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Navy Pediatrician Rises from Humble Beginnings to Make History

Image of Miliary health personnel wearing face mask bumping elbows. Naval Medical Forces Pacific Command Master Chief Sean Howe (left) elbow bumps Navy Capt. (Dr.) Lynelle Boamah, commanding officer for Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command and Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms during a Nov. 2, 2020, visit (Photo by: Regina Kowtiz, Naval Medical Forces Pacific).

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Navy captain and board-certified pediatrician Lynelle Boamah confidently stands with feet firmly planted atop two recent significant months: February's Black History Month and March's Women's History Month.

As the commanding officer of Navy Medical Readiness and Training Command Twentynine Palms in California and director of Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms, she defied the unwanted advice from friends and neighbors in the poor section of Baltimore where she was born, who told her: "Lynelle, you can never become a doctor."

She is now the first African American female Medical Corps commanding officer of a naval hospital.

Hers is the story of tenacity, drive, and the importance of mentors. Her mother, her biggest cheerleader, never discouraged her ambition.

"My mom got me the Playschool doctor's kit, with the medical bag and stethoscope," Boamah said. "I would practice on my sister who is 18 months younger than me, listening to her heart when we were little kids."

"From the earliest age (she said she thinks she was 4-years-old) she was impressed by the medical clinic a couple of blocks from where she lived with her sister and single mom in south Baltimore."

"The white sterile coats, their professionalism, the smell of antiseptic. I was excited to go to the doctor," she said.

Boamah attended Forest Park High School in Baltimore where she finished first in her class and delivered the valedictorian speech.

"I still have that speech on index cards," she said. "Now they remind me of my 1MC announcements."

After finishing college at the Notre Dame of Maryland University she took a year off and worked in a genetics laboratory at Johns Hopkins University where her immediate supervisor and program director were both female physicians.

"They were both great mentors," she said.

Both encouraged her to pursue her medical ambition. Also at that time, she met Medical Corps recruiter Navy Lt. Bill McCarthy, “who also turned out to be a great mentor," she said. Twenty years later, she met McCarthy again after he had become a Medical Corps officer and was assigned training at Naval Medical Center San Diego. "The roles were somewhat reversed," she said.

In 1995, Boamah was interning at Naval Medical Center Bethesda in Maryland and found the atmosphere challenging. She had the opportunity to transfer to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, where she was chief resident and deeply involved in department activities. It's also where she met her pharmacist husband, Charles.

"I found my battle rhythm and became the physician the nurses needed me to be," she said.

Following her residency, Boamah was assigned as a general pediatrician at Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms from 1998 to 2001. She then worked as a graduate medical educator at Naval Medical Center San Diego before entering the pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition graduate-studies course at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center from 2004 to 2007. During fellowship training, she earned a master's degree in medical education and curriculum development from the University of Cincinnati in 2008, graduating magna cum laude.

Upon completion of fellowship, Boamah returned to Naval Medical Center San Diego in 2007, establishing a robust practice of pediatric gastroenterology. She served as associate pediatric residency program director from 2008-2011 and was selected as residency program director from 2011 until 2016.

During this time, she deployed as an individual augmentee to Palawan, Philippines, in a joint humanitarian assistance mission. She served as the director for medical services, of the USNS Mercy from 2015-2017, and as the Mercy's executive officer until 2019.

On Aug. 23, 2019, Boamah accepted command of Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms, the same military medical treatment facility where she had reported for her first assignment as a Navy lieutenant 21 years earlier.

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