Recovering from a traumatic brain injury can be challenging in many ways.
Survivors often wake up to an unfamiliar world. Some lose the ability to perform the responsibilities of their job, and some have a difficult time remaining social after their accident. As a result, many sit at home with minimal human interaction without a sense of where they’re going.
For Doug Bohlman, a financial advisor in RBC Wealth Management’s Concord, New Hampshire office, improving the lives of these survivors is an important cause close to his heart.
Many years ago, a cousin of Bohlman’s suffered a brain injury in a serious car accident. In the years following the accident, Bohlman watched as his cousin spent the last few years of his life sitting at home and drinking before ultimately passing away.
Following that experience, Bohlman looked for ways to help people like his cousin. In 2002, he became involved with Krempels Center, a nonprofit organization and community in Portsmouth, New Hampshire devoted to improving the lives of people living with brain injuries. Krempels Center helps brain injury survivors develop skills to work, become more social, and find a new identity following their injury.
Krempels Center is the only program of its type in New Hampshire, and one of only a handful across the nation. The center partners with the University of New Hampshire and other universities in the region, hosting 100 students each year from health and social service professions who support evidence-based programming overseen by a professional staff. Programs at the center are self-directed, and include cognitive and communication skill building, music, cooking, art, and Bohlman’s class – current events.
In his class, Bohlman plays the roles of facilitator and teacher through discussions on different types of news stories he finds in the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Bohlman prepares for the class by reading a handful of different articles before preparing questions aimed at engaging his students.
“Everyone introduces themselves and then I ask break-the-ice questions,” Bohlman explains. “They will start the conversation, and I always try to be the contrarian to get them thinking about the consequences of the news topics we talk about.”
Doug Bohlman teaches his current events class at Krempels Center. (Photo credit: Krempels Center)
Bohlman makes the one-hour drive from his office to Krempels Center once a week, and goes above and beyond to benefit the many survivors who participate, says Lisa Couture, executive director of Krempels Center.
“He’s very objective and really takes the time to get people to think about different perspectives,” Couture says. “Current events can be very polarizing, and he is really adept at navigating that and giving everyone a voice. It’s one of the reasons why his class is so popular. People are there because they want to be there.”
In addition to donating his time and effort to Krempels Center, Bohlman also supports the organization financially. Donations like his help the center provide financial aid to its members and grow its programs.
“I’m a firm believer in giving back to society, and RBC encourages us to do so,” Bohlman says. “We can add tremendous value to the local community. Every time I go to Krempels, I hope to add value and a sense of self-worth to these individuals.”
But his students aren’t the only ones benefitting from his classes. Bohlman says he’s gained a lot from the experience, too.
“It’s a two-way street,” he says. “I get as much as they do from teaching these classes.”