If Dr. Melissa Stalling is not on the yoga mat, testing her body’s limits, she’s in the lab testing body samples for infectious disease and chronic conditions as Akron Children’s newest pediatric pathologist. She is fascinated by the human body and is hungry to learn more about its biology, anatomy and physiology. While she fell in love with the practice of Vinyasa Flow yoga and the incredible feeling of strength and relaxation it provides, her true passion lies in studying the physiology of each body system and the pediatric patients she impacts each day.
Why did you want to become a doctor?
Since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated with the human body. From an early age, I had a desire to learn as much as I could about biology, anatomy and physiology. When I was in middle school, my science teacher would save extra specimens from class and give them to me so I could dissect them at home. At Christmas one year, my parents even got me a dissection kit and fetal pig. My interest only grew as I got older and I knew from an early age that I wanted to become a doctor, specifically a pathologist.
While other medical students were more interested in learning how to perform procedures and learn how to manage certain diseases, I was most interested in studying the physiology of each body system, learning about the pathophysiology of each disease, and reading about the mechanism of action of each drug prescribed to treat them.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
I would live right here in Ohio! I have every opportunity to live anywhere in the world, but chose Ohio because it’s my home. I have lived here since I was 5 years old and have gone to college, graduate school, medical school, residency and fellowship here. I love Ohio for many reasons. I love the outdoors, and Ohio has Lake Erie and so many beautiful parks nearby. You get to enjoy all four seasons and be surrounded by nice warm people who have the same sense of pride and spirit.
If you could choose your age forever, what age would it be and why?
I would choose the age I am right now. At 35 years old, I am still young and full of energy, but have gotten through school and medical training and into the job I have been working for my entire life. I am happily married to my best friend and feel like I can finally settle down and make a home for us. I have had many life lessons up to this point and feel a lot wiser, confident and more comfortable in my skin. I am filled with more gratitude each day for my health and blessings at this age than I ever did before.
When you curl up on the couch to watch a movie, are you most likely to have a bowl of popcorn, chocolate or box of tissues?
I am most likely to have a bowl of popcorn. We enjoy microwaveable popcorn for movies and sometimes even television shows at home. But, we also love to go to Hudson and visit Crazy But True (now called Amaized) to get the good stuff: Puppy Chow and Buffalo Ranch popcorn!
What piece of advice did someone give you when you were young that still resonates with you today?
My parents always told me I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up. All it took to succeed was hard work. They taught me that opportunities were limitless if you were willing to sacrifice and work for them. They taught me how important it was to become an independent strong woman. I learned how to earn everything I received through hard work, the value of a great education, and how to have compassion and gratitude for all of the blessings I have in my life. These values were taught to me on a daily basis while growing up and still resonate with me every single day.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Buffalo, New York. When I was 2, my family moved to Plano, Texas, where my sister was born. When I was 5, my dad’s job brought us to Ohio. We lived in Westlake for 6 years, but my parents always wanted to live on the lake, so we ended up settling down in Vermilion. After graduating from Vermilion High School, my dad was promoted and moved the family to Rhode Island. However, Ohio felt like my home, so I chose to stay and go to college at The Ohio State University.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
My husband, Chris, and our 2 French bulldogs: Remi and Cammy. Chris and I met in medical school and have been married for 5 years. He is my best friend and my rock! Remi is the cuddliest dog I have ever owned, and Cammy is the funniest and most loyal. I am always so excited to go home to be with my family.
What was your first paying job?
My first paying job was at Buyers Fair, a department store in Vermilion. I started working there when I was in high school. I worked mainly in women’s and men’s apparel, or as a cashier. A lot of my friends worked there with me and it was a really fun job.
What’s your quote, mantra or personal slogan you live by?
My mantra is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” In the past, because I was stressed out or tired, I often found myself getting angry about the little things, like getting stuck in traffic or being slowed down by someone in front of me at a busy store. I’ve been through a lot this year and realize now that these little things aren’t worth getting worked up about because life is short and none of us are promised tomorrow. When I find myself getting irritated or impatient, I quietly say to myself, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” because it is temporary and insignificant. It also reminds me to try to put my feet in that person’s shoes; to be more understanding, patient, and grateful for my health and life.
Do you have a special hobby/interest or a way you like to give back/volunteer?
When I’m not at work, my favorite things to do are Vinyasa Flow yoga, running, hiking, visiting metroparks, cooking and traveling.
I am also very interested in getting involved in helping cancer patients each year by funding cold cap therapy, as well as offering my support and guidance for success. Cold cap therapy helps cancer patients keep some or most of their hair during chemotherapy treatment. Cancer takes so much from people and this amazing innovation gives patients the opportunity to have some control during treatment, feel some sort of normalcy when they look in the mirror, and maintain privacy during a very tough time. Because it is still in its infancy, cold cap therapy isn’t always covered by insurance, and it can be costly. I am very passionate about helping in this way because of the high costs and the truly incredible effects keeping your hair during treatment can offer.