If asked at her high school graduation what she wanted to be when she grew up, Melva P. Andrews would have said a psychologist. But an assessment in her early college years of her likes, dislikes and personality revealed that her traits were consistent with an occupational therapist, ultimately changing her career trajectory and setting her on a path to become a low vision occupational therapist.
“I have always been interested in interacting with and helping people,” Andrews said. “I’ve been drawn to listening to people’s stories, and for those whose stories involve difficulty resuming participation in tasks that are meaningful to them, I have been inclined to help solve problems that will enable them to resume doing what matters to them.”
A day in Andrews’ work life revolves around educating and providing solutions. As a low vision occupational therapist, she is mindful of how vision and the implications of vision loss make participation a challenge. Andrews says her favorite thing about her job is twofold: making lives better through excellence in healthcare and having the opportunity to live out UT Health’s core values, both as a clinician and as an employee.
“Every day, I get to make a difference in a person’s life,” she said. “I get to listen and serve people who, in most cases, are newly vision impaired. I get to be a part of helping them learn to adjust to the changes in their lives.”
While Andrews is passionate about her work, it has not come without challenges. Like many other healthcare workers, she has had to overcome hurdles during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has seen firsthand the healthcare disparity among the visually impaired population. Many older patients have trouble using technology, some may even be strangers to the digital age. In a time like COVID-19 when many things have gone online, it’s become even more challenging for these patients to receive care. Andrews has taken it upon herself to help those who may be struggling with technology through direct follow-ups with older patients, often offering one-on-one walkthroughs and assistance.
“Every day that I help a patient is a proud accomplishment, even if it’s in a small way,” Andrews said. “Some moments, like when a patient articulates how their life was changed by an experience at our clinic, are extra proud accomplishments.”
Andrews goes above and beyond in her role at UT Health providing compassionate care to patients, but also holds compassion for those outside of her professional life. When asked how she would spend a million dollars, she replied: “I would give some to my church, pay
my family members mortgages and the rest I would set up as a foundation to help other people and organizations in need.”
In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors and taking walks or hikes in peaceful environments. Andrews also enjoys making crafts out of recycled items. She even dreams of traveling to the South of France one day, inspired by a book she read. If she could give advice to her 15-year-old self it would be: “keep going, keep striving…the best is yet to come.”
In the future, Andrews anticipates working in low vision rehabilitation and hopefully, still here at UT Health. She also hopes to be a part of any potential growth in low vision rehabilitation at the institution.
UT Health Stars and Shields Awards recognize the practices, providers, clinical teams and staff who consistently go above and beyond to live out our promise to provide every patient with an exceptional patient experience. To recognize a UT Health Physicians’ coworker for their outstanding work in providing excellent, patient-centered care, nominate them to receive a Silver Star award at www.uthealthcare.org/stars.