Dr. Andy Baumel: "I found my life's work at Kabeyun"

by Laura Remington /
Dr. Andy Baumel: "I found my life's work at Kabeyun"

Kabeyun boys grow up to do all sorts of interesting things, both as their vocations and avocations. For many, their time at Kabeyun shaped their path in life.

Take Andy Baumel, a pediatrician in Framingham, Massachusetts, and a Porter Foundation Trustee who is helping camp navigate the Covid-19 pandemic. Andy spent 11 summers at Kabeyun in the 1970’s and 1980’s – five years as a camper, one as a counselor-in-training, and five on staff teaching tennis and leading trips.

“My first real job was being a camp counselor and working with children,” he says. “That influenced me enormously to go into pediatrics as my life’s work.”

Andy has practiced pediatrics for 25 years and says he still draws daily on lessons learned from two Kabeyun mentors: long-time camp nurse Sue Kutenplon and former assistant director Bill Ricker, now Andy’s colleague on the Porter Foundation’s board.

One summer when Andy was a medical school student, Sue invited him to help in Kabeyun’s health center on Sundays. Back then, all campers took showers and visited the nurse for a health check each Sunday. (These days, our nurses screen campers cabin-by-cabin throughout the week.)

“I leapt at the chance,” Andy says. “It was great because she taught me how to systematically check a camper and the important things to look for, such as impetigo and swimmer’s ear.”

Andy still uses Sue’s method for detecting swimmer’s ear. “Look the patient in the face, put your hands on both their ears, then tug one ear and then the other and watch their eyes to see if they wince. Swimmer’s ear is a very common diagnosis that I see in the summer. So I still use what I learned in the Kabeyun infirmary in my practice.”

Also central to Andy’s practice are the principles of child development and discipline he learned from Bill Ricker, an experienced social worker and camp’s long-time assistant director. For many years, Bill worked with Kabeyun’s counselors-in-training (now called interns), helping them develop the self-awareness, social-emotional skills, and understanding of child development that Kabeyun requires of its counselors.

“That was my first step into child development, and I use the principles that he taught us every day in my practice as I counsel families on how to deal with issues with their children,” Andy says.

One of Bill’s teaching tools, called the Ten Steps of Discipline, helps adults and children develop relationships and work through behavior problems collaboratively and respectfully. The approach uses a series of questions -- rather than accusations – emphasizing choice and personal responsibility in the tradition of Dr. William Glasser’s choice theory.

“I still talk about making relationships and treating kids with respect. Asking them, not telling them,” Andy says. “Also seeing if the issue is with you -- were the rules not clear? Were they consistent? If your idea of the rules is different than the camper or child’s idea of the rules, then you need to stop and explain the rules better. It’s your fault, it’s not the child’s fault, that they did something wrong.”

Andy has been sharing his expertise as a pediatrician with Kabeyun as a trustee for 14 years, informing many discussions and decisions. He’s currently helping camp navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, along with fellow trustee Bill Robinson, a Stanford rheumatology clinician and scientist. In addition, for 13 years Andy has chaired the Scholarship Committee, which he describes as “near and dear to my heart.” He estimates the committee has awarded financial aid to least 150 boys during his chairmanship.

“I’m thrilled to serve on the board,” Andy says, “and give back to a place I love so much. I attribute my experience at Kabeyun with allowing me to discover who I am and in forming the core of my self-worth.”

Andy Baumel is a graduate of Yale College and University of Pennsylvania Medical School. His clinical interests include immigrant health and infection-triggered obsessive compulsive disorder. Andy is an avid saber fencer who also enjoys orienteering. He, his wife, and their four children are loyal Family Campers; two of his sons are current campers.

Andy, Bill Ricker, and Bill Robinson are just three of the dedicated individuals who make up our board of trustees. You can find our trustees' bios here. And you can read more about our Head Nurse and our Health Center here.

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