In 2010 when Melanie and her husband were searching for the best place to raise their family, they unhesitatingly chose Norwich. Melanie was brought up in Kerrville, Texas, a small, conservative ranching community of approximately 12,000 people. The oldest of four children, she is the only one in her extended family to leave Kerrville. Melanie knew that she wanted to see more of the world.
She earned her undergraduate degree from Southwestern University, near, majoring in literature and philosophy. That was an unusual choice for someone from her family, as was her extensive travel during college: one summer in Mexico, another in London, and a third in Greece. When she graduated in 1989, she continued her maverick ways, living in London for six months and working within walking distance of the British Museum. She then spent the next six months travelling in Turkey, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Israel and Egypt. Not surprisingly, she did not want to move back to Kerrville.
Instead, she got a job in Boston as a home health aide at the Erik Erikson Center in Cambridge. She worked exclusively with Leonard Bernstein’s mother, Jenny, for three years. Melanie’s next job was at Beth Israel Hospital as a nurse’s aide in an apheresis unit, involving the separation of blood into its individual components. She loved working with cancer patients there and had an epiphany that she wanted to be a nurse.
Next stop, Baltimore and Johns Hopkins. She earned a B.S in Nursing in two years, and then in the next three years, two master’s degrees‚ one in Nursing Science and the other in Public Health. While at school, she worked fulltime at Hopkins in the bone marrow transplant unit.
In her spare time, she participated in one-mile open ocean swims. In the first race she came in dead last but reports that the swim was empowering. From there she began to participate in sprint and Olympic distance triathlons with the goal of completing an Iron Man triathlon.
She met her future husband, Keith Fossett, in 2002. Keith is an architectural engineer and worked then for a residential construction company. He participated in half marathons and played soccer in a community league, and their similar love of activity led to many outdoor adventures, including multiple trips to New England for hiking.
Summer 2004 was a busy time for Melanie. Graduating with honors from Hopkins in June, she and Keith got married in July. She moved to Bethesda (where Keith lived), and got a job at the National Institute of Health, working with survivors of bone marrow transplants. She stayed at this job until August 20, 2006, the day her son Winston was born—then remaining a stay-at-home mom for the next 3.5 years.
Having a child convinced Keith and Melanie to leave the city for a slower pace of life. After researching western Massachusetts, Maine, and Norwich, they chose Norwich. She and Keith applied for jobs and agreed that whoever got the best offer would work, while the other would stay home with Winston. Melanie returned to the work force as the nurse manager of the DHMC Infusion Suite at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in 2010.
Knowing no one in the community, Melanie explored the listserv, joined the Women’s Club, worked in the Nearly New Sale, volunteered for Aging in Place, and enrolled Winston in the Norwich Nursery School. They bought a house on Brookside Drive so that they could walk to town and utilize Warner Meadows and Blood Brook. They love Norwich and plan to stay.
In April of 2012 Keith and Melanie’s family grew when they brought eight-week-old Lilly into their home from foster care. Her adoption was finalized in August of 2013. Melanie, very proud of being a foster parent and a mom, credits Vermont for connecting them with Lilly and reports that she will be forever grateful.
Melanie continued at the cancer center until a new position was created on the Palliative Care team at DHMC. Learning from Ira Byock, a leading physician in end-of-life care, she worked as an inpatient nurse with the team for over three years. She commented that it was truly a privilege to interact with patients and families at such vulnerable moments. During this time, she became better acquainted with Sophia Crawford, a palliative care volunteer. Sophia told her about the NWC, encouraged her to work at the Nearly New Sale, and recommended her as a prospective board member.
Melanie left Palliative Care in 2015 to join a new DHMC initiative, ImagineCare. Still in start-up mode, the program will deliver telehealth nursing care to chronically ill patients. Using remote sensing devices, patients’ health will be monitored at home and the data sent to the nursing staff for assessment in real time. This program, created in partnership with Microsoft, is intended to change the way health care is delivered, focusing on early intervention rather than emergency treatment and hospitalizations. The information is monitored in the clinic on a 24/7 basis. The program is looking to partner with Medicaid.
Melanie is one of seven nurses currently engaged in this new initiative. “The work makes use of my public health degree, dealing with whole populations rather than individual patients,” she says. Bringing health care into homes is an issue of social justice to her. The concept is exciting, she says, although she acknowledges that since the program relies a great deal on technology, she is pushing herself outside of her comfort zone. Nursing is a passion for Melanie and she lights up when talking about her work.
When Melanie was asked to serve on the NWC Board as Voter Information Chair, she did not hesitate. In between caring for her family and her patients as well as learning her new job, Melanie recently organized the very successful Selectboard Candidates’ Forum. It will be fun to follow her as she moves along her career path. We wish her well in her newest venture, and I am happy to report that she has agreed to continue as Voter Information Chair for next year!