Healthcare professionals across the globe are doing truly amazing and even heroic work every day. There is no doubt, COVID-19 has placed a brighter spotlight on the care and compassion these folks are providing during these unprecedented times. The South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations applauds this week’s Healthcare Hero Dr. Tina Melanson of Prairie Lakes Healthcare System in Watertown. The campaign is designed to recognize and celebrate the many healthcare heroes across South Dakota.
Nominated by her colleagues, Dr. Tina Melanson specializes in nephrology and has been with Prairie Lakes Healthcare System, since 2011. Under Dr. Melanson’s leadership, nephrology services have grown exponentially. “More patients are served with specialty services right in their own communities, through outreach clinic visits. She provides leadership, compassion and high-quality care every day.” – Darcy Woertink, CSW-PIP, LGSW, Social Worker, Prairie Lakes Healthcare Systems
Dr. Melanson provides medical director services for four different dialysis units and has worked with company leadership to grow outreach services to serve clinic patients in multiple communities in the region. The Lake Area Kidney Endowment was co-founded by Dr. Melanson which is a non-profit charitable organization. It helps patients with financial challenges to access everything from groceries to medication and treatment costs. “Dr. Melanson goes to great lengths to serve her patients and her team. She is a true patient advocate and goes the extra mile even in the most challenging of situations. At critical turning points in care, her patients can trust she will provide compassion, empathy, honesty, direct information, and quality care.” – Darcy Woertink, CSW-PIP, LGSW, Social Worker, Prairie Lakes Healthcare Systems
Originally from Watertown SD, Dr. Melanson attended the University of South Dakota for medical school and completed her residency in Sioux Falls. She attended school in Vermont to obtain her specialized degree in nephrology. Returning home to South Dakota was never part of her plan, but when it happened in 2002 – she realized it was meant to be. “I still have family here and it is rewarding, but more than that, the other emotion is humbling. Many of my mentors during medical school are now my colleagues. Some of my neighbors, friends, and family are now my patients.” Dr. Melanson says she understands that as a kidney specialist her patients can choose to drive down the road to a larger facility, but they walk in her doors because they trust her.
Dr. Melanson knew as a young child she wanted to go into medicine. “I don’t know how I got interested in medicine, but I knew since I was in the 6th grade, I wanted to be a doctor. We don’t have any physicians in our family, but it must come from home because both my sisters also work in the medical field.” Raising three small children early in her career, Dr. Melanson is candid about dealing with guilt and being a working mother. She has even authored a book titled: Heeling the Boys Club. This quirky, fun, and experienced based book gives readers better insight into the world of women in the medical field and being a working mom. “It happened by circumstance, I was working shifts and I started journaling and taking notes about feelings or situations. Being a woman in this industry is different than being a man.”
Today Dr. Melanson is passionate about sharing what she has learned over the years. “It’s like a baton, you pass it to someone else. I remember who taught me, you learn it and apply it and pass it on. The system does not work without it.”
COVID-19 changed the way Dr. Melanson delivers care which has been hard not only on some of the patients but on Dr. Melanson, “We had to assume they had COVID-19 the moment they walked into the door and how do you deal with that? We had to make hard decisions that made me unpopular. That was a new situation for me, and it has been hard to deal with.” Her colleagues say Dr. Melanson has stayed up-to-date with the most current information on COVID-19, including outreach within the community. “Dr. Melanson recently spoke at a local city council meeting to promote mask use and encourage a mask mandate for community health and safety.” – Darcy Woertink, CSW-PIP, LGSW, Social Worker, Prairie Lakes Healthcare Systems
As the world continues to applaud healthcare professionals like Dr. Melanson, she says it takes a village for someone to stand up and be a hero but banning together is what makes a real hero. “I don’t consider myself a hero, I’m the least of a hero at this facility. I was not on the frontline with PPE on the COVID unit. I consider myself behind the scenes making plans and putting protocols in place and gathering the treatments for them. I can only accept that title if it involves all of my team in my clinic and the hospital.”
SDAHO congratulates Dr. Melanson and all the healthcare professionals standing up and being heroes – thank you for all you do.
Do you know a hero that should be highlighted? Click here and nominate them!!