Many go into medicine because of their desire to help people—and pursue that passion both in and out of their white coat. Michele T. Melamed, DO, MPH, began following her passion to help well before medical school by networking for United Hatzalah of Israel, the largest independent, volunteer-based EMS organization in Israel. The nonprofit organization coordinates more than 5,000 volunteer first responders equipped with ambucycles—motorcycles stocked with medical equipment—to provide free 24-7-365 emergency care to people throughout Israel, regardless of race, religion, or national origin.
As a teenager, Dr. Melamed learned of United Hatzalah’s mission to save lives and began spreading the word about it, encouraging others to learn more and get involved. A recent information session and fundraiser she organized drew about 40 interested attendees and raised funds to help equip United Hatzalah’s volunteers. Her work over the years was recognized by United Hatzalah with an award in the shape of an ambucycle.
Dr. Melamed, who is currently a PGY2 resident in the emergency medicine program at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, recently sat down with ACEP Now’s Medical Editor-in-Chief Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, to discuss her passion for United Hatzalah’s work and how she has used her skills to support its mission over the years.
KK: I understand you were recently recognized by United Hatzalah. How old were you when you started volunteering?
MM: I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and immigrated to the United States when I was about eight years old. I was very fortunate to be raised by parents who were committed to community service. Maybe as early as six years old, they would take me to nursing homes to visit the sick and also to different centers for mental and physical disabilities of adolescents. I feel like, from a very early age, I was exposed to people in underserved communities or who were less fortunate than me. Growing up with the mentality of always giving and being sensitive to others who are less fortunate really set the tone for my outlook on life and ideals in general.
When I met Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah, I was about 15. I met him at a community meal for my synagogue. He started telling me about the organization. I think what really interested me the most was the concept. He came up with an original idea and executed on it. His idea was literally helping people in their most vulnerable time, which sounds very much like what we do as emergency physicians. Even more interesting is the fact that he was a young man, in his teens, when he thought of the idea and starting volunteering as an EMT. I knew, as a 15-year-old, that I couldn’t give financially, but I could talk about the organization to other people and inspire others to be part of something as great as this organization is.