Know Your Heroes showcases the many different people and roles that make up #TeamUHN. We celebrate these people, who strive to make the world a healthier place every day.
Name: Melinda Schell
Title: Transplant Clinical Coordinator
Number of years working in health care: 10
I decided to get into health care because I’ve always been interested in science and problem-solving. In university I realized I wanted to work with people and whatever I was doing had to feel important. I wanted to have a positive impact on others’ lives, regardless of how small of an impact it might be. No one in my family works in health care, but nursing seemed to offer everything I was looking for.
My role here at UHN is Clinical Coordinator with the Ajmera Transplant Centre. Specifically, I am a coordinator with the Living Kidney Donation Program, focusing on donors intended for children at SickKids and donors who are participating in the Kidney Paired Donation Program. I work with a team to facilitate the evaluation of anyone who is interested in being a living kidney donor. If a potential donor is deemed suitable to safely donate a kidney, I work with the donor and our team at UHN as well as the team at SickKids to coordinate surgical time and any necessary pre-operative tests and arrangements to ensure the donor surgery and transplant proceed optimally. Often, our donors are caring for a loved one experiencing kidney failure while also going through an extensive medical evaluation themselves. I help our donors and their families navigate a very unique and often challenging time in their lives.
COVID-19 has affected me professionally, presenting many challenges to my team and our patients. Living donor kidney transplants were paused for a short period of time during the pandemic. Informing our patients of this, and the uncertainty that surrounded it, was one of the most challenging things I’ve done in my career. As a nurse, I understood that this decision was made out of the utmost concern for our patients’ safety while we learned more about COVID-19 and how to protect our patients. On a positive note, the pandemic has pushed us to innovate and problem-solve in a way that may not have happened without the demand and urgency caused by a global pandemic. An incredible example of this is that we are now shipping living donor kidneys all over Canada. In a Canada-wide effort to maintain the success of the Kidney Paired Donation Program, the living donor programs have moved to shipping kidneys to the transplant centre where the intended recipient is cared for, as opposed to asking our donors to travel. We were doing this prior to the pandemic but not nearly as often as we are doing it now and will continue to do. This opens up options for our donors in a way that is patient-centered, safe and very successful. It is incredibly exciting.
The thing I love the most about my job is … How can I name just one!? I truly love my job. I think I have to say my team and colleagues. The Ajmera Transplant Centre is full of incredible people doing really great work. The Living Kidney Donation Program team is small but mighty. I’ve never worked with a team that has so much drive and passion to do great things for our patients and grow our program to new levels with greater reach.
The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is post-transplant patients and their living donors walking the halls of our clinic only a few short weeks after donation and transplant surgeries. It is incredible to see someone with improved health and vitality after transplant.
I’m inspired by the innovation, resiliency and dedication of Team UHN. You don’t have to look very far to find someone at UHN doing incredible work.
One of my personal heroes is my mom, who taught me that I could do anything I desired to do with hard work, dedication and focus. She showed me what could be achieved with kindness, resiliency, dedication and a little humour. On a professional level, Dr. Sunita Singh has shown me leadership and guidance that has allowed me to grow on a professional and personal level. Her dedication to the Living Kidney Donation Program and our team is unmatched.
My biggest worry at work is that someone would like to be a living donor but does not know how to start the process or does not have the external support to do so.
I’ve found joy recently in a few areas of my life. On a professional level, we had an extremely busy December accomplishing many living donor kidney transplants and there is definitely joy and excitement that comes with helping people. On a personal level, my partner and I just bought our first home together and the journey has been exciting and so rewarding.
My ideal day off would start with coffee with my family at home in Collingwood. It would include a hike up the mountain with our dog followed by a bike ride to the waterfront to go swimming and enjoy a picnic. Collingwood is one of my favourite places and will always be my haven.