The Life of PRMS: Melanie Smith, Senior Vice President, Client Relations
In 1986, I was hired by the American Psychiatric Association in the Office of Member and Staff Benefits, continuing my path in the non-profit sector. But soon after my employment began, the APA spun-off their insurance program into a for-profit company named Professional Risk Management Services, Inc. This was a surprise and an adjustment indeed – after all, eyes often glaze over at the word “insurance!”
But it was instead the start of a 30-year journey where it has been my privilege to have been a part of PRMS in its support of psychiatrists, psychiatric organizations and behavioral healthcare initiatives throughout these decades. It has also been a privilege to have met and worked with some of the finest psychiatrists in the nation and to have worked with the dedicated staff of the APA and the district branches – and my amazing colleagues – through the years.
There has been so much discovered and learned about psychiatry and psychiatrists on this journey. The practice of psychiatry has changed through the years with technology, new medications, and such – but the care and concern of psychiatrists for their patients remain steadfast.
These physicians are not a one-dimensional “Frasier Crane” – television and movies rarely come close to capturing the compassion of real-life psychiatrists. I have met incredible people – a survivor of Auschwitz, a pioneer in the study of bi-polar disorder among the Amish, a doctor giving up his California practice to serve his country and profession in western Africa, doctors tirelessly working to combat suicide in the military, doctors dedicated to treating homeless AIDS patients and many other outstanding physicians.
My 30 years working in this community have never been just a job. It has been a heartwarming, learning experience on so many levels and I am most grateful. What an unexpected gift to have made lasting friends with psychiatrists, district branch staff and APA staff through the years including the incomparable late Linda Hughes, a longtime APA employee. And I shared challenges and joys with them – growing children, teenage years, empty nest syndrome, becoming grandparents, personal loss – and always hope. Bonds have been formed through the years that are much treasured.
In the early days, as a single parent, I often took my young son with me on the road as much as possible to both broaden his vistas as well as keep him close. He was welcomed and included. To this day, many still ask me about him and how he is doing. (There was, however, one memorable occasion when my son brought a remote control vehicle to play with in the area outside of the event. A psychiatrist coming back from break “borrowed” the remote and directed my son’s small tank across the room right smack into the speaker’s shoes – to much laughter and my utter embarrassment.)
I thank everyone who has made my 30 year journey both educational and memorable. All of us at PRMS are looking forward to this new decade to continue to be of service.