2016 Most Influential Women Honoree: Dr. Melinda Slack
Dr. Melinda Slack knows a thing or two about firsts.
She came to Mercy Hospital Springfield in 1983 to launch its first newborn intensive care unit.
“I recently found out it was a renovated storage closet,” Slack says of the initial 600-square-foot room.
And demand for ICU services for the area’s youngest and vulnerable patients has helped turn the wheels of progress under her care. Slack is the medical director of neonatology and a clinic neonatologist at Mercy Hospital Springfield, where she also works as a neonatal and perinatal physician specialist for Pediatrix Medical Group, which comprises a network of pediatric care providers across the country.
“I have had 15,000 babies come through our NICU in the 33 years I’ve been at Mercy,” says Slack, who these days oversees a 46-bed unit served by five neonatal physicians, three nurse practitioners and 120 nurses says.
The Betty and Bobby Allison Neonatal Intensive Care Unit opened in late 2012, according to Springfield Business Journal archives. Local philanthropist Bobby Allison committed a $2 million gift for the NICU, as well as another $650,000 to support a second phase of the Mercy Children’s Hospital project.
“I have been committed to bring expertise and resources to include quality improvement and research to our tiniest, fragile patients at Mercy,” she says. “I have led the initiative to build new single, state-of-the-art rooms, so our patients can stay with their critically ill babies. This helps to relieve anxiety and develops a comfort level and a bond for the parents and baby.”
Slack has demonstrated leadership over the years serving on more than a dozen Mercy committees and groups including the board of the Mercy Foundation and Pediatric Task Force Committee.
“I think this is was our eighth renovation and/or expansion,” she says, speaking to the new 35,000-square-foot NICU.
Her decades of service to Mercy has earned Slack several notable honors, including being named a fellow by the American Academy of Pediatrics and winning the systemwide Mercy Charisma Award.
Outside of work, she’s helping kids, too. Slack has served as a co-chair of a March of Dimes fundraiser; she’s raised money for Camp Barnabas and she’s been recognized for her supports of the Doula Foundation.
After receiving her medical degree from the University of Indiana in 1977, Slack had planned to be a pediatrician – intrigued by the notion she’d have plenty of opportunities to see the world through a child’s eyes – but a neonatal residency changed the course of her life.
“Some of these babies can be born 17 weeks premature, weigh one-and-a-half pounds and be the size of my hand,” she says, adding many who inquire about her career often express sympathy for the stress they imagine is involved.
But Slack says she learns a lot from the smallest of babies.
“These are fetuses really, struggling to simply mature,” she says. “They’ve taught me that if they can persevere in their environment, I can persevere in mine.”