Friday, Dec 20, 2019

Ballad Health honors late physician leader Dr. Hughes Melton

Even though local physician leader Dr. S. Hughes Melton tragically passed away in August, his memory lives on, both in the hearts and minds of those who cherished him and in a newly announced namesake residency program.

The Dr. S. Hughes Melton Family Medicine Residency Program at Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, Virginia, provides advanced, innovative and specialized training in family medicine, preparing physicians to serve the community with compassionate and comprehensive care for diverse populations.

The creation of the family medicine residency program at Johnston Memorial Hospital was a labor of love for Dr. Melton, and it has now been rechristened in honor of his dedication to family medicine, trailblazing work in the fields of behavioral health and addiction medicine and leadership in recruiting healthcare professionals to an underserved part of the country.

“In his time with us, Hughes made remarkable contributions to our health system, our region and the field of medicine,” said Alan Levine, executive chairman and chief executive officer of Ballad Health. “In a time when all eyes are on rural healthcare, addiction treatment and behavioral health, Ballad Health wants to honor a man who made an indelible impact on all three.

“Though we’ll love and miss Hughes forever, his legacy will continue through the coming generations of family medicine providers who are trained through this program and impacted by the work he accomplished in his all-too-brief time with us.”

At the time of his passing, Dr. Melton was Virginia’s top mental health official, and he led the state’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

“Hughes was an advocate for the medically underserved, and he had a passion for training providers who would care for the underserved in rural Appalachia,” said Dr. Sarah Melton, Dr. Melton’s wife of 24 years. “The development of the family medicine residency was a labor of love, and Maggie, Claire and I celebrate the renaming of the residency program in his honor.”

Before serving with the Virginia Department of Health, Dr. Melton served as the chief medical officer at Johnston Memorial, and he became the legacy Mountain States Health Alliance’s vice president of medical education for its Northeast and Northwest markets. He started the residency program at Johnston Memorial and enhanced other medical education programs to address the shifting healthcare industry and better meet the needs of the Appalachian Highlands.

In his time with the health system, Dr. Melton was honored with the Servant’s Heart Award – Ballad Health’s highest team member honor – as well as the 2011 Family Physician of the Year award by the American Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Melton also earned a board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Family Physicians, and he started HighPower, P.C., a patient-centered addiction treatment clinic in Russell County.

In 2015, Dr. Melton also accepted the position of deputy commissioner of the Virginia Health Department, serving in that role alongside his job with the health system.

Dr. Melton’s achievements caught the attention of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who appointed Dr. Melton to his state role in 2018. There, he led a team of 7,000 healthcare professionals to provide a consistent level of high-quality, accessible services to all Virginians through increased integration with primary care, efficiency of operations and accountability to stakeholders.

It was “a role he filled ably and with enthusiasm,” the governor said in a statement following Dr. Melton’s passing.

“True servant leaders, teachers and healers like Hughes are rare finds, and we’re blessed to know them,” Levine said. “His passion for medicine and keen foresight into healthcare are now forever commemorated in the Dr. S. Hughes Melton Family Medicine Residency Program at Johnston Memorial Hospital, which stands as a testament to his life’s work.”

Dr. Melton is survived by his wife, Sarah, and daughters Maggie and Claire.

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