Wednesday, April 17, 2013

APA Member Finishes Boston Marathon Moments Before Blast

Less than a minute after psychiatrist Brent Forester, M.D., crossed the finish line at Boston’s 117th Marathon—achieving his goal of running the race in under four hours—he heard the sound of what he knew could not be good news. “It sounded just like a loud cannon, but I was close enough to see there was smoke and debris everywhere, and I knew this was not normal,” Forester (shown here before the race) said of the attack that killed at least three people and injured more than 170. “I thought possibly it was an accident, a gas main or a furnace, but it was clearly an explosion. And I knew there would be many people dead or injured.”

Forester, a geriatric psychiatrist at McLean Hospital and chair of the APA Council on Geriatric Psychiatry, was running his fourth Boston Marathon and raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. This year he also raised money—some $3,500—for the Scholar’s Program sponsored by the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) and the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, which pairs medical students and psychiatry residents with mentors in the field and brings them to the AAGP annual meeting. Running for charity causes is a common feature of the race that has become emblematic of Boston, especially so among those who are not elite athletes, but who run for a meaningful cause and the thrill of crossing the finish line to the cheers of thousands. And Forester noted an especially chilling aspect of Monday’s attack: the bombs were timed to go off as those countless “regular-folk” runners were crossing the finish line, and when their family and friends were bound to be there to watch.

“I’ve never experienced something like this, and I’m not an expert in disaster psychiatry, but people here need to talk about what they have been through,” Forester said. “I spoke with some of my medical students after the race and they all wanted to do something to help. Boston's citizens were being turned away from hospitals because they didn’t need blood right now, though will in the coming weeks. But I told the students that the injured, their families, and first responders all need a lot of emotional support.”

For more information on psychiatric sequelae of disasters, see Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment published by American Psychiatric Publishing.

(Image: courtesy of Brent Forester, M.D.)


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.