This morning I received the news of the passing of Dr. Barb Melzer, PT, PhD, DPT, FAPTA. At this point, I don't think that the phrase "having a heavy heart" will suffice. It certainly doesn’t do justice to the moment either.
There are many of us that are finding today otherworldly. Fellow physical therapist Eric Robertson shared some touching thoughts with the web earlier today. After pondering the meaning of today's events, and trying to make sense of it, I present to you a few words and thoughts: on her presence, and the small piece of her world that, fortunately, intersected mine.
It was just yesterday that I was writing about life's inflection points. It should come as no surprise that Barb was actually a participant in one of mine. She was a faculty member at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) as I embarked on a path in the educational community there in the mid-‘90s. Barb was an early and ardent supporter of my teaching pursuits.
Many know her as an advocate for the physical therapy profession. Her accomplishments in that regard were outstanding. I would suggest that Barb really understood not only where the profession had been, but where it is and where it could - and should - go.
When I was a clinical instructor for the SWT PT program, she was responsible for sending me students - great students. Many went on to become not only great colleagues, but also good friends outside of the clinical realm. I can thank her for that to this day.
It was always a treat to watch her do the "True Colors" personality inventory with students and faculty alike. She would always remind me that as a “green”, a big-picture person, I was an important contributor to the PT world. The profession could move ahead with the “blues” and “yellows” and “oranges”, but it would take a “green” here or there to see the forest for the trees. Duly noted to this day. Green, indeed.
Barb and I discussed MDT on frequent occasions. She was not only an advocate, but often remarked to me that "students need to know it in the clinic"! Of course, how could I not appreciate that?
But all of those things pale in comparison to the wonderful person and friend that we lost yesterday. From the days when I was on campus on a daily basis, to the times when I would appear for a guest lecture in one of her (or others') classes, Barb would always meet me with a smile - and a hug. It wouldn't matter if I hadn't seen her for a day, a month, a year - same response. She would always make a point of having a fresh cup of coffee waiting for me. Every so often, her schedule would permit a lunch after class when discussions would traverse many topics common to those who have both spent time in the great white north (or just south of there).
I know that these few words will never do justice to the vast impact that Barb Melzer had on friends, family, physical therapy professionals, and students. But I can attest to to one thing from my own personal experience. I thank you not just for all that you have brought to the profession. More importantly, I thank you for being one of those wonderful people who made my life better because of your presence in it – plain and simple. You made a tremendous difference in my world. And I thank you for it. You will be dearly missed.
Photo credits: Kaz Andrew