Before COVID-19 hit, Dr. Melissa Berlin, a family doctor and mother of four, was already managing a lot. Today, more than a year since the pandemic began, her responsibilities make her pre-COVID busy life seem like a walk in the park.
In addition to working full-time as a doctor in a global pandemic and raising four young children, Berlin is an active member of Academies at GBDS (Gerrard Berman Day School) Board of Trustees and a chair of the medical committee for the school. She has been instrumental in keeping Academies at GBDS running safely and smoothly. In her role as chair of the medical committee, Berlin has been working closely with the school leadership on setting up COVID guidelines and protocols, giving educational presentations to our community about the virus and the new vaccines, consulting with infectious diseases specialists, and much more. Despite all of the challenges, Berlin maintains a positive attitude and a strong love for the GBDS community.
“It just feels so good to give back to the school, because they’ve done so much for all of us,” Berlin said. “Just having my kids in school when so many other kids don’t have in-person learning is the biggest blessing.
“Last year was terrible,” she continued. “Virtual school was very hard on my kids and on their mental health, and I think it was for a lot of kids. GBDS is a hidden gem. Family is everything to me; and in our school, we found our extended family.”
In the past few weeks, Berlin unintentionally fell into the role of “Vaccine Angel” (a group of people who are helping others schedule COVID-19 vaccinations), and has been working around the clock to help our teachers and other members of the GBDS community and beyond schedule appointments.
It all started when one teacher asked her for assistance with a vaccination appointment. “I really wanted to help the school, so I basically taught myself what was going on,” Berlin said. “COVID-19 vaccines are still not widely available for teachers in New Jersey, as you have to meet a set of health qualifiers to be able to register for an appointment. In addition, the supply of vaccines is much lower than the demand.
“These two factors, combined with the fact that appointments normally get filled in under a minute, make it very hard for people to get an appointment for a COVID vaccine, especially working parents and the enderly.”
In her search for information for the teacher, Berlin found Facebook groups that help people make vaccination appointments, as well as Twitter bots that send notifications when appointments become available. She loves the idea of the Twitter bots, but especially admires the online communities of good Samaritans. “It’s so heartwarming to see. Strangers, absolute strangers, are helping each other. It’s absolutely amazing.”
After the initial scheduling success, and seeing how grateful the teacher was for her assistance, Berlin decided to continue helping to make the appointments for members of our GBDS community. Since then, she’s aided in scheduling vaccination appointments for half of our teachers, their family members and other people in the community.
By Joshua Shuster