure enough, this baby, somehow, had missed the cord blood that they needed to do and was a case of syphilis. So instead of being chastised I was
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CP: You were commended.
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MB: I was.
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CP: Patted on the back. An alert nurse that doesnt mind speaking up.
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MB: So that was interesting case. But then, after that, I was more in tuned with what needed to be done for prematures.
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CP: And you stayed in this position how long?
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CP: Was this a statewide project or was it
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MB: Well, it was under a separate budget item. I think it was in maternal and child health. Not directly from the health department at that time.
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MB: Yes, yes.
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CP: Okay.
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CP: And what were you supervising?
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MB: I had a staff of nurses in the Fort Lauderdale office. I supervised all the services that we provided, which included tuberculosis control and all communicative disease control, maternal and child health, all of the services that we provided.
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Then I had statewide consultant by the name of Ms. Hildebrand. And she was our consultant
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CP: Now, whats a statewide consultant?
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MB: She had a certain portion of Florida that she supervised or consulted with and supervised. She was a nurse.
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CP: And represented the nursing in the central office.
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MB: Right.
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CP: Okay.
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MB: And, after a few months of her visiting, she suggested that I return to the University of North Carolina on the state program to get my BS degree in public health nursing. So, I did that and was accepted. I went off to school for a little more than a year to the University of North Carolina, received my BS degree, came back, and was promoted to the director of nurses for Broward County Public Health Department.
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CP: Did the University of North Carolina get tired of you? You got your certificate in public health nursing, you got your BS there. Was this through their medical or school of public health?
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MB: School of public health.
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MB: All of them.
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CP: And then you went back for your MPH [masters degree in public health]?
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MB: Yes.
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MB: Yes, it did.
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MB: They paid your tuition and gave you a small stipend while you were there. You had a commitment to work in Florida in public health for every year that you went to school. That would have been like three years. But I ended up spending the next 27, in all.
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I tell my colleagues and everyone, I had a wonderful time in public health. I dont think I ever had a bad moment in public health. I really enjoyed it.
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CP: At least youve forgotten it.
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MB: Yeah, I dont think I ever did really.
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CP: Well, you saw Broward County become from essentially nothing to a megalopolis by the time you retired. How did that influence public health nursing?
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MB: We had when I moved, when I went to the health department, I think we had less than 500 residents in Browardless than 500,000, 500,000 [residents].
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CP: Oh, yeah, please, thank you.
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MB: Im sorry, less than 500,000 [residents]. When I left, we had 2.2 million. The growth was essentially west because
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CP: Into the Everglades. You cant grow very well east because thats the Atlantic Coast.
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MB: You hear about the concentric circles of poverty in big cities, you know. You have your core and then around that and then on the outskirts you have the more wealthy. Well, in Broward [County], it was parallel to the ocean.
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Along the railroad tracks, you had the poor people. And then over towards the beach, you had the more wealthy, and then the west began to grow, and so we have a corridor along the railroad tracks.
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CP: It was really the focus prime for a person of your attention?
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MB: Yes. And since
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CP: From public health nursing point of view.
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CP: What special did you do to focus on those as a nursing department?
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MB: We actually did some educational programs, in the schools, for prevention of suicide because we had ayou hear about it more now, but we did, even back then, have quite a few
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CP: It wasnt a public issue at that time.
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MB: No, it was not. But we did have quite an accident prevention program. And, of course, we had our maternal and child health, and we were trying to get mothers in for early prenatal care. That has always been one of the goals and one of the ones that we constantly worked with and didnt always succeed.
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CP: And they still do Myra.
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MB: Invariably, someone would end up in the hospital to deliver, having had no prenatal care. And that was a black mark on us really. I mean, we felt that it was.
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MB: And so, every year, one of our goals, our overall goals of the public health department, was to reduce the infant mortality. And one year, it would go up. And one year, it come down.
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Always in the black population we had almost double the infant mortality that we had in the white, which was something that we work with constantly. And then we had, in fact, some of Dr. [Charles] Mahans programs that were following the babies in trying to get them in early and prevent the low baby birth weight.
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CP: That was while he was director of aI dont remember the name of it, but he was paid by the state but employed by the University of Florida.
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MB: Yes.
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CP: I dont remember the name of that program, but dont tell him.
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MB: Well, now its called Healthy BabiesHealthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, I think. But I think back then it had another name.
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CP: It did?
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MB: I cant remember it either, but
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CP: Yeah, and Healthy Start is all into that today.
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CP: And he done good.
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CP: He done good.
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MB: We had made an impact in Broward.
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CP: Yes.
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MB: Yes it did.
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CP: But Im constrained to ask about the health officer in Broward during your tenure.
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MB: Dr. Paul Hughes.
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CP: Dr. Paul Hughes. How do you remember him?
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MB: He was a wonderful health officer, in my opinion. He let the department heads have a lot of leeway. You could go into him and hed say, Well, if thats what you want to do, you go ahead. So he really let us have
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CP: But if you got in trouble what would he do?
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CP: Oh good.
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MB: Most of the time, I think he would. And the environmental health department was Willard Galbreath and Norman Tuckett was the engineer in the engineering department. We had a nutritionist and then we, much later, had a social work department, but that came much later.
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CP: Yes. How many employees did the health department have when you joined?
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MB: I dont know how many in all, but I know we only had about 30 nurses.
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MB: Over 150.
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CP: Except you didnt retire from the health department, did you, I dont think?
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MB: No, I retired from the district. What gave us our big incentive for additional public health nurses was the Maternal and Infant Care Project, which we were federally funded for that. And Mrs. Cora Braynon, who was my assistant nursing director, and I did write the grant for the Maternal and Infant Care Project with help from the state office.
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CP: And you were funded?
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MB: Yes, we were. Rather largely. We thought we had run into a big millionaires pocket or something.
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CP: Im constrained to remark on a lesson Dr. Hughes taught me. He was in the national limelight during the early part of a winter season. Influenza was in Broward County. National media picked it up and was beginning to have a detrimental effect upon tourists coming to Fort Lauderdale.
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After there had been a lot of shouting and carrying on about the influenza epidemic in Fort Lauderdale, Dr. Hughes tells me one day, Well as of, I will guarantee youIm clairvoyantnext Tuesday, the incidents will drop essentially to zero. So Tuesday came and the incidents dropped to zero.
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The moral lesson of that was that Dr. Hughes just neglected to send his morbidity reports forward to the state office where the news media had access to them. But thats a way to stop an epidemic.
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MB: Yes, it is.
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CP: I was very impressed. Now, when, let me see, in 69, the state government underwent a very significant reorganization, and then a new department was established by the state constitution called the department of health and rehabilitative services. Partial to that, what was the state board of health with statewide authority in policy making and rulemaking authority became under the umbrella of the department of HRS and became a division with accountability to the secretary.
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This had little influence on county health departments, as I recall, but Im trying to stimulate your memory. I doubt that youre really old enough to remember those things in clarity. But you were already associated with the Broward County Health Department. Do you recall anything about those days as regards to the county health department?
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MB: I was very much involved.
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CP: Later?
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CP: In 1974, there was another real
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MB: But I do remember Dr. Brumback and some of us were, I think, discussing those possible changes even back then. When the action hit the road was in, I think, what, 74?
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CP: Yes. There was another massive reorganization of state government in 74.
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MB: Dr. de la Parte?
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CP: He was author of the original HRS.
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MB: Original. Yes, I remember that.
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CP: Sixty-nine [1969]. Then in 74, another act abolished the divisions and made all the technical programmatic areas, like health, became a program office under the secretary for program planning and development. With that there was significant impact on the county health department, which hit you in 76. You really got the impact of it in 76.
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And Im recalling memorandum from the secretary in which the program offices were disallowed, under threat of reprimand or firing, having direct contact, in our case, with the county health department. In order for a member of the central office health program office staff to contact the county health department, first, we had to have specific permission from the assistant secretary of program planning and development and from the district administrator before we could contact the county health department.
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The 74 act also divided the state into 11 regions, which were called HRS districts, and each of these had a district administrator. Now, then, enter you and your health department in 1976.
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Im aware that, and I hope youre going to speak to that, in due course, you became part of the decision-making process for health matters within that district. But start me at the beginning. What impact did this reorg have on health department?
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MB: Well, I think that, in the beginning, it was so confusing that we really didnt anticipate what would come later. But if you will remember, there was a task force appointed.
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We came to Tallahassee and we stayed for more than two weeks, the best I remember. I came from Broward County, and Dr. Brumback came from Palm Beach County. I believe, at the time, I was the only nurse.
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We discussed some of the directions that we felt the health department should go and there was a lot of fear. SomeI dont know the exact wordtrepidation, I guess. What would happen to the previous ability to function as a health department?
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We felt that other services didnt always understand what public health goals were. And Im sure that some of the other programs probably felt the same way, that youth services had their own bailiwick. Of course, social services did. At that time, I dont know what it was called crippled children but crippled children was anonymous. I think there was a lot of uneasiness.
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CP: We went through a period where it was the attitude of the department of HRS secretary, as a matter of policy, that health departments had the doctors and nurses, and it was their prime duty to provide the medical care for all of the other folks under HRS. Do you recall some of that?
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MB: Yes, I do. In Broward, we didnt have a building. We didnt have anything to have our headquarters from. They really came in and took some offices that were in the mental health division and moved into there.
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I was there on a temporary assignment and functioned with Bob Kelley who was our appointed DA [district administrator]. And I remember we had to scrounge for paper, pencils, and typewriters, and we didnt have anything. They started the districts with no appropriations for anything to set up an office, so you were scrounging from each of the things and nobody was too willing to be cooperative.
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They werent used to taking the staff of the different divisions, werent used to taking any quote, unquote, orders or suggestions from another division.
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CP: Yes, we were not used to that.
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MB: Not used to that, no one was. And, if you would ask, you may be shown the door or be the subject of a not-so-nice comment. You had to have a pretty thick skin at that time.
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CP: In the early days of trying to set up the districts.
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MB: Right.
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CP: What was your side? You went to the district office.
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MB: They asked for a representative from the health department to be on the implementation team. Because I had been called to Tallahassee in the discussion of some of the issues, I was selected to go to the district and be in an acting capacity there. I worked directly with our DA.
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CP: Were you overseeing health matters, or what was your duty?
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CP: And this was pre-email days.
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MB: Oh yes, pre-computer days. Well, I mean, as far as the offices having computers. So we moved around a lot. We first had mental health and that wasnt big enough, and then we went to somewhere else, and then we went somewhere else, and were always constantly moving.
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Then the positions were actually established for the different positions. There was to be a deputy and a program director, which would have all the programs. There would be, more or less, a business manager or administrative services director.
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Those positions were established, and then each of the divisions had a supervisor. Health had a health program supervisor, if youll remember. Each one had a social services supervisor. All of these supervisors reported either to the deputy or to program manager depending upon what their goals were and what they were supposed to be doing.
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I applied for the deputy and did not get it, even though I had been in an acting capacity. They offered me: either go back to the health department as the nursing director, which was fine, or take the new position, which was the health program supervisor, which had jurisdiction over the health matters, at least from anot a direct, it was not a direct supervisory position, it more an advisory, really.
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Our responsibilities were to write goals and objectives for the health departments and come up with some sort of measuring tool that we could measure our progress and so forth. We had never really had those kinds of things before.
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They were difficult, in my opinion, for health departments to accept. You did get a lot of resistance from some of the quote, unquote, old guard.
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CP: Yeah, the health department had been kind of autonomous up until this point, and suddenly, they find themselves with an onsite boss.
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CP: And there were 11 of you.
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MB: Yes, and we met periodically. I, again, believe that I was the only nurse at the time. Most of them were doctors.
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CP: You were the only female too.
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MB: Yes, I remember that. I remember that I got the secretarial job most of the time. If we have to write out goals and objectives, Myra, you can do that.
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CP: The health program supervisors were not sexist. They just knew that was a womans work.
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MB: Right. Now that were on this subject, I do think it was hard for the physicians to have to do things on an administrative level. They had never had to write goals and objectives. They never had to write measurement of how to reach those goals and put it on paper.
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They didnt know how to do an action plan. We did a lot of action plans. You had to write them. A lot of people said they were just pieces of paper, but I found that if they were well written and monitored it on some sort of regular basis that people did pay attention.
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It did, in my opinion, help us. Because Im not sure that public health, and I dont think the other didwe flew more, sometimes, by the seat of our pants than we did with written goals and objectives with progress steps that we would like to meet over a period of time. For me, it helped me tremendously with being able to articulate where we wanted to go.
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CP: Oh yes. Thats community.
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MB: Not only that, but how to measure where we wanted to go. I do feel, in that way, it was helpful to me. I think in guiding the health department through some of those times, they began to realize that, Hey, this is not so terribly bad. This may be something that we could use in a positive way.
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CP: As health program supervisor, were you resisted, hated, [or] despised by the health department folks?
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MB: I dont really think so. You never know, because theyre not going to tell you to your face. But having been in the health department for a number of years, almost 13 years as a nursing director, I was well known and around the county as well.
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The other thing is having one county made a big difference. The districts that had four or five counties had more problems with the health program supervisor position than we did because we just had one county health department. I had been nursing director and knew all the heads of departments and had worked with them.
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CP: Through the power of persuasion, you could cause things to happen. Some of the other districts, it was paper.
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MB: Yes, and I think I had an ideal situation. Although we were going into new areas, I think that the one county district was the ideal place to be, really. I would have hated to have to deal with four or five counties in different
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CP: Did you retire from the position of health program supervisor for the district?
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MB: No.
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CP: When did you leave? How long did you stay?
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I think there were some resistance and, no offense, the health officers felt that a non-medical person could not direct the health department. That you needed, quote, unquote, a physician.
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But the law was written that you could be a non-medical. You didnt have to have a MD. And then, generally speaking, if that happened, then the person at the health program supervisor level at the district would be a physician.
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But, anyway, I was appointed to the health department as an administrator. I suspect I was the first one in that capacity, for all I know. It finally changed and there were others, but I believe that I was the first one.
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CP: First, quote, non-medical administrator, unquote
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MB: of a health department.
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CP: You said that the law specified that the health program supervisor in that case had to be a physician?
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MB: It implied that, but I dont think it was actually written in stone. We had Dr. Konigsberg, came to the district as a health program supervisor. He did not have an office at the health department. His was at the district level. He and I worked very closely together, but I did the day-to-day work, and the people at the health department did report to me. Now, that was a little touchy in the early days.
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CP: Tell me about that.
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MB: The health departments, as I said, had always been loosely supervised. The director of engineering came and went as he pleased. The attorney came and went as she pleased. The head of the dental department came and went as he pleased. Now, Im not saying that they didnt do their jobs, but they didnt come to work.
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CP: But part of their job is availability at the worksite.
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CP: Oh man. This new administrator, shes tough.
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MB: I wasnt getting any brownie points, I dont think. But I did interview each of the heads of the department and told them what I expected. And they [said], Well, I go by the courthouse before I come to work. And I go by, whatever, before I come to work.
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CP: Nobody put a bomb under your chair?
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CP: You put the ground rules down before you begin.
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MB: So it worked out. And I enjoyed that, for [the] years I was there. And then I had another chance. I guess youd call me a risk taker.
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CP: Im getting ready to ask: how come you couldnt keep one job?
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MB: Thats right.
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CP: Go ahead, Im sorry.
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MB: Although I was health program supervisor for like seven years, something like that. I dont remember exactly. But anyway, we had a new governor and a new secretary and new everything at the district level. They advertised for a deputy, which I had been passed over once before.
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So I applied along with several people in the community. And I was interviewed [by] Paul Freedlund.
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CP: Paul Freedlund was a district administrator
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MB: Well, I think it was John Stokesberry first, before Paul came. John Stokesberry hired me as his deputy. That was in 1986, so I went to district level. And thats the position I retired from.
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CP: How long did you stay as DDA [deputy district administrator]?
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MB: I went in 86, and I retired in 89.
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CP: Thats amazing. Few people can retire at 41 years of age. That district
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MB: I retired a little before I was 62.
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CP: Lets go back to your position as the administrator for the health department, if you will let me. What was your attitude toward the statewide system of healthcare administration at that time? Public healthcare administration?
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MB: Well, here again, having been at the district level as health program supervisor, I had a little different view of things, perhaps, then someone who had not been at the district level. I think that it helped me because I knew of some of the deterrents, so to speak, to being cooperative. There was a certain amount of pull.
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Maybe I was nave, I dont know. I knew the undercurrents were there and there was some unhappiness with the fact that the state office had to report to a secretary at the state level. Im not so sure, Dr. Prather, if it ever entirely went away. I think there was always a bit of trying to undermine what was going on, not being fully cooperative with
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CP: Quote, the system, as directed by a secretary of HRS.
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MB: Right. I think the health program tried to still be on its own.
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CP: The health program.
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MB: The health program. When I was at the district level, I looked at it as an opportunity because many of the patients, clients, that the district served were health department clients. In fact, I would suggest that probably 50 percent of them were, either through the maternal and childcare health program, through the venereal disease control program, or juvenile delinquency program.
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We also served crippled children from a follow-up program. In the beginning, we used to do that a lot and then we had the school program. So, really and truly, there was a lot of crossover, but Im not so sure that the state, as a whole, ever looked at it that way. I did because I was there.
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There was a lot of cooperation between or among the schools and the delinquency programs. The truancy in public health nurses helped with that. So I do feel that there was a bridge that was helpful to the community as a whole.
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CP: That was your bottom line.
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MB: Yes. It didnt work perfectly, dont get me wrong, and I think there was still a lot of resistance, but if you could just get pass the fact that it was, quote, a health department only, then it worked better.
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The personnel department at the health department, because of my being up there, moved the personnel papers faster than I did. I signed off on everything that came by from the health department. If the health department wants it, let them have it.
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CP: You werent being prejudicial, were you?
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CP: There were those who wanted
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MB: wanted to, but the legislature was right in it and didnt let them.
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CP: Put back on your health department supervisor hat and speak to the statewide organization of health program supervisors. What was the attitude, generally? Was there an esprit de corps?
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MB: I think there was. Yeah, I think there was. We had a few that still grumbled
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CP: Tried to operate outside the traces?
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MB: Well, and grumbled a lot. I really and trulymaybe again, I was nave, but I never had any direct opposition to my being there and felt, really, pretty good about it.
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CP: You were accepted as part of the team, there was no question about that.
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MB: Yes, yes I was. I felt that I was. There might have been a few, but I think part of it was they liked for me to do the writing part.
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CP: They wanted you to do that?
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MB: I became a pretty good writer at the time.
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CP: To do that stuff that girls do.
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MB: Yeah, that girls do. But I didnt bring the coffee.
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CP: Im glad. Well, Mrs. Bomba, as health program supervisor did you feel a difference as the DDA, deputy district administrator? Did your duties change much?
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MB: Yes. At first, when I first applied for that position, first of all, you have to resign your personnel position, in other words, youre not protected anymore. You serve at the pleasure of the governor, and you may be fired without cause.
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CP: Oh yes. I seem to remember some of that.
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MB: What goes through your mind is, Well, will I be able to the job, or will I be fired without cause? My philosophy was, at the time, that you can always go back to nursing, Myra. If you cant cut it, you dont deserve it.
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Looking at it from a financial point of view, I was nearing retirement. The retirement system was, you received the best five years, an average of your best five years as a base, so if I could raise my base
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CP: Salary.
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MB: for the last five years or thereabouts, it would make a difference in my retirement.
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CP: Yes, it would.
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MB: So, at that point, I had never really thought too much about that part of it, but the older you get and the closer to retirement you come, you begin to think in those terms. I thought thatand also senior management, [if] you were a part of senior management, which did have a few perks, instead of getting 1.6 percent of each year that you work, you got 2 percent toward retirement. That makes a difference in the amount. You also got more sick leave or you could accumulate your sick leave and get paid for a portion of it, not all of it.
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CP: And you got more annual leave though than the common folk.
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MB: Yes, you did, I believe. Also, the years that I was the deputy, I wore a beeper, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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CP: Im glad I retired before the beepers came in or cellular telephones.
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MB: Well, I had a beeper. You were there when beepers were there, but you didnt have to wear one, perhaps. I think that the stress that one was under at the district level had to do more with the youth services than anything else because I supervised the detention center, or it was under my direction as deputy. We constantly overcrowded it. We didnt have enough beds for the number of juveniles that were usually picked up on the weekends.
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The police would make a sweep and would sweep too many kids into our detention center, and we didnt have enough beds. I would be called in to give my permission to sleep on a mattress on the floor, which the civil liberties union didnt look kindly to, although they were taken out of doorways and so forth.
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I knew if it was on a weekend, on Monday morning I would get a call saying that I was overcrowded, which I knew I was, so you had to prevail upon the judge to try to get some of the kids through the adjudication system and get them out or either to some other facility so that you wouldnt be overcrowded.
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And, of course, if you want a few little tidbits of what kids do to make it hard for you, they would stick paper, toilet paper, into the lock of the door where they wereit was a locked facilityand then you couldnt get the key to unlock them.
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So, then, we had to begin to have the toilet paper under lock and key and have them ask for it because they would fill up the toilets with toilet paper and get them to run over. They thought that was really funny to have the mod flooded with water. So those kinds of things would keep you a little bit on your toes. As I said, that was
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CP: Now, why would this come to deputy DA level? Thats sort of mundane. Wheres the local director, administrator of the center?
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MB: They were there. Believe me, they were there, but they wanted the deputy to know that they were overcrowding the unit.
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CP: Oh yeah. The big boss needs to know that.
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MB: The big boss, right. But there was nothing we could really do about it at the time, but on Monday morning you had to scramble to unload it. Were the judges sympathetic?
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MB: Yeah. Well, most of them were, but their dockets were crowded, too. Of course, youre only supposed to hold a juvenile a certain number of days before theyre adjudicated. The timeline for that was beginning to fray a bit.
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So, that was one of the areas that we really had problems with. But I had wonderful superintendents of the detention center. How they managed to do the things that they did. We had one woman who was excellent. She was good.
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But the children, I mean, they were big children. They were underage, but they werent undersized. We had big kids. They would be 15 years old and theyd weigh 200 pounds or more. You had to be very, very careful. You could be assaulted if you were not.
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CP: I suspect the staff were very conscious of that too.
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MB: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. They were excellent. They really were. The detention staff, they all were excellent.
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CP: So, apparently, the youth services required the bulk of your time while you were deputy DA.
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MB: On an on-call basis, they did. But I also had the mental health hospital.
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CP: Oh, you also had the mental health hospital, now thats cute. You mention mental health. Was mental health in the district a part of theno, it wasnt a part of the health program supervisor, it was a part of the deputy DA.
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MB: It was part of the district and the DA had the right, of course, to delegate. He delegated that to the deputy.
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CP: Okay, now, that was exciting for you, Ill bet you.
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MB: We had a superintendent of the hospital. That was when the hospital was going full blast in the early days.
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MB: It was in Pembroke Pines. It was
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CP: Pembroke Pines.
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MB: It was a mental health hospital. We had a forensic unit also in the beginning and, of course, that began to change under [Gregory] Coler.
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CP: Coler was the secretary of HRS.
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MB: On a nationwide basis, all of the hospitals were being closed and quote, unquote, community services, were to be put in place to take care of some of the clients.
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CP: Get rid of those big, old impersonal institutions.
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MB: Thats right. And there was a lot of trauma going on at that time in the community. Particularly, the mental health auxiliary groups because they werent real sure that that was going to be successful. So it was traumatic because people didnt know what they were going to do with their family members as the as the hospitals closed. There were not enough community facilities in a timely manner to take care of what was coming out of the mental health hospitals, in my opinion.
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Im sure that those that were doing the dismantling thought it was the best thing to do. I think it would have been had there been enough community facilities and support. But many of the people became homeless. It was quite a big problem.
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Ive lost track of it now, but I dont know what the situation is now with what has happened and whether there have been any studies done or statistics done about what happened to those that were
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CP: Theres been a lot. Theres now a national movement to return to small institutions, not the big insane asylums of yesteryear. The current attention is trying to design systems of small institutions because the homeless over the nation, a high percentage
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MB: a high percentage of mental health problems, mental health patients
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CP: that were in a mental health institution.
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MB: We found that in Broward [County] they were under the bridge and in pasteboard boxes, cardboard boxes, and so forth and so on, living in those things. It was a real problem.
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CP: It was really pathetic.
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MB: Yeah, it really was.
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CP: I have dismay for our thinkers who thought that the solution to all of our mental health problems is to communalize them, bring them, make them part of the communities.
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MB: Of course, you realize that what happens is the patient or the client does not continue their medications without supervision. They revert back to problems. Until something is instituted to help with that part of it, I dont know if it would be successful or not. So, I would be certainly in favor of having some sort of small, formal setting for mental health
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CP: For selected types.
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MB: Yes. That you could go in, get settled, and then go out. But you have to have someone, a caretaker or someone, to
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CP: Pinpointed accountability.
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MB: Exactly. So, I dont know, its a problem. Was back then and still is.
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CP: It still is, Mrs. Bomba.
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MB: And one of the things that I noticedand I have never been a smoker, so I can talk about other peoples smoking, one of the things that hit me when I would go towards South Florida State Hospital was the chain-smokers. I mean, their whole day was
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CP: Just smoking.
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MB: Smoking and walking in the yards. Smoking and walking. I dont know what the incidence of lung cancer was in the institutions, but it must have been higher than the normal population.
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CP: It might have been after your time, but in Chattahoochee, now, smoking on the wards is disallowed.
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CP: There are anti-smoking classes at Chattahoochee. They are really giving attention to stopping smoking. They have been very successful, Im told.
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MB: Well, that is wonderful because, I tell you, that was one thing that just hit me so hard because everybody smoked. Every patient that I think I ever saw was smoking, chain-smoking, one right after another. But that was the onlythey didnt have the recreation or the
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CP: Did the institution give them the cigarettes?
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MB: No, they had to buy them.
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MB: We gave them to our soldiers.
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CP: We gave them to our mental health patients, too.
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MB: We did?
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CP: Yeah. Chattahoochee. If you were a smoker, you got an [allowance] of cigarettes.
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MB: I dont remember that being the case in South Florida
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CP: Made by the prison system, by the way.
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MB: That was one thing that sort of hit you about that.
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MB: I think maternal and child health would be one. I was very, very interested in maternal and child health and the babies. That part of it, I really liked and working with trying to reduce the infant mortality. I think my experience as a nursing director for Broward County Public Health Department was one and then going to the district level was a high point.
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It was certainly broadening my base of knowledge and certainly put me into a mode that I was looking at things across the board that had an impact on health. Health had an impact on other kinds of situations that you begin to draw those kinds of parallels. I think to have been one of the first administrators of a large county public health department
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CP: Distinctly set you apart.
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MB: Yes. I had someone say to me the other day, a colleague that worked at the health department, Myra, we didnt realize it at the time, but you were a very, very forward thinker. I said, Why do you say that? She said to me, Well, you were trying to get us computerized before computerization was the thing.
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I was trying to get our records in the computer and so forth. They are somewhat doing that now but that was early.
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CP: Very reluctant, because we aint ever done it that way.
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MB: I didnt even think about it. I said, I guess youre right about trying to get that in. I hadnt thought of it in those terms. She did say, We didnt realize it at time, but if we had listened and gone ahead
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CP: Decade ahead of your time.
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MB: Ahead of my time on that. And, of course, then going back as deputy district administrator for our district was another high point. But as far as public health, I think my first job in the mountains of North Carolina probably was the most exciting thing I have ever done.
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CP: Tell us about that. Where in the mountains?
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MB: I went to Watauga County, which was
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CP: Now, where is Watauga County?
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MB: Boone, North Carolina.
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CP: Boone, North Carolina, okay.
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MB: As I said, I was one of two nurses. I was the one with the certificate in public health nursing, so I was the nurse. We had a lot of
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CP: You were a young whippersnapper, too.
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MB: Yes, I was just out of school. I was, I dont know, in my early 20s? Maybe 22 or less, I dont know. Anyway, we had a lot of tuberculosis in the mountains of North Carolina, Appalachian Mountains. I made a review of all the tuberculosis cases that we had in the county and tried to visit them all and to get them reevaluated.
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I made great progress in doing that. That was one of my first things that I wanted to do. The other thing [is] that we were still having premature babies of women way up in the mountains with no medical assistance. Do you remember the portable preemie carriers that were made out of aluminum?
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MB: I remember them because we had two in our office, and wed get this call that a premature baby had been born way up the mountain and needed to go to a premature center. So the public health nurse position had to go find that baby, put them in the incubator, and a lot of times you had to walk the last mile up the mountain to get the baby.
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By the time you got it back down, the chances of it living were nil, but we tried. We did take them to the center. I suppose we saved some, but not very many. And then when the baby, if it did survive, had to come back to, as I said, very, very poor conditions. That was real, rural public health in the mountains.
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To go to a school that had grades from one through seven in one room. Once, I was assigned to one school, or one school in my district, that the teacher, who was male, stayed up in the schoolhouse during the week and only came down on the weekends. He had a little room at the back of the school with a bed and a little stove. He stayed up there because it was too bad weather, too severe to come and go. You dont think about it being unusual, you dont think about it being something that you would need to record because it was just the way things were.
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CP: Yes. Those sorts of things do not get recorded.
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MB: I know. I dont think I ever took a single picture of the one-room schools that I went to.
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MB: It is terrible. I look back and I think, What were you thinking?
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CP: Why would you want to take a picture of that for?
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MB: I know it. Or, not only that, but nurses. Public health nurse back then, Im telling you, we did things that you would be fired for now. We examined children, made a determination as to whether they had bad tonsils and whether they should have a tonsillectomy because so many of the children couldnt breathe. Their tonsils touched in the middle of the throat.
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They had bad adenoids and their ears were all infected. We had a lot of hookworm in the mountains of North Carolina, constantly fighting parasites that children had. When I moved to Florida, we had more ascariasis, roundworm, but in the mountains of North Carolina we had hookworm. So, it was an interesting difference there in the mountains area and the flatlands
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CP: How long did you stay there?
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MB: I was there about two years.
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CP: Im constrained to remark that I attended the college of public health at North Carolina. While I was a student there, through mechanisms that are not pertinent right now, but I was contacted by the county commission of the county in which Boone is the county seat
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MB: Watauga.
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CP: to invite me to come over for interviews for their county health officer position. I wasnt interested a bit, but I was terribly complimented.
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MB: Dr. Mary Michael, as I said, was our health officer. And she was from the mountains originally. She had the three counties. And I kept in touch with her for many, many years.
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I went back to the University of North Carolina to one of the affairs that they had, and I saw the name Dr. Mary Michael. I thought, Could that be Mary Michael? And I go over to speak to her and it is Dr. Mary Michaels daughter, who is Dr. Mary Michael also.
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We had such a nice chat about her mother and about how she handled those three counties. If someone was on vacation or something, we would go to the other county and fill in for them even though we werent employed by that particular county.
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CP: But thats all right, youve got your salary anyway. You werent docked.
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CP: Were you single at the time?
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CP: To one of those North Carolinian people?
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MB: Well, I married Maj. John Lentz, who was in the service.
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CP: How did you meet a serviceman way up there in Boone?
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MB: Well, I was born in Fort Bragg. I was an army brat.
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MB: So I met him when I came home for the weekend. He was hunting with my brother. Deer hunting. So we married.
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MB: Yes, we went to Alabama from there, and then he went to
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CP: Did you continue your nursing stuff in Alabama?
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MB: No, not while I was in Alabama. But when I
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CP: Did you have children instead?
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MB: My oldest son was born and then my husband went to Korea. He was ordered to Korea when our son was six weeks old, so he was gone for the first two years of his life.
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CP: While he was on assignment in Korea?
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MB: Yes.
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CP: You did. All right.
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MB: So, I did that and then from there, when he came back, we stayed there awhile, but then he retired. We moved to Florida. But we had three sons.
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CP: Were interested in your three sons.
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MB: Theyre finewell, my oldest son, as you know, died from complications from diabetes.
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MB: But my middle son is in Colorado. My youngest son is in Avon Park.
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MB: Yes. I have two grandchildren there. My son who died had one son, and hes the one that has the baby that I am a great-grandmother
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CP: Great-grandmother. You arent old enough to be a great-grandmother.
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CP: Im the same age as you and I have just one grandson, five years old.
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MB: Well, they must have got a late start.
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CP: They did.
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CP: No. The grandmother and I, my wife and I, are about to decide. We got two sons. If we were ever to get a grandson, we were going to have it ourselves. Yeah, but we just love him.
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MB: Well, I enjoy the grandchildren. They call me momma and call my husband papa. Papa and mama. So, wenice, nice kids.
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CP: I know you do. Did your husband, Mr. Bomba, have any kids?
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MB: Yes, he did. He had two sons. One of them is in Philadelphia, and the other one is in Long Beach, California.
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CP: Whew, thats far apart.
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MB: I do hear from them frequently. The one in Philadelphia has two girls, but the one in California does not have children.
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CP: Okay, so youre a grandmomma several times.
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MB: Yes, I am.
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CP: Let me see. What have we left out in your career in HRS?
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MB: I survived Black Tuesday when everybody was fired but me.
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CP: Remind me of that.
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01:15:49.2
MB: It was when [Gregory] Coler came in. We had John Stokesberry as our DA who had hired me. Merrill Moody was sent down from Tallahassee as our acting DA. After he had been there for, I dont know, maybe three months
384
01:16:15.8
385
01:16:17.6
MB: Stokesberry was fired. Our administrative director was fired. Our program manager was fired. Everybody at the district level in administration
386
01:16:28.9
CP: Except you.
387
01:16:29.7
MB: Except me.
388
01:16:31.5
CP: And you were deputy doc?
389
01:16:33.1
MB: I was the deputy. They had to keep somebody that knew what was going on.
390
01:16:37.0
CP: You were a skeleton group at a bare minimum.
391
01:16:41.3
MB: So, that was a little traumatic. But anyway, Merrill Moody, I thought he was great. He was fine. I didnt mind working with him at all. Dr. Konigsberg was health program supervisor and he stayed. The mental health person stayed. Most of the program supervisors stayed but, as I said, the four top people, except me, were gone.
392
01:17:12.5
CP: You call that Black Tuesday?
393
01:17:14.3
MB: Well, whatever it was. Recently, Ive been going through some old papers and trying to get rid of some stuff. I had all these clippings out of the paper and it was big headlines in [the] Fort Lauderdale [news]paper about
394
01:17:28.7
CP: [Gregory] Coler cleans house.
395
01:17:29.9
396
01:17:57.6
CP: Why is that?
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01:17:58.7
MB: Because the Republican governor left.
398
01:18:7.7
CP: This was [Bob] Martinez.
399
01:18:8.8
MB: Right, Martinez. So, Coler left. We didnt know who was going to be left at the district level.
400
01:18:18.8
CP: With the new one, yes.
401
01:18:20.8
MB: Yes, so I retired.
402
01:18:23.6
403
01:18:25.2
MB: Well, I, its that I
404
01:18:26.9
CP: They had on your heart.
405
01:18:28.5
MB: Yeah. Ruben Betancourt, who was our public relations person, wrote me a little note and said, I dont know how you did it, but you knew exactly when you left at the top of the pile.
406
01:18:46.8
407
01:19:4.1
CP: Well, dont feel unique. Coler just went around the districts pretty good. There were about 70 folks that were fired overnight. All of a sudden
408
01:19:14.8
MB: Coler had a special spot for nurses. Did you know that?
409
01:19:22.5
CP: No, but I have a special spot for nurses, too. Most of them were female.
410
01:19:26.1
MB: He would listen to nurses. I dont know whether someone in his family was a nurse or just what, but I had a lot of respect for him. Of course, we had Digre. Secretary, that was his deputy or something.
411
01:19:44.2
CP: David Pingree. Pingree.
412
01:19:47.9
413
01:19:48.6
CP: David Pingree. Is that who you are talking about?
414
01:19:53.1
MB: No.
415
01:19:53.6
CP: Okay.
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01:19:54.0
MB: It is Degre. D-e-g-r-e. [See footnote 32 for the proper spelling.]
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01:19:56.2
CP: Okay, Im sorry, go ahead.
418
01:19:57.8
MB: But anyway, he was one that came down to our district, mostly. And, again, I think Coler demanded accountability probably as much as anyone I have ever been around.
419
01:20:18.0
Whether or not it worked or not, I wasnt there long enough to really know. But he definitely had a vision of what he wanted to happen in the department. It was high quality.
420
01:20:41.0
So, we learned, again, to go back to the drawing board and do a lot of thinking about where we were going. We had sort of gotten away from that a little bit. So I thought that he really did some good things, I really do.
421
01:21:3.1
CP: Im getting the feeling that you think the HRS repass in Florida was a good thing.
422
01:21:12.9
MB: Well, again, my perception is from because I was involved with it and working with it on a daily basis, which put me in a position different from those who were not at the district level. So my perception, Im sure, is quite different from others perception. For whatever its worth, and Ive said earlier from a personal experience, I gained a lot of growth.
423
01:21:49.8
CP: A lot of positives.
424
01:21:50.7
MB: A lot of positives so I didnt view it as a deterrent. I decided early on that I was going work with the system. So I was not one that constantly fussed about it or complained about it.
425
01:22:12.5
CP: Complained and carried on.
426
01:22:14.0
MB: No, I got on board and I tried to
427
01:22:17.6
CP: You did the best you could 28 hours a day and carried your beeper nine days a week.
428
01:22:24.5
MB: Right. Thats the reason I have gray hair today. I do feel, and this gets off the subject a bit, but I do think that stressful times that a person goes through that, while they handle it at the time, later on, takes a toll on their overall health.
429
01:22:52.0
CP: I believe so.
430
01:22:53.7
MB: I think so.
431
01:22:54.0
CP: I think theres some data to support you.
432
01:22:55.8
MB: I think that that is true. I believe that those days or those years that you were constantly under pressure
433
01:23:8.8
CP: Unrelenting stress.
434
01:23:10.4
MB: Stress. Although you thrive on it, down the road
435
01:23:17.9
CP: It shows its toll.
436
01:23:20.1
MB: It does. It really does.
437
01:23:22.1
CP: I believe that. I believe that it does.
438
01:23:27.7
MB: Particularly if you haveand nurses, I think, are famous for thisthat caring attitude and you dont want to
439
01:23:37.9
CP: Thats the reason youre in nursing, I think.
440
01:23:39.6
MB: You dont want to quote, unquote, hurt anyone because you want to help rather than hurt. Sometimes youre forced to hurt in situations where youre not always the boss. So, I do feel that some of the days were very, very stressful, but I did get a lot of enjoyment out of it.
441
01:24:5.2
I had a lot of support. I really, truly did. I was supportive of the nurses that I had worked with. I still hear from them, and I still correspond with them. Those kinds of friend and colleagues you never get away from.
442
01:24:25.6
{{{1:24:30.6}}}MB: I hope so. I like to be young for a little while longer.
443
01:24:30.6
444
01:24:35.4
445
01:24:48.8
MB: I have a very good example of this that I can share with you. My daughter-in-law and my son raised their children up to teenagers and then she decided that she would go back to school. I had always encouraged her to go into nursing and she did.
446
01:25:16.8
She finished her RN at Polk Community College in Winter Haven. Now, she is experiencing what I had told her. Once you get your RN, you have a whole smorgasbord of places that you can go.
447
01:25:40.7
CP: And types of occupational environments.
448
01:25:42.2
MB: You can do mental health, you can go orthopedic, you can do maternal and child health, you can do oncology, you can do pediatrics. Among all of those choices, certainly there is something that a person could select that she or he would get excited about. They can always change, which is not true of other professions.
449
01:26:15.7
CP: That is so true.
450
01:26:16.9
MB: You just have unlimited possibilities as an RN. You can go into public health, right?
451
01:26:26.1
CP: Even. I was wondering if you were ever going to mention that.
452
01:26:29.6
MB: Well, public health is not as jazzy as some of the other professions. It was when I was coming up in nursing but now you dont hear too much about it. I dont know. Id like to think
453
01:26:46.0
CP: I think thats the fault of the public health organization.
454
01:26:50.0
MB: You dont hear as much about the exciting things that, when I went into it, there was nothing else, as far as I was concerned.
455
01:27:0.8
CP: If theres any director of nurses watching this tape, public health nursing, I hope that they will pay attention to this. We need to advertise beginning early.
456
01:27:10.7
MB: Right. And not only that, I think we should get back to, if theres any money to give back into some scholarships for advanced training. When you and I were coming along, if you didnt have, quote, the MPH, you just didnt have the doors open to you that you would when you had the MPH.
457
01:27:32.4
CP: Thats right. It was a phenomenal difference.
458
01:27:37.1
MB: As I said, its just been tremendous for me. All of my schooling, all of it has been on a scholarship. I was poor. I was a little farm girl whose father was killed when I was 10. I went to nursing school as a cadet nurse during World War II so that was paid for.
459
01:28:6.2
I received my certificate in public health nursing on a scholarship. I received my BS degree on a scholarship from Florida in their educational program, and I received my masters degree from the scholarship program from Florida.
460
01:28:25.6
CP: From the Florida public health organization.
461
01:28:26.1
MB: Now, if anybody really wants to do something with their life, get into nursing.
462
01:28:38.5
CP: Let me make an editorial comment: that the Florida State Board of Health, through legislative appropriations, did provide money, tuition, and a living stipend for promising public health workers. Folks who were already in the public health system were selected through a competitive process and given the required period of time leave of absence from their job to go off to a school of public health.
463
01:29:8.1
That was one of the losses with HRS, when we got an HRS. In the secretarys wisdom, thats one of the things we dont need to spend money for, Mrs. Bomba. It has not been reinstituted.
464
01:29:27.4
MB: Thats too bad, really, because I encouraged nurses to go off, get their masters degree.
465
01:29:33.9
CP: Even if they had to do it part-time. I really encouraged them to.
466
01:29:37.6
MB: Cora Braynon and I can think of several
467
01:29:40.5
CP: Dozens, probably.
468
01:29:41.6
MB: Yeah, that went off to get a masters and have gone on to great things.
469
01:29:48.1
CP: Well, I can say you were a model and an inspiration to a lot of us, Myra.
470
01:29:52.8
MB: Thank you.
471
01:29:54.0
CP: And youre sticking with it. You would not be spoken down to by no one. You were
472
01:30:4.1
MB: I used call on you very frequently though, Skeeter, to come down and help us out. Remember Sabin Sunday?
473
01:30:10.4
CP: Oh man. Yes, I do. It is always a pleasure to be there. But I always admired you Myra
474
01:30:17.0
MB: Well, thank you.
475
01:30:18.0
CP: because you were, you stuck with it and you carried your shoulders square. You carried your brow up and rarely wrinkled. Sometimes with a scrunchy mouth, but your brow was rarely wrinkled.
476
01:30:30.7
MB: Well, I have to relate this to you because its just an antidote [anecdote]. When I was administrator of the health department, one of the nurses that was head of the prior care program, wrote directly to the state health department without coming through my office or the district.
477
01:30:53.9
So, I asked her to come into the office. We chatted awhile about protocol and so forth and so on. I said, Well, next time if youre going to write a report, I would love to able to sign off on it before it goes any further. And she said, Oh, all right, Ill do that.
478
01:31:18.2
So, she got up to leave and she got to the door. She turned around and she said to me, I think Ive just been reprimanded.
479
01:31:30.3
480
01:31:34.8
MB: I think Ive just been reprimanded. Didnt dawn on her until she got to the door.
481
01:31:41.7
CP: Did you confirm that?
482
01:31:43.3
MB: I think I nodded my head.
483
01:31:46.9
CP: Very good. Well, Myra, what have left out that we need to include?
484
01:31:50.5
485
01:31:58.0
486
01:32:22.9
MB: Thank you very much.
487
01:32:23.7
CP: So, please accept a thanks of us all. We dont send you any big checks, but we will send you a copy of the tape.
488
01:32:30.7
MB: That would be the only pay I would need.
489
01:32:34.4



PAGE 1

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