Saturday, October 29, 2011

(16) Mel Simon: A Career Serving God & His People*


DR. MEL SIMON: A CAREER SERVING GOD AND HIS PEOPLE
Published in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune November 2, 2011



        Today Dr. Mel Simon officially retired from surgical practice as a urologist and past president of the Medical Staff at the Pleasant Valley Hospital in Point Pleasant, WV after 39 years there. Tomorrow October 29 he will be 76 years old. You would never think that; he does have the right genes.......his mother bore and raised 12 kids and died at 102. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Mel and a happy fulfilling retirement! He will however, continue at a reduced scale in his private practice out of loyalty to his old patients with whom there is a bond.

          Although Dr. Simon will never retire completely ---this dynamo of energy has been too active for that in every facet of his life for so many years---, this occasion is a good time to recognize his many achievements, thank him for his many contributions, and encourage him to continue serving God and His people. Retirement can be liberating in giving more time to serve the Church and the community in related and other ways while being able to spend more time with grandchildren and extended family while getting closer to God.

        A book could be written about his life of achievement and service. So for the purposes of this blog (a comprehensive collection of short commentaries), I will focus mainly on his contributions to the Church and the community that could inspire all of us, including those who are outside the medical field.

        Dr. Mel Simon is literally the fulfillment of the American dream and his wife Lydia, always at his side as faithful friend, financial adviser, and sometimes manager, had a lot to do with it. Her help and encouragement made it easier to spend more time in his professional and community activities. Mel grew up in the strongly Catholic Philippine Islands during the Japanese occupation. He was there when his hero, General Douglas MacArthur was forced to leave and two years later when he kept his pledge, “I shall return”. Mel studied Medicine in Manila and completed his residency in Chicago. In 1966 Dr. Charles Holzer, a pioneer in medicine in southeastern Ohio and founder of an extensive health care system that bears his name, invited the young immigrant to find the American dream through hard work as Chief of the Department of Urology in Gallipolis, across the Ohio River from Pt. Pleasant. Soon he became a very successful and eminent urologist on both banks of the river, serving both communities. Dr. Simon is active in medical societies and was a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

        Immigrants such as Dr. Mel Simon made America. They are the best that their native countries have to offer. That is their intelligence, ingenuity, self-confidence, courage, resourcefulness, and spirit of adventure to take the risk of leaving their countries of birth and adapting to a new culture and a new system.  The timid, the lazy, and the less able stay home.  Most are willing to work hard, pursue new paths, and do what it takes to be successful. They give the country new blood and fresh ideas; they come to America seeking opportunity and freedom. Then they work hard to achieve the American dream and so often find it.

        Mel has enjoyed the fruits of his success, but is very generous with his time and financial resources in giving back so much to the twin sister communities that gave hm the opportunity as well as to his country of birth that raised him. That's what makes this prominent physician stand out and led to his being chosen for the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame (http://www.aging.ohio.gov/news/halloffame/) in Columbus. That makes him an example to both the very successful as well as to the many unknown people who think that they can only contribute in little ways.......not realizing that many little deeds done over many years are also very important and also add to greatness.

         He exemplifies Christian stewardship, which recognizes that everything belongs to God and comes from Him....... His providential help, one's endowed talents or gifts, opportunities in life, etc., all of which the individual has little or no control......that God gives us earthly possessions, property, and financial resources in trust as stewards to be used responsibly to provide for our own genuine needs and to serve one's fellow man for the common good of all. Greater wealth entails greater responsibility and God will hold us accountable for the use of these gifts.

        Thus Dr. Simon has contributed significantly to his parish, St. Louis Church, to the University of Rio Grande, and many other charitable causes. He has given his time and energy as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Rio Grande (www.rio.edu) since 1994 to assist in its growth and guide it through a severe financial crisis. Mel contributed significantly to the restoration of the historic Ariel Theater (www.arieltheatre.org) in 1990, originally built in 1896 as an opera house in the gas light era for this steamboat stop on the Ohio River. That led to the birth of the Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra (http://www.ohiovalleysymphony.org/Board.htm) at the same time and his subsequent participation as a member of its Board of Directors. Dr. Simon is also a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus (www.kofc.org), a Catholic men's fraternal and service organization.

        Operation We Care (http://www.opwecare.org/4.html). Perhaps Dr. Simon's most significant contribution of all is his very active participation in the Rotary Club (www.rotary.org). As President of the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America in 1988, he organized an annual medical mission to the Philippines and in 1999 he strengthened the mission by obtaining the sponsorship of the Rotary Club while its District 6690 Governor. Usually every February for 24 years, Dr. Simon recruits a team of some 35 doctors and nurses and obtains donations of medical supplies and equipment to do diverse surgeries for a very intense two weeks.......cleft palate, some genetic deformities, tumors, eye surgery, dental surgery, etc. Each participant in the mission pays his/her own travel expenses. At the same time the team members train their counterparts in a real people to people outreach.

        From his own resources, he and Lydia furnished a 100 bed surgical ward of the 400 bed Region One Medical Center in Dagupan, Pangasinan in the northern Philippines. In gratitude for five years of bringing the medical mission and numerous donations, it was officially named as the “Dr. Mel & Lydia Simon Surgical Ward in 2007. In addition they helped in the construction of a 30 bed community hospital in Mangaldan, Pangasinan, where deep water drinking wells were also constructed in 17 surrounding villages through the generosity of Filipino and American Rotary Clubs. These wells helped to greatly decrease the incidence of gastro-intestinal diseases and improved the quality of life. Dr. Simon and Lydia also initiated nutrition and literacy programs for hundreds of undernourished school children.

        The French 500 Free Clinic is Dr. Simon's most recent ongoing community project. My having observed free clinics as a lay missionary in Peru that the American Maryknoll Fathers (www.maryknoll.org) (http://www.maryknollsociety.org/) established in their parishes in Peru and based upon Mel's 24 years of experience with medical missions, I asked him in early 2009 whether such a model would work in our own Gallia County. He jumped on the idea, recruited a very capable and dedicated cadre of doctors, nurses, and lay people to organize and run a free clinic. By August we were off and running with our first monthly free clinic in an annex of his own Hill Crest Clinic.

        To date the French 500 Free Clinic has served 720 uninsured patients free of charge with the help of donations. Soon it will be joining the 41 member Ohio Association of Free Clinics (http://www.ohiofreeclinics.org ). Clearly, this model is more efficient than a trillion dollar government program. Could private neighborhood clinics staffed by nurse practitioners supplemented by medical doctors work on a larger scale financed by fees charged on the basis of ability to pay, donations and no strings attached matching government funds? Too often government programs entail expensive bureaucracies where it's giving without love and care without concern.

        Thank you, Dr. Simon for your many years serving God and His people. May you have many more years doing the same in your retirement. As the Polish people like to say for birthdays, “Stolat!” That is: “May you live to be 100.” Your mother did. May the Lord bless you richly on your day.


INTRODUCTION OF DR. MEL SIMON
TO RECEIVE THE KNIGHTS of COLUMBUS HUMANITARIAN AWARD
St. Louis Parish Hall May 20, 2013

          Dr. Mel Simon is the epitome of the American Dream.  As a little boy he lived under the yoke of the oppressive Japanese Occupation from 1941 to 1945.  At one point he narrowly escaped being killed by an American bomb.  He was there when his hero, General MacArthur kept his pledge, “I shall return”.

          Dr. Mel studied Medicine at the University of St. Thomas in Manila and completed his residency in Chicago.  In 1966 Dr. Charles Holzer invited him to be Chief of the Department of Urology at the hospital his father founded.  Soon Dr. Simon became a very successful and eminent urologist, serving his patients on both sides of the river.  He was a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force reserves and past president of the Medical Staff at the Pleasant Valley Hospital and also of the Rotary Club.  Currently he is a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, the Board of the Ohio Valley Symphony, and the Board of Trustees of the University of Rio Grande. 

       Mel has enjoyed the fruits of his success, but is very generous with his time and financial resources in giving back so much to his parish, the twin sister communities that gave him the opportunity, and to his country of birth that raised him.  As President of the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America and before, he organized an annual medical mission to the Philippines and in 1999 he strengthened the mission by obtaining the sponsorship of the Rotary Club while its District 6690 Governor. Usually every February of the past 29 years, Dr. Simon recruits a team of some 35 doctors and nurses and obtains donations of medical supplies and equipment to do diverse surgeries for a very intense two weeks.......cleft palate, some genetic deformities, tumors, eye surgery, dental surgery, etc.  Each participant in the mission pays his/her own travel expenses. At the same time the team members train their counterparts in a real people to people outreach.

          In our own local community he was the prime mover in the formation of the French 500 Free Clinic in Spring Valley.  Since its founding in 2009 it has treated over one thousand uninsured patients of Gallia County on the last Thursday of the month.  I have some brochures here for those of you who know people who cannot afford medical insurance. 

All of this makes this prominent physician stand out and led to his being chosen for the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.  Today his fellow Knights and his parish have the opportunity to recognize Dr. Mel Simon for his achievements in serving humanity here and abroad.  Dr. Simon, thank you for all that you have done for humanity.  May each one of us follow your example in frequently serving our Church and community in little or big ways as we are able.  Thus it is a privilege to present to you the very first Knights of Columbus Humanitarian Award.  Dr. Simon, please step forward and Lydia as well who had a big part in it.     

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