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fields. Students also invent and compete in hexagonal grid-based board games and games using cutting-edge technology. Hexacago Health Academy, a summer program hosted annually by Melissa’s Ci3, for example, seeks High School students for their expertise—no quotation marks—for games teaching health and science topics. Ever mindful to ensure accessibility, the center pays for students’ attendance, transit, and food as well as for each survey or phone followup in which they participate. “The experts are the young people,” Melissa explained. “I was 16 once, but I’m not any more, and I can’t remember what I wanted when I was. There are lots of different kinds of wisdom.” Youth engagement in the project has served not only to educate these adolescents, but has also allowed Melissa and her diverse team of clinicians, storytellers, mixedmedia specialists, mobile health service providers, and neighborhood organizers to iterate real-life health service models. Notably, a Ci3 study published in the Journal of School Health concluded that adding sexual and reproductive health care to existing mobile health units (MHUs)—like UChicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s MHU— was feasible and highly acceptable to adolescents. Students also prototyped a birth control kit for use during counseling. All told, the labs of Ci3 have been successfully answering the questions Melissa had originally set out to answer: “How can we all come together and work in different ways to support young people? How do you design a system in which the end user is actually taken into account?” TRANSFORMATIVE COLLABORATION Melissa is the daughter of celebrated civil rights activist and journalist Dorothy Butler Gilliam and the legendary color field painter, Sam Gilliam. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that she brings a creative and systematic approach to her commitment to humanitarian causes. In her pre-clinical training—as at GDS—Melissa came to value the benefits of group learning and collaborative problem-solving. “I understood that it takes lots of different experts to be part [of a solution]. In my current work, we use a model involving multiple experts addressing a problem working with young people whom we see as experts on their own experience. GDS is the place where I first began to develop the ability to work across differences,” she explained. Then, “It’s either that or being a middle child.” It was also while at GDS that Melissa learned to treasure the diverse areas of expertise within herself. She remembers when GDS English teacher Gary McCown first called her a “renaissance person”; no one had yet articulated her diverse interests as a valuable quality. He told her, “You can do arts and sciences—you are curious about all these things—and that’s a good thing to be.” Eventually, Melissa was able to

own for herself the benefits of being fascinated by, as she says, “everything under the sun.” She was a pre-med English major at Yale. She received a master’s degree in philosophy and politics from Oxford University before earning her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and her Master’s of Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago. As Vice Provost—yet another one of her many roles—Melissa is keenly focused on the lifecycle of the university’s faculty members, supporting faculty at all stages of their careers to help faculty maintain and build academic excellence. Her work includes special tracks supporting new faculty, faculty of color, and academic leadership. Since 2017, she has led a campus-wide initiative on diversity and inclusion, which has included increasing the diversity of the faculty, engaging more deeply with our neighboring communities, and creating an inclusive campus with workshops like “Hearing One Another,” which coaches participants in “listening across difference in order to create more cohesive and collaborative environments.” The echoes of GDS’s “build networks and collaborate across difference” are unmistakable. “Melissa’s range is remarkable and rare,” explained Patrick, Melissa’s “Game Changer” Lab “partner-in-crime” at Ci3. “As a medical doctor in obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics, she has made major contributions to clinical practice and research. As the founder of Ci3, she has put public health in closer dialogue with digital media and design. As Vice Provost, she has initiated new conversations on the University of Chicago campus about institutional diversity. Across these roles—ones that are difficult to imagine a single person inhabiting—her commitment to patients and energy for new projects seem boundless. My collaboration with Melissa has been transformative for me. She is never fearful of transdisciplinary projects that map imperfectly onto existing divisions of knowledge. That adventurous spirit has allowed her to grapple with big contemporary problems in experimental ways.” THE WORK WE CARRY FORWARD In January 2018, Melissa interviewed her mother on the dais in Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago during a commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. She asked her mother to reflect on her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and share some guidance. “What do we do in this moment in time?” she asked. This spring, we asked Melissa to reflect on her GDS roots, the ongoing challenges in adolescent public health, and look ahead to our shared future. We asked, “What do we do in this moment in time?” “We must be engaged; we must pay attention; and we must vote—this type of work is more important than ever. In the various domains in which I work, I’m committed to profound curiosity and caring about other people—values instilled in me while I was at GDS and that I’ve worked to carry forward.”



Profile for Georgetown Day School

Georgetown Days Spring 2019  

Georgetown Days Spring 2019