Story by Ron Milles
Ken Wilson, former Biology teacher at Takoma Academy (TA), probably had no idea that his classes would help inspire Launice Melbourne, M.D.—then a student in one of his classes—to become a doctor. Melbourne (’99) credits her love for science to having outstanding teachers such as “Mr. Wilson.”
Melbourne is a pediatrician and neonatologist. She states that she “knew from an early age that she wanted to be a doctor.” After graduating from TA, she attended Oakwood University (Ala.) and Ohio State Medical School in Columbus. She chose her specialty because, she says, “I like impacting more on the ear- lier side of life, which is what I get to do with babies.”
In 2017 she authored E.A.C.H. Little Step: 365-Day Affirmation Journal for Preemie Moms. The book’s purpose is to help mothers of premature babies remain positive despite the stressful situation they face when their child is in the NICU for an extended period.
A full-term pregnancy is 37 weeks. Melbourne works with babies as young as 23 weeks, a considerable amount of time prior to discharge. In her book, the acronym E.A.C.H. stands for “Every Amazing Child Hopes.” She writes that regardless of a child’s medical condition, parents should remain hopeful for an amazing, positive outcome.
She states that she was drawn toward the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) during her rotations in residency at the Jacobi Medical Center (N.Y.). Though she enjoyed working with moms in the Obstetrics unit, she was far more interested in what was happening with babies in the NICU. In this way, God confirmed that this is where she needed to focus her career.
In her book, available on Amazon.com, she advises parents of preemies who can’t medically comprehend what is going on with their child to ask the doctor to explain everything until they have a proper understanding. Parents of preemies should also avoid comparing their child to other non-preemie children.
She also addresses how people can often be unintentionally insensitive to the parents of preemies. Two phrases to avoid saying to a parent are “No matter what, it’s going to be OK” and “Your baby is so small.”
The extensive training Melbourne received in residency and her fellowship at the Children’s Medical Center (Washington, D.C.), combined with her passion and love of her job are “really helping to make Dr. Melbourne one of the nation’s most promising neona- tologists,” says Ronnie Mills, TA’s former director of institutional advancement.