It’s about an hour before the office opens, but the tall stack of file folders holding medical records won’t wait. With a big smile on her face, Dr. Melissa (Kinne) Mefford slides into the chair behind her desk. There’s a lot to do, but that doesn’t deter her one bit.
A 2006 graduate of Switzerland County High School, Mefford earlier this year finished 13 years of additional schooling, maneuvering her way through a master’s program and medical school, clinicals and residency — but when everything finished, she achieved her premiere goal — medical doctor.
In an era where many doctors choose to specialize or move to a larger city, Mefford says that the one thing she was always sure of is that she wanted to come back to Switzerland County to serve the family, friends, and neighbors that she grew up around. Hers is a family practice, so she’ll be seeing patients from infants to the elderly, but that’s always been the plan — serving families.
After high school, she attended Franklin College, graduating in 2010. From there it was on to a master’s program in molecular biology at IUPUI; and then it was on to medical school in 2012 at Indiana University, finishing in 2016. Then it was a three year residency at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati — and now full circle back to Switzerland County.
Hired by Highpoint Health, she began seeing patients in her new office at the end of October. The office is located on West Main Street across from the School Administration Building, and also includes a physical therapy area.
So did she always think she’d end up back here?
“Yes, that’s was what I wanted to do from the very beginning,” she said. “I did the rural health program, too within IU, because this is where I saw myself — doing exactly this.”
Dr. Mefford says that she began to see medicine as a career as she neared the end of high school.
“That’s a question that was asked through all of my interviews, ‘why do you want to be a doctor?’, and that’s just such a hard question. There’s just so many things; but I think, honestly, a big part of it was seeing my dad around here, knowing so many people and people coming up to him and telling him stories all the time about different things. It was just cool to see how people interacted with him in the community. Even though I’m not anything close to a conservation officer, it’s the same type of idea: serving and living in a community.”
Her father is Conservation Officer Steve Kinne; and her mother and step-father, Pam and Wayne Scudder, are teachers in the Gallatin County, Kentucky school system — so serving others has always been a big part of her life.
Getting the office up and operational has had its challenges, but she credits a wonderful staff of helping things get up and rolling. While things have been a little slow in terms of seeing patients as more and more people find out that her office is here, the doctor sees that as a blessing as she coordinates all of the other aspects of her office.
“Just like anything else, it takes time to get established, but this is what I think of every single day. Most people are driving to work on most days and thinking, ‘Awe, another day’; but I’m driving through Vevay like, ‘I just love all of this! It feels really good to be here. I love it.”
If getting through the rigors of medical school wasn’t enough, Melissa married Brad Mefford in 2016 just after she finishing medical school — and daughter Ira June is a year old. Add to that mix, there’s a second baby on the way, so to say that the new doctor is one busy woman is an understatement.
She wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love all of it,” she says.
So why is it important to come back here? Why open a practice in a small town?
“The biggest reason is my love for here,” she said. “The people I grew up with. Just the people I’ve known. But just in general, it’s already blowing my mind, the people who don’t want to, just purely don’t want to because of their own wishes and values, they don’t want to leave. They don’t want to go somewhere to get any other testing. It’s shocking to me. The low income here is totally different than the low income of Cincinnati.”
Dr. Mefford says that in the city patients of all economic levels want every test possible run, primarily because they have access to them in one location without having to travel a distance to another clinic or hospital. In a place like Christ Hospital where she did her residency, additional tests were just down the hall or on another floor, making it easier and more convenient for people to have a battery of tests.
“Here, for one, people cannot get there. Even if they want additional testing done, sometimes they just can’t physically get there. Older people who can’t drive outside of here or they can’t drive at all, and they have to depend on their kids or friends to take them places, who are only off one day a week of something. So access, period. Transportation, period, is bad.”
But there’s something else.
“Along with that, you many times see this attitude among people, that they really just don’t care to have everything done. Not everybody, but there are several. I can probably figure out what’s going on with them, I can probably help them, but they don’t want it. They don’t want to burden others by having to have them take them here or there, so they just don’t want to know. I think what we have here is not perfect, but we’re making strides.”
The doctor also wants people to feel comfortable coming into the new facility. She’s looking for photos that community members have of local scenery, locations, and people that they would allow her to have enlarged and framed to give the office area a true Switzerland County feeling. She invites anyone who has a photo they’d like her to consider to drop it by.
There’s also an open house going on today (Thursday, November 21st) from 3-6 p.m., and Dr. Mefford hopes that members of the community will take the chance to stop by and meet her and the staff and tour the new offices.
“Switzerland County and Vevay are very special places in my heart,” she says. “Through all of medical school, this is where I’ve always wanted to be. This is where I wanted to end up. It’s been a long process, but I’m so glad that I’m here. I can’t wait to serve my community.”