Melanson, a health sciences graduate, now works with the Brenda Strafford Foundation (BSF), a nonprofit organization involved in projects supporting health and wellness in senior populations. Based in Canada, BSF services are offered to local seniors, senior centers and care facilities. They also work with charitable organizations to serve vulnerable populations like those fleeing domestic violence, families at risk of experiencing homelessness, and persons in need of critical health services abroad in Haiti, Jamaica and Dominica.
Melanson first started working with BSF in Feb. 2019 as a member of their strategic planning task force and has since transitioned into a director role. With a background in health sciences and disaster response, Melanson has had ties to global health initiatives since his time at Merrimack, first as a student and then as a faculty member and co-founder of the Haiti Service Learning Initiative.
“I was working at Merrimack as an athletic trainer and clinical instructor when an organization came and spoke on campus after the 2010 earthquake and basically gave an open invitation to the college community to get involved,” Melanson said. “I had a career that I loved and I enjoyed my job a lot. And then I went to Haiti and it just really changed my perspective entirely and set me off on a different path. That trip was really a life changing experience.”
Following the first service trip, Melanson gained a new understanding of his own skills and background from working with local farmers and community members in Haiti, and saw how he could use his background in athletic training and physical therapy to provide accessible and equitable health care abroad.
The year following their first trip, Melanson joined a team of faculty and campus ministry members at Merrimack who were planning to take students back to Haiti to continue to work with these communities.
“In my perspective, the experience was kind of replicating what students were already doing with internships and clinical rotations. In Haiti, we were able to replicate those experiential learning opportunities with a completely different population,” Melanson said.
Instead of working with sports teams and individual athletes, students were able to provide comparable care to community members working physically demanding jobs with limited access to affordable health care.
“We weren’t really doing anything different in terms of the services we provided,” Melanson said. “We were just providing them in a much different context and having to get much more creative about the resources available and what services could be provided with those resources.”
This fall, Melanson returned to Merrimack after leaving his post as a lecturer and strategic advisor and co-founder for the Haiti Service Learning Initiative in 2015. Fr. Raymond Dlugos welcomed Melanson back to campus where he shared his experience integrating public service into his long term career path with current Merrimack students.
“I went from working with athletes, who are arguably some of the healthiest people in the health care field, to the complete opposite end of the field,” Melanson said. “My work now is focused on providing health care to those who don’t have access to it. But I started off using the same skills we would use to treat athletes, treating active people working on farms and living in more remote communities.”
Melanson hoped to provide a broader perspective to current Merrimack students who may not know where or how to apply their own skills and interests to humanitarian aid and public service career paths.