Blue Devil of the Week: Understanding Chronic Pain in Women

Lindsie Boerger studies how to help patients with fibromyalgia

Lindsie Boerger is assisting a study that examines how chronic pain and opioid medication use affects the spine, brain, and decision making. Photo by Jonathan Black.
Lindsie Boerger is assisting a study that examines how chronic pain and opioid medication use affects the spine, brain, and decision making. Photo by Jonathan Black.

Name: Lindsie Boerger

Position: Clinical Research Specialist, Duke Anesthesiology 

Time at Duke: 6 months

What she does at Duke: Lindsie Boerger works with Katherine Martucci, assistant professor in anesthesiology at Duke, on a study to better understand fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes pain in the muscles and bones, fatigue, and trouble sleeping.

The study examines how chronic pain and opioid medication use affects the spine, brain, and decision making and whether rewards have a positive influence on the individual’s condition.

“I’m inspired by how we’re impacting people’s lives,” Boerger said. “It makes me excited to get to work every day and meet our patients.”

Boerger spends four to five hours with patients when they come to Duke for the study, which involves capturing MRI images of a participant’s brain and spine as they relax and play a video game. When it comes time to analyze these images, Boerger and her lab hope to better understand how the reward and value systems are altered in chronic pain and to find how changes in reward and value systems may influence the chronic pain experience. 

During the MRI, Boerger keeps the conversation going by talking to participants about their families, interests and her 6-year-old daughter, Emelia.  

“Our study visits are long, but it’s my job to make sure the patients are comfortable the entire time,” Boerger said. “It’s all about communicating. I’m genuinely interested in their lives. Talking puts them at ease.”

What she loves about Duke: Being relatively new to Duke, Boerger appreciates the helpful and kind nature of colleagues. She pointed out the generosity of staff and faculty at the Duke Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, a conglomerate of researchers studying the brain, where Boerger meets with patients for the study.

“The employees all go out of their way to help,” Boerger said. “One time, a technician spent 20 minutes helping me with a technical issue so I could continue the visit with my patient. They could have easily canceled our scan time. Instead, they made sure to keep a conversation going with my patient and to make sure they were comfortable in the scanner as we fixed the issue.” 

Todd Harshbarger, instructor at the Center for Brain Imaging and Analysis, took an MRI scan of Boerger’s brain and made a model of it using a 3D printer. Photo courtesy of Lindsie Boerger.Memorable day: Over the summer, Boerger got to know other clinical research members in Anesthesiology at a department retreat. The day included time for Boerger and her co-workers to play a competitive game of Jeopardy.

“We competed to see who knew the most about HIPAA compliance and other research related topics,” Boerger said. “We were dominating the other team then lost it all in final jeopardy when we couldn’t recite Anesthesiology’s mission statement. It was a dramatic ending.”

Meaningful object: Todd Harshbarger, instructor at the Center for Brain Imaging and Analysis, took an MRI scan of Boerger’s brain and made a model of it using a 3D printer. The bright orange replica sits on Boerger’s desk. 

“I was really intrigued by the technology,” she said. “I’d never seen a 3D printer in use before. It’s quite a fun conversation starter when people walk by my desk.”

Best advice received: Boerger says it’s what she tells herself: persevere. She earned a bachelor’s degree in global health while working two part-time jobs as a barista and dental assistant – all while raising her daughter. 

“You can always do more than you think you can and adding a positive attitude certaintly helps,” she said. 

First job: Boerger spent most of her free time in high school at Starbucks. When it came time to getting a part-time job at 16, she successfully applied to be a barista at a location in Columbus, Ohio.

Lindsie Boerger snowboards in Park City, Utah. Photo courtesy of Lindsie Boerger.“I’m a coffee lover, so that was the best moment of my life at the time,” Boerger said.

Something most people don’t know about her: Boerger loves adrenaline. She owned a motorcycle and has ridden snowboards and skateboards since 13.

“I love to do crazy stuff like big jumps and go on rails,” she said. “I’m lucky. I’ve only broken my wrist once.”

Is there a colleague at Duke who has an intriguing job or goes above and beyond to make a difference? Nominate that person for Blue Devil of the Week.