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When We Invest in Families, Everyone Benefits

May 2, 2018
Photo by Harold Shapiro
Cyndi Olson (left), who led the center for 25 years, with current executive director Kyle Miller. Photo credit: Harold Shapiro

Almost 40 years ago, a group of women faculty and postdoctoral fellows at the School of Medicine spearheaded the creation of the Phyllis Bodel Childcare Center. Their input was crucial at a time when the bulk of child care fell to women. Today, we understand that access to affordable, high-quality child care is important not just for women, but for everyone. We are fortunate that families affiliated with Yale are able to avail themselves of this extraordinary resource.

Named after Phyllis Bodel, the first director of the school’s Office for Women in Medicine who died in 1978, the center opened its doors in 1979 with one classroom and seven families. Today, it includes 16 classrooms at two locations on the medical campus, with an enrollment of almost 160 children. But it’s not just its size that makes the center so impressive. With 57 teachers that are trained in early childhood education and accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the center provides an ideal environment for infants and young children. The ratio of children to teachers means that teachers and staff are able to individualize the care and attention that each child receives.

Much of the center’s growth took place under the stewardship of Cynthia Olson, who retired in December after serving as executive director for 25 years. Under her leadership, the center expanded its classrooms—there were four when she started in 1993—and now includes a kindergarten program for which Cyndi wrote a curriculum that she shepherded through the state approval process. She also designed the playground outside the Child Study Center. It’s a measure of Cyndi’s commitment and hands-on approach that she always knew the name of every child. We are indebted to her for her efforts in building upon Bodel’s solid foundation to develop a center that ably serves so many families.

The center’s new executive director, Kyle Miller, brings a wealth of experience to her role, having served as director of nursery schools and day care centers—most recently at the St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, NJ—for almost 30 years. She was drawn to Bodel’s atmosphere of excitement about child development and education, as well as the staff’s interest in the theoretical aspects and applications of their work. Kyle shares their strong dedication to children and families and we look forward to her contributions to the center.

Since its creation, the center has benefited from an active board of directors whose members are comprised of faculty, parents, and members of the community. Led by current president Erica Spatz, MD, MHS, assistant professor of medicine (cardiology), board members have dedicated much time and effort to ensuring the center’s success. Many of them remain on the board even after their children are grown, a testament to their devotion to our children and families.

By all accounts, the Bodel Center is a model for other child care centers. The School of Medicine has supported it from its inception, a commitment that continues today. We view it as an investment in our families, who are able to carry on their work knowing that their children are in good hands.