Obstetrician honored for depth of care
The Physician Legacy Award at Enloe Medical Center typically goes to once-in-a-generation type doctors—or those who’ve been in Chico a generation, at least. Legacies take time. That’s why, 10 years ago, when Lori Silva informed Dr. Scott Mellum she’d nominated him, when he was 50 and had logged just over a dozen years in practice, Mellum laughed off the compliment.
“He told me, ‘Lori, I am too young for that award; that’s for an old person,’” recalled Silva, an Enloe nurse who now works as an educator in the Nettleton Mother & Baby Care Center.
“So, when he got it this time, I said, ‘I guess you’re old now!’”
Mellum, an obstetrician/gynecologist, received the 2018 Physician Legacy Award at the annual medical staff meeting in December. (Enloe announced the winner publicly Feb. 15.) At his office on West Second Avenue, three blocks from the hospital, Mellum told the CN&R he had an inkling he might win based on “rumblings,” his nomination history and the opportunity he gets to interact with other providers—anesthesiologists and pediatricians, just to name two—yet still was surprised to hear his name called.
“I’m happy to live my life in quiet anonymity,” he said, laughing. “Probably like a lot of people. But it’s an honor [to be recognized] by my colleagues, the nursing staff I work with.
“I’m doing my best; it feels good to be honored and encouraged.”
While Legacy Award winners commonly distinguish themselves with leadership—Mellum has stepped up as OB/GYN chair and served on committees—what differentiates him is more elemental.
“When I think about Scott and his contributions, his passion is his patient care, his passion isn’t necessarily policy,” said Dr. Marcia Nelson, vice president and chief medical officer at Enloe. “He’s an exceptional physician, and it’s because of that [he got honored], because when people look at him, they see the kind of doctor that we would all want to be and the kind of doctor we would all want to take care of our families.”
Sandra Bernstein trusts his care. She’s nurse manager of the maternity unit and previously worked as a labor-and-delivery nurse. She lives in Willows, but when it came time to pick an obstetrician, she chose Mellum to deliver all four of her children—ages 9, 7, 4 and 2.
“He is one of the most compassionate physicians I’ve ever met,” Bernstein said. “He treats every single one of his patients as if they’re family members. He just cares so deeply about what he does and the patients that he cares for, and their families, and their unborn children … and he just takes such pride in what he does.”
Mellum got a late start in medicine—in fact, it’s his third vocation. Born in North Dakota, he became a Nevadan in grade school after a few years in Los Angeles. He returned to L.A. after a year of college in Reno and worked as a wildland firefighter.
He’d always planned to go back to school, and he liked math. After two years, Mellum took up engineering studies—but “my heart wasn’t in it,” he said, so a semester in, he got a job as a machinist. During those four years, he met his wife, Nancy, a Marin County native.
At 25, a father of two (later three), he saw himself at a crossroads.
“Culturally, you really needed a [career], an education; it’s helpful,” Mellum said. He went back to Reno, planning to study physical therapy, thinking he’d be finished in four years and working.
“I found out if you study hard, you actually can get good grades!” he said, laughing again. “So I studied hard, and I was very fortunate.” Mellum got into medical school in Reno, where family could help care for the kids.
He came straight to Chico after completing his residency in Phoenix. Nancy and he had friends in town, plus her brother had attended Chico State.
“We got off [Highway 99], there’s all these beautiful trees driving down First Avenue, and I was like, ‘Oh, man, this is wonderful,’” Mellum said.
That was 1995; they’ve been here since.
Mellum, originally hired by now-defunct Chico Medical Group, started his own practice in 2000. Over the past three years, he’s become a generational physician: delivering children of children he delivered. (It’s happened a handful of times … so far.) Meanwhile, last week Mellum, 60, became a grandfather for the eighth time.
“It’s a funny thing, you never feel a whole lot different inside; you just look in the mirror and realize, There’s a grandpa looking at me,” Mellum said. And, tongue still in cheek, the career achievement award “tells me I’ve been here over 20 years, I have a lot of gray hair and I’m [at least] 60.”
He knows there’s more. A moment shared by Silva brought it home. When she was a ward nurse, Silva helped Mellum care for a teen who’d just given birth. The new mom, age 15 or 16, had brought to the hospital a Hello Kitty blanket that held a lot of meaning. As nurses settled her into bed, Mellum found the blanket, laid it over the top sheet “and just tucked her in, like a dad,” Silva described.
“It was a really poignant moment,” she continued. “For her, her mom, everybody in the room, it was just the sweetest moment. She was very grateful to him for his kindness and the caring that he’d given to her.”