AUSTIN, Texas – For years, Dr. Lindley Dodson eased the anxieties of new parents and coaxed small children for routine medical procedures such as shots and, more recently, COVID-19 tests.
The 43-year-old pediatrician operated a thriving practice with several other doctors, keeping a constant presence at school activities and other functions for her three children who are 5, 7 and 11.
Austin police identified Dodson on Wednesday as one of two people found dead at her office after being taken hostage by another pediatrician, Bharat Narumanchi.
Narumanchi did not work at the clinic where he held five employees hostage for hours, police Lt. Jeff Greenwalt said. Four were either let go or escaped, and no children were there, he said.
Dodson’s husband, Drew, said he and his family “have gotten a lot of outreach and support.”
Dodson’s friends and patients were anguished by her loss, many speaking about her through sobs and paying tribute to their special parent-pediatrician relationship.
“You saw her at your worst, when your kid was sick, and she just always had a smile on her face,” said Karen Vladeck, whose two children, ages 2 and 5, were patients. “She made you feel like you were the only parent there, even though there was a line of kids waiting.”
Over several years, Vladeck developed a relationship with Dodson that extended beyond her clinic. She said she often marveled at how Dodson juggled a busy practice – often arriving for rounds before 7 a.m., then seeing patients throughout the day.
Toby Atkins, whose daughter is 4 months old, met Dodson in August through a telehealth visit while he and his wife were considering her practice. He said they had instant trust in Dodson and loved how she laughed at herself as she struggled to adjust her computer camera.
After their daughter was born in October, they saw Dodson in person for four visits.
“For a set of first-time parents, she was an absolute blessing,” said Atkins, who operates a travel company. “We went in with a list of concerns as first-time partners – ‘not sure how all this works!’ – and she was almost humorous as she attacked our list. She said, ‘Oh you are good! Oh, completely normal!’ ”
“We had masks on, but you could tell she was smiling underneath,” Atkins said.
Glenna Bruun said that after her family was possibly exposed to COVID-19, she took three of her four children to Dodson’s clinic for testing.
Dodson came outside dressed in personal protective gear and eased her children’s worries as she collected nasal swabs.
“It was, ‘This is just going to be a little tickle’ kind of thing,” Bruun said. “ ‘We know it isn’t fun, but we are going to get through it together.’ ”
The next morning, Dodson called with the good news that the children tested negative.
“She was a mom, and she just knew how to do things expertly,” Bruun said. “She just had a way with children.”
According to her online bio, Dodson attended Washington and Lee University as an undergraduate and Louisiana State University Medical School in New Orleans. She did her residency at Vanderbilt University. She served as an instructor in 2006 at Harvard Medical School and became a partner at Children’s Medical Group in Austin in August 2017 after working for Ascension Seton. She previously worked as an urgent care physician at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.
Follow Nicole Villalpando on Twitter: @raisingaustin.
Contributing: The Associated Press.