A Conversation with Melissa Rathmell, MD
Director of Integrative Medicine
UMass Worcester Family Medicine Residency
Family Health faculty member Melissa Rathmell, MD remembers exactly when her career path in computer science began to veer toward medicine.
"I was working as a software engineer, and had also been working as a paramedic at an
ambulance company," she recalls. "I realized that I found the engineering part less fun. But I found the medical part more fun."
Yet Dr. Rathmell can trace her interest in healing others even further back to her student days at Seminole High School in Florida. "I was one of several students in a sports medicine high school program which provided trainers for every team's practice and competition."
Upon graduating from MIT in 1984 with two S.B. degrees in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and Mathematics, respectively, Dr. Rathmell worked for a variety of technological companies in greater Boston, including Lotus Software and CIAI, a company then at the forefront of early electronic medical records.
Her passion for medicine reignited after years of working in industry, Dr. Rathmell was accepted to UMass Medical School in 1994, where she originally considered the specialties of both Emergency Medicine and Family Medicine.
"I liked the idea of the continuity of Family Medicine," she explains, and matched into the UMass Worcester Family Medicine residency in 1999 as an intern at Barre Family Health Center. Citing her desire to "stay local" upon graduation in 2002, Dr. Rathmell accepted a position as an attending physician at Family Health.
Yet as her patient panel grew, she says, she realized that many of her patients were not being well-served by Western medicine. "Some of the traditional treatments were not doing a lot of good for them. I thought, there's got to be something more than just pills." She began learning acupuncture, which she calls the "best combination of history and evidence-based traditional medicine affordable to my patients."
Dr. Rathmell gradually introduced cupping and GuaSha to her clinical practice. A board-certified medical acupuncturist and Integrative Medicine Practitioner, Dr. Rathmell is also trained in basic osteopathic manipulation, clinical hypnosis and functional medicine. She anticipates introducing Chinese herbal therapy and myofascial release to her practice.
The longtime Hudson, MA resident was recently named Director of Integrative Medicine and is excited to teach learners who share her passion for family medicine and integrative medicine. Asked what she has found most fulfilling about her life's work, Dr. Rathmell has a ready answer. "Learning new ways to listen to my patients," she replies, adding "And learning new ways to help them."
You can reach Dr. Rathmell at Melissa.Rathmell@umassmed.edu