Close Inspection — VA researcher and Olympic champion Natalie Dell leans in close to allow Veteran Larry Carpenter and Nurse Manger Susan Byrne to get a good look at her Bronze Medal. Dell was a member of a four-woman sculls rowing team.
On August 23, Veterans, volunteers, and staffers at the Bedford (Massachusetts) VA Medical Center welcomed home Natalie Dell, a health research scientist who won a bronze medal during this summer’s London Olympics as a member of a four-woman sculls rowing team.
Dell’s eyes filled with tears when VA worker and Veteran Kevin Dougherty sang the Star-Spangled Banner during a brief ceremony in front of the medical center.
“I had never heard our national anthem as an Olympic athlete,” Dell said following the ceremony.
Wearing a white Olympic shirt, a navy blue skirt and her bronze medal around her neck, Dell thanked the VA community that supported her in her efforts to compete in the Olympics.
“This is my medal and it’s also your medal,” she told her audience. “It was my Olympic dream and it’s your Olympic dream. It was my experience and it’s also your experience.”
Dell was selected to participate in the London 2012 Olympics based on coaches’ evaluations, national competition results and training camp performance.
The 27-year-old bronze medal winner noted that the support of her VA colleagues was “rivaled only by my mom and dad.” She thanked VA management for allowing her to work part-time, via telecommuting, once she was selected to train at the Olympic rowing training center in Princeton, N.J. “Somehow everyone made it work,” she said.
“This is my medal and it’s also your medal. It was my Olympic dream and it’s your Olympic dream. It was my experience and it’s also your experience.”
Following the welcome home festivities, Dell visited hospitalized Veterans who were unable to leave their rooms to attend the event.
Dell joined VA in 2009 after completing a master’s degree in public health at Boston University and trained during her off hours. The following year, she was invited to the USRowing Training Center in Princeton, N.J. While there she continued to perform her VA duties through telecommuting.
Dell’s work at VA focuses on finding the best treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder and depression in Veterans. She is currently transitioning into a new study that examines the efficacy of one word mantras that can help Veterans cope with intense bouts of PTSD.
“I come in contact with Veterans every day,” the Olympic champion said. “When they talk to me about what they’ve done for their country, out there on the front lines, I’m in awe of them.”