Memorial Hermann Greater Heights (formerly Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital) has become entrenched in the lives of many Leader-area communities; and for one individual, the place has also become a second home in more ways than one throughout her life.
The hospital has quite literally encompassed Dr. Melissa Montoya’s life from birth and has come full circle to where she now practices family medicine in the very place her father worked as a surgeon for more than 40 years; and she has embraced the namesake while carving out her own niche within the hospital. Her journey (and interest in medicine) now seems as though it was destined from birth — and only grew from there.
The journey begins
“Growing up, she always listened to me talk about medicine, and when she was probably 7 or 8 years old, she would start going with me to make rounds at the hospital, and at that point I could tell she was interested in medicine,” her father Roberto Montoya said. Despite the clear interest, and the fact that his lineage always consisted of at least one doctor, Roberto remained adamant that he stand back and let fate run its course.
“My father, my grandfather and my great great grandfather were all doctors, so it was always in the back of my mind that one of my children might follow the steps and tradition, but I never told her that she needed to be a doctor,” he said. “I never pressured her to say she should become a doctor—she has always made her own decisions. The only pressure I gave her was that I invited them to come to the hospital with me.”
Melissa echoed her father, however, in acknowledging that being seemingly surrounded by the hospital in so many forms from a young age did represent a significant factor in deciding to follow in her father’s footsteps.
“Seeing him come home every day after working in the hospital, seeing how happy he was to be a doctor and the satisfaction he would have after having gone through a long surgery and then seeing the results definitely played a role,” she said. “Every weekend I would go home and go to rounds with my dad. I would always see his interaction with patients and how they would respond to him.”
It wasn’t until near the end of high school, however, that the passion began to clearly manifest itself.
“I loved my biology classes and I was always the one in class wanting to dissect the frog and whatnot,” she said with a laugh.
Montoya also spent hours at MD Anderson with the children while they played as part of her work with Houston’s Chapter of the National Charity League. “I loved being a part of that environment. I love that excitement of being in healthcare and being around others,” she said.
A dream come true
Once Montoya decided to take the plunge into medicine and healthcare, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at The University of Texas at Austin and received her Doctorate of Medicine from Ross University School of Medicine in 2007. She later returned to Houston for her residency training at the Memorial Family Medicine program at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital before landing a dream opportunity.
“It means the world—I was born where I work, and to be able to come back and work here is amazing, especially when my dad was in private practice,” she said. “I would have lunch with him every day. Not everyone can say they’ve been able to work in the same environment as their father and have it come full circle.”
“It feels great to see my daughter follow in my footsteps,” Roberto said.
Carving out her niche
Though she embraces working in the same hospital as her father, Melissa decided on a bit of a different path to create her own legacy — family medicine. She is board-certified in family medicine by the American Board of Family Medicine, in advanced cardiac, obstetrics and pediatric life support, and belongs to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association and the Harris County Family Medicine Association.
“I think it was my love for counseling (that made me go into family practice). I love teaching patients, and you do a lot of that,” she said. “I think the diversity of dealing with not only chronic illnesses, but also dealing with psychologic aspects is exciting.”
Montoya treats diabetes, hypertension and more, while also encountering those dealing with anxiety, depression, and said family medicine provides her the opportunity to embrace her love of teaching, counseling others and family.
“I love that challenge and being able to talk more to the patients and see the whole family—lots of times I’m not treating just one family member, I’m treating the family,” she said.