When 20-year-old Melissa Goldin was in elementary school, she dressed up as a doctor for career day. She modeled her costume after her mother, a surgeon. When she got to school, a boy in her class told her she was dressed up as a nurse because girls are nurses and boys are doctors. "When my mom picked me up, after a long night on call doing surgeries, I told her proudly that I was wearing a nurse costume because girls are nurses," Melissa recalled. “My mom knelt down, grabbed my face, and said, ‘If you want to be a nurse, great! But if you want to be a doctor, you can do that too. Who is better to be in charge of surgery than you? Girls are powerful. You can do anything.’”
“My mom knelt down, grabbed my face, and said, ‘If you want to be a nurse, great! But if you want to be a doctor, you can do that too.'"
Melissa’s goal to become a doctor is at the forefront of her life. During her Birthright trip to Israel, she attended a bone marrow drive that sparked her interest in the Gift of Life program. This international public marrow registry finds life-saving matches for blood cancer, immune disorder, and sickle cell patients. The program also addresses inequities on the registration list, such as a lack of diverse donors.
Melissa took inspiration from The Gift of Life story, where Founder and Executive Director Jay Feinberg turned his experience of finding a match into a revolution. “After hearing that story, I knew that individuals could change things about the world that don't make sense because they are not fair and that I could be one of those people.”
Melissa is a junior at Vanderbilt University, where she studies molecular and cellular biology. She plans to attend medical school and become a doctor, but she doesn’t want to wait until she gets to that point to start saving lives. She is also leading operations for the Gift of Life Marrow Registry. In her position, Melissa recruits college-age students and Nashville residents to join the registry through running swab drives and information sessions. She's already added 541 new donors to the registry by using her voice to spread valuable information about the process of getting on the registry and statistics about inequities surrounding by reaching out and securing donations from more diverse communities.
Melissa was honored for her work in Healthcare through The ConversationaLIST, our annual honoree list recognizing exceptional Gen Z'ers making an impact. “I use my voice for good by advocating for the thousands of people waiting to find their perfect, lifesaving match, and for anyone who will ever receive such a life-altering diagnosis,” she said.
"It's truly magical to see people get the rest of their lives back because of what I do.”
Though she might not have earned her M.D. yet, Melissa is already making a significant impact in her field. By adding new donors to the registry, she's working to heal inequities in the donation process, offering potential donors a way to make a difference that doesn't require donating money. “I get to work with donors and recipients, help people find their matches, and give the patients and their families the rest of their lives back,” she said. "It's truly magical to see people get the rest of their lives back because of what I do.”
After graduating from medical school, Melissa hopes to conduct clinical research to innovate and create more health solutions. She's particularly interested in cancer genetics and hopes to be at the forefront of medicine in pioneering genetic therapies. “I want to change the world through scientific innovation and spread kindness and compassion to everyone I meet,” she said.
Melissa believes that Gen Z has the power to come together and use their voices for good. “I am so optimistic about the future of our world if Gen Z can learn to have conversations about important topics and collaborate to make the world a better place," she said. “That seems to be what The Conversationalist community is all about."
She believes that a unified world acknowledges the struggles that impact everyone. “We all need to unite to confront climate change and health inequities, as well as a multitude of other social justice causes,” she said.
To break open her echo chambers, Melissa listens to podcasts. “I try to confront my own biases by picking relatively unbiased news outlets and listening to types of podcasts that may be outside my comfort zone or area of expertise,” she said.
“I often change how I feel when new information is presented.”
When it comes to navigating difficult conversations, she tries to have an open mind. “I often change how I feel when new information is presented,” she said. “I also try to have evidence and reasons for my own beliefs and identify why I think the things I do.”
We couldn't be more grateful to Melissa Goldin for her commitment to building a healthier and more equitable world for generations to come. Keep up with her on Instagram and follow Vanderbilt Gift of Life to learn more about her incredible work.