SMWC graduate stands up for patients' rights

October 31st, 2011 | SMWC

When Catherine Boblett Field ’10 enters a patient’s room, there is a fire in her eyes. She wears confidence like a strong perfume; it enters the room even before she opens the door. This is life or death and, as a patient’s rights advocate, Field is on one side and one side only.

“Sometimes we need people in the world to stand up and say what’s right,” she said. “I know I’m doing the right thing by standing up.”

Dealing with doctors and struggling with decisions isn’t new to Field. Diagnosed with endometriosis, she dealt with her pain by blogging, similar to an online journal. Writing became a way for her to purge the frustration and heartbreak bottled up inside. “Instead of therapy, I just wrote it out,” Field said. “Then I fell in love with writing.” Now, her blog supports hundreds of women and inspires real change. This grew into a rewarding career for Field, who now helps others stand up for themselves. It has been a winding road for Field, with unexpected twists and turns, propelled by God’s calling and guided by her education at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Writing had become like a best friend to Field, so the professional writing program at SMWC was a natural fit. Her journey to The Woods started off like many distance students– raising a family and needing flexibility, without wanting to sacrifice quality. “I loved that I could do it from home,” Field said. “It was so convenient.”  

During her final year at The Woods, Field’s her true mission in life started coming into focus. More and more women suffering from endometriosis were finding each other through her blog. They became shoulders to lean on and optimistic cheerleaders, rallying support for each other. “The ones that have no one to turn to, well, they don’t have to feel alone any more,” Field said.

A blog that was meant to help cleanse her pain, quickly developed into a network of women searching for answers. Field’s blog has prompted companies to change policies, clarify wording and, in one case, increase the transparency of their donations and research on endometriosis. As time went on Field discovered many of these women were dealing with misinformation and the painful aftermath of medical errors. Suddenly, like a flash of lightening, she had an epiphany. She realized that she had always known what she was meant to do, but during all those years of writing through the pain, it was like a faint light high up on a mountain. Now, her undeniable calling was glaring her right in the face– these women need a voice to speak up for them. “I do it because there are people out there who are too sick and too weak to do it themselves,” she said.

After graduating from the distance program at The Woods, Field decided to use her voice to advocate for patients’ rights. She applied to the patient safety master’s program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Without a medical background, Field was nervous that her application might simply gather dust on a desk. Even when she began the program, she was concerned that without medical experience, the roadblocks could be insurmountable.

Relying on her expansive foundation in liberal arts from SMWC, she earned a 4.0 GPA and completed an intense 18-month thesis project at UIC. “The education I received at The Woods stressed togetherness, responsibility and continued educational growth,” she said. SMWC classes that she thought were unrelated to writing became her salvation during her master’s degree. “I’m a writer,” she said reminiscing on a discussion with the SMWC distance education staff, “what am I going to do with a statistics class?” She learned quickly, however, that to be a patient advocate she would need the support from her background in liberal arts.

“I had philosophy classes that challenged the way you think and helped you defend your reasoning,” she said. Sociology and religion classes opened up the world to Field, showing her a spectacular skyline of the human race. “I’ve used this knowledge in my job interacting with different cultures and patients of different faiths,” she said.

She can even trace some of her success back to that scary old statistics class. “Part of research­––a big part, actually­– is being able to create tests based on projected statistical outcomes,” Field said. “Medical research is all about the numbers.”  

Now, as a patient advocate, Field shares the voice she found at The Woods with people overwhelmed by life’s challenges. “I ask why,” she said. “Some doctors appreciate it because it informs patients, but others don’t like the questions,” she said. “I’ve grown a thick skin.”

Providence, Field will tell you, brought her to The Woods. She sees SMWC as more than a college; it is a connection. Through its vibrant liberal arts programs, she found a path where a strong voice, backed by confidence, can make a significant difference in the world.

“You never know where God will lead you,” Field began, “but I have confidence that God sends you exactly where you belong.”  

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