Those who know Lynn Dobson recognize her as a passionate leader who has long been an advocate for children and vulnerable populations. Hers is a career whose breadth of coverage is matched by its depth of impact.
Over the last four decades, she has spent much of her time giving back to others. She’s been involved with cancer and hospice care, youth ministry, therapeutic childcare programs, mission work, and camps for special needs children. The genesis of this impressive career can be found in part at UNC Charlotte, where she was a member of the nursing school’s third graduating class.
After completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing at UNC Charlotte in 1970, she went on to earn a master’s in education 1975. As a student, Dobson remembers living in old nursing dorms attached to Carolina Medical Center. But she has no complaints about the lodging, “We really had more of a college life than most of the other students had, as there were no on-campus dorms at that time,” she says.
Transitioning from student to teacher, Dobson served as a clinical instructor in pediatric nursing at UNC Charlotte for 18 years. During this time, she was one of three faculty members who started the nursing clinic at the Salvation Army for women and children. In 1992, she was celebrated nationally as a recipient of the Jefferson Award, America’s highest public service honor that recognizes unsung heroes who volunteer to make life better for others.
In the 13 years since, she’s continued her work in public service. UNC Charlotte honored Dobson with its 2015 Humanitarian Alumni Award at a ceremony earlier this month.
Fighting Cancer, Giving Back
Dobson’s experience as a three-time cancer survivor has inspired her humanitarian efforts. In Charlotte, she led the development and direction of Camp CARE, a summer camp for children with cancer.
Dobson has also made a difference further from home.
She was instrumental in fundraising to deliver two ambulances to a rural Bahamian island, Eluethera, where she also developed a seminar for cancer survivors.
The Dobson family’s involvement on Eluethera began when they chaperoned a mission trip to the island in 2004. The journey would be the first of many.
“Trust is built as relationships are built, Dobson says, “And after 10 years of listening to the stories, eating around a community table, working in the clinics, relationships developed.”
Applying her training as a nurse in small fishing villages, Dobson began to recognize the pervasiveness of breast cancer on the island. The incidence on Eleuthera is the highest in the northern hemisphere per capita, and “The ladies have to fly to Nassau for mammograms and any other treatment,” according to Dobson
Over the years Dobson has worked with local healthcare leaders to expand preventative education and build support programs. The Cancer Society of Eleuthera has recognized her for these efforts.
Cancer Society Eleuthera Branch President Juanita Pinder says Dobson’s passion is remarkable, “During every visit, Lynn has poured her life into reaching out to cancer survivors, caregivers and family members on the island,” she says.
Looking forward, Dobson says she hopes to start a school of survivorship on the island so the local people their can continue to help others through their personal experiences with cancer.
A Celebrated Member of 49er Nation
When you hear someone describe Lynn Dobson, something strange happens. It’s as if her joy and enthusiasm for life has been temporarily bottled—they start speaking about her— and out it pours.
Former UNCC nursing faculty member Marilyn Smith remembers her former colleague’s commitment to serving those who need it most.
“Lynn’s passion in nursing has always been focused on children, the underprivileged and the health care needs of our most vulnerable populations,” she says.
College of Health and Human Services Dean Nan Fey-Yensan says it has been a real privilege to get to know Lynn and her husband Bob through their participation in many College events and as enthusiastic and engaged friends of the College.
“Lynn and Bob are clearly committed to serving others – it is in every fiber of their being. I believe that is why they so quickly grasped our vision for the College moving into the future – one that is founded on health equity for all people – and the goal of eliminating health disparities in the region and beyond.”
Dobson says her philosophy on life as a whole has been influenced by her battles with cancer.“It is a blessing to have had cancer, as crazy as that may sound, because it has made me stop and absorb life in a different way.”
To hear Dobson tell it, there’s quite a bit left to draw in. She says she plans to live to be 100.
“When they ask that little lady how she did it, the response might be, I thanked God for my blessings every day and tried to listen as to what I could do to put myself behind and others in front.”
Tyler Wessel, Jenny Jones, and Wills Citty contributed to this story