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Dr. Bob Melrose: Committed to Giving Back

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My wife and I came to Stockton in 1982 when Dr Hisaka and Dr Prima asked us to become partners in their practice. We moved here with all of our belongings in the back of an open-air truck along with our hopes and dreams of starting our professional life together.

We quickly learned what extraordinary people lived in Stockton. Our practice quickly grew and Stockton became home to us. One value we were both raised with is that it is important to give back whenever and wherever you can.

Over the years I have served on the Board of Directors of the Community Blind Center of San Joaquin as well as the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. I also went through the Leadership Stockton program in 1990. I became active within my church since, for me, faith is also a big part of community. It was through our church involvement that we became strong supporters of the Red Rhino Orphanage project in Kenya where 30 children were saved from the streets of Nairobi and given a chance in life.

During this time I was also giving back to my profession by teaching one day a week at the University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry as an Assistant Clinical Professor for ten years. It was so rewarding to make a difference in the lives of the next generation of optometrists.

Rosie and I knew we wanted to have children at some point so we tailored our careers to share our time in the practice so that we would have the freedom to spend time at home with our future children. We were blessed with our twin sons in 1991 but being as far away from home as Berkeley each week was uncomfortable for me. I took a leave from teaching and joined a medical practice in Sacramento where we specialized in laser refractive surgery. I would later return to UC Berkeley in 2011 where I co-ran the Refractive Surgery Clinic for four years and helped establish an educational student rotation for the optometric interns.

In 1996, one of my LASIK patients from Stockton invited me to join the Stockton Sunrise Rotary Club. He told me how Rotarians work hard to better their local communities with playgrounds, scholarships, support of charities, and aiding children in need in over 200 countries around the world. He then told me how Rotary International was also an international organization that had decided in 1985 to rid the world of the polio disease. I was like many who naively thought that polio had been eradicated worldwide simply because we had rid the United States of this disease. I had no idea that over 350,000 new cases per year were recorded in 1985 alone when Rotary made this decision. He explained to me that Rotary was supplying the manpower to inoculate every child in the world and was the initial lead supply of funds to fight this disease—I decided that day that this was an organization I wanted to be a part of.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of twice being president of The Stockton Sunrise Rotary Club. I have also served as our club’s chairperson for the Rotary Foundation, which is the branch of Rotary International that funds every Rotary humanitarian project in the world as well as the fight to end polio. I have had the pleasure of traveling to South Korea and Atlanta, Georgia for two international conventions where I sat in halls with people like Bill Gates, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the CEOs of National Geographic and Coca-Cola, Andrew Young, and others who spoke to us about the work Rotary has accomplished in the world. Earlier this year when Rosie and I were in Atlanta, we watched live as $1.5 Billion dollars was raised to finish the fight to end polio. This is a moment I will never forget.

During my time with Rotary, my club has supported the Women’s Center of San Joaquin, the Stockton Symphony, sent kids from Pittman Elementary School to science camp each year, planted trees in the Barkleyville Dog Park, supported the Rotary House at SJ General for families to stay near their kids when they are in the hospital, Hope Haven, the Assistance League, The Children’s Museum of Stockton, The Community Center for the Blind, Mary Graham’s Children Foundation, Saint Mary’s Dining Room, Hospice of San Joaquin, and more.

Internationally we have helped build a cardiac care unit in India, supplied baby warmers for premature children in Central America, and more. I personally also had the pleasure of traveling to Chile to help distribute 450 wheelchairs to give mobility back to people in need.

For me, being a Rotarian has allowed me to be a part of something much greater than myself. I have been allowed to meet people I never would have known and help people overseas that I will never meet personally. In short, it has allowed me to give back to my community and the world in a way I never thought possible.

Giving back to a community, profession, or internationally is not a chore nor is it an obligation. However, it is the greatest gift a person can give himself or herself and I recommend it highly.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

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