April 9, 2023
Jolly: Hello CR I am so excited to introduce you to our camp doctor. We are going to have a little conversation so you can get to know her. You will love her as much as we do very soon! Do you prefer Dr. Leber or Dr. Melissa or just Doc?! Hey you?!
Melissa: I am usually pretty informal. Melissa is just fine. Everyone at camp knows I am the Doctor already.
Jolly: Melissa first of all, how are you connected to Robindel? And then we will get in to the medicine part.
Melissa: I am a Robindel alumna. I started at Robindel in 1990 and I was in Juniper in 1997. “Out of 10 we rank 11, Go Juniper 97!” I still keep in touch with my bunkmates, many of whom are sending their daughters to Robindel or considering sending their daughters to Robindel (because they are a little too young). Since 2015 when I was pregnant with my first, as soon as I knew she was a girl I knew I knew I had to be the Doctor at Robindel, of course! I was pregnant the first summer that I went back as the Doctor for one week. Now, my daughter is having her first full summer this summer!
Jolly: We made the transition to having you as our Doctor all summer long which we will talk about another time…our philosophy with that…right now we just want to get to know you. Did you always know you wanted to be a Doctor?
Melissa: Actually, yes. Both my parents were physicians. As long as I can remember I was a Doctor every year for Halloween!
Jolly: Tell us what kind of medicine you practice and some of your experience up to this point.
Melissa: I was trained in Emergency Medicine – I am an ER Doctor. Then I did a Sports Medicine fellowship. And then, for about 10 years I was 50% Emergency Medicine and 50% Orthopedics doing non-operative Sports Medicine in an orthopedic department in Manhattan (Mt. Sinai). Just recently I stopped doing regular shifts in the ER, so I am now per diem faculty in the ER – I am still teaching the Emergency Medicine residents and students but now doing 100% Orthopedics and non-operative Sports Medicine.
Jolly: And Camp Robindel!
Melissa: And Camp Robindel, of course!
Jolly: You can see from that background that she understands Camp Robindel, as well as her background in Emergency Medicine and Orthopedics – what is to me, the ideal situation. I also will say that as a Mom and Camp Director, I love your balance between your calm demeanor and no-nonsense (but you’re actually more coddling than I thought you would be!). We sometimes have what we call our “frequent fliers” (who visit the Health Center often) – you have this really good understanding that there is something that they really need from us. How do you balance when a kid has a physical need versus an emotional-mental health need that we need to address?
Melissa: There are a couple of things. One is my training in Emergency Medicine. We would see a lot of people coming back and it turns out that you learn a lot about what they need and don’t need and what they are really coming back for. Of course sometimes there are chronic medical conditions that they need care for, but a lot of times it is something else. Also, just being a Mother really made me understand what kids need and why they may be coming to the Infirmary. And also, I remember trips to the Infirmary as a camper and I know what it is like to be homesick and that belly pain could be something real, or it could be homesickness or whatever it may be. Being a Mom for sure changed me as a physician. Being an ER doctor prepared me for that kind of reality of social-emotional-physical ailments. It’s made me who I am today and made me a better Camp Doctor.
Jolly: One thing that I love is that you keep coming back and that you have been willing to sign on with us through this transition. You train our medical team and come up with all sorts of good ideas, along with your husband (Jared) who is a Nurse and has been instrumental in helping us. What has made you decide that you want to make this a part of your life?
Melissa: There is an intangible that is so hard to explain unless you really know Robindel and went to Robindel. When I brought my husband back for that first summer as Camp Doctor he didn’t really see it and now he has totally drank the Kool-Aid. There is like a Robindel Kool-Aid! There is something about it; It is a happy place and I want my kids to experience what I had. There is something about Robindel that made me feel confident. Knowing You and Cori and feeling confident in that transition made me comfortable to stick with it. There was no doubt in my mind that I somehow wanted to be involved and being a Camp Doctor was a great way for me to be involved.