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Middlebury pediatrician back in the classroom

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By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — After almost a dozen years of practicing medicine in Middlebury, Dr. Breena Holmes has decided to at least temporarily retire her stethoscope and return to the classroom.

No, Holmes isn’t going back to school as a student. She’s returning to be a teacher — in Middlebury Union High School’s Health Literacy program.

“This was generally about my need and desire to be with adolescents,” Holmes said of her transition from physician to teacher, which officially commenced last week.

Holmes has, for the past 12 years, specialized in the care of teens as a physician with the Middlebury Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. She has enjoyed that experience, but has also wanted to interact with youths in a venue not confined to short, clinical visits. When she heard of a vacancy in the MUHS health program (brought on by the recent retirement of longtime teacher Peter Ryersbach), Holmes decided to apply for the post. She landed the position and took her place among the rest of the MUHS faculty last week when classes got under way for the 2008-2009 school year.

Holmes, 42, will officially leave Middlebury Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine on Nov. 1. Until then, she will work mornings at the practice and afternoons at MUHS teaching a health literacy course. Deb Karpak is the leader of the program.

“The way I see it, this is a course in teaching decision making,” Holmes said. “It’s what you need to know about your body and your mental health to make good decisions.”

Course material will touch upon alcohol, drugs, sexuality, personal health and media literacy, among other things.

“The fun challenge for me will be to make it more relevant for the older students,” Holmes said, noting a substantial number of juniors and seniors who will need to take this course this year.

Holmes holds a bachelor of science degree form Dartmouth College and a master of science degree from the University of Massachusetts. She recently received her state license to teach health curriculum to students in grades K-12.

MUHS Principal William Lawson is pleased to welcome Holmes on board. He said her experience as a physician and her communication skills will be greatest assets in her new teaching role.

“We’re excited to have someone with her experience,” Lawson said.

Holmes’ appointment is for one year. She is not yet sure what she will do after the 2008-2009 school year. But for now, she is excited to take on a schedule that will allow her to interact more with local adolescents, as well as with her own children. She and her husband, Dr. Lewis Holmes, have three children, ages 8, 10 and 11.

“I’ll keep my mind open,” Holmes said, of her career plans beyond this school year.

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