Retiring respiratory therapist breathes new chapter

When Bonnie Boggs first attended college, she wanted to be a history teacher.

Then she changed her mind and went on to study to be a music education teacher. 

But she realized she wasn’t that good of a musician, and decided the healthcare industry was the way to go. 

“One of my sorority sisters told me about a new health career that had opened up called “inhalation therapy,” she said.

“I looked into it and enrolled in the associate degree program.” 

Boggs received an associate degree in Respiratory Therapy in 1972 from Lexington Technical Institute, now part of the University of Kentucky Community College program. 

In 1977, she received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, with an allied health education major.  

Boggs started her career at the University of Michigan Medical Center. After a year, she was promoted to supervisor and eventually into clinical instruction, where she was in charge of supervising all respiratory students and the lectures to medical students, interns, residents, and nurses. 

When a tax millage passed in November of 1980, MCCC moved forward and added two occupational programs, Respiratory Therapy and Culinary Arts.
By then, Boggs had moved to Monroe County and had two young children and was working part time at Mercy Memorial Hospital (now Promedica Monroe Regional Hospital). 

She was interviewed and offered the position at MCCC.

“It was a completely blank slate, with a need to initiate accreditation procedures and documentation, create the curriculum, locate hospital agencies that would accept us, create clinical contracts, purchase equipment, hire a faculty member to work with me, prepare lectures and lab experiences, develop recruiting materials, and select the first class of students,” Boggs said. 

She began her MCCC career in  February of 1981 and her first students entered the following fall semester.

“I remember having trouble sleeping for days before the first day of class; waking up, having trouble getting back to sleep, all because I was worried that I wouldn’t do a good job in the classroom,” she said. 

The stakes were high and Boggs wanted to offer the very best Respiratory Therapy education possible.

“The best part of my job is working with students. I have the privilege of being at the beginning of over 500 individuals who have selected this wonderful field of respiratory care,” she said.

Boggs has had the chance to see them go through a very rigorous program and come out at the end ready to pass their board exams.

 “When I do clinic visits checking on our students, I get a chance to also catch up with a number of our graduates who are in practice.,” she said.

“It is very rewarding to see how successful our graduates are and the impact this program has had on all of the hospitals in our geographic area from Detroit, Ann Arbor and Toledo.”

At the March Board of Trustees meeting, Boggs’ retirement as director of Respiratory Therapy was made official. 

“I am slowing down and wanting to have more free time to pursue family and other activities,” she said. 

With time off, Boggs is hoping to continue to volunteer with student clubs and dissection programs in schools. She will also work on the CPR project to provide CPR to our health care students. 

“In addition, I’ll be doing a lot more of my genealogy hobby, maybe some gardening and other fun activities,” she said. 

She added that she hopes to visit her southern cousins during the cold and wintery months, and her family in Lexington, KY on a frequent basis.

In the future, Boggs hopes the Respiratory Therapy program expands, moving toward the transition to a bachelor’s degree in the field.

“I would absolutely love to see Michigan community colleges be allowed to award bachelor’s degrees for allied health programs. The curriculum in our field is very difficult to keep within a reasonable credit hour limit and still prepare respiratory therapists for their important work.” 

Boggs is going to miss the staff and students at MCCC.

“It has been my life’s privilege to be part of this process where ordinary people do extraordinary things for themselves and their families,” she said.

 “It is one of the important things that contribute to greatness in our society and it feels good to have played a part of it for Monroe County citizens.”