Aparna Mele, M.D., has been recognized by the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) as an Everyday Hero Award winner. In addition to being a practicing physician for the last 15 years, she owns her own non-profit organization which aims to increase awareness of preventable diseases that impact community health.
Dr. Mele was nominated for the award by her husband, who is also a physician. “Honestly, I was surprised! My non-profit organization is truly a family effort and sometimes I thought he was irritated by it,” she said with a laugh. “I’m very honored and it is really recognition for my whole team and our volunteers who work so hard alongside of me.”
Although her success is built from hard work and dedication, she said she initially didn’t want to be a doctor when she was younger. “I come from a long line of doctors in my family, and I fought it as long as I could.”
Dr. Mele said her dream was to be Jane Goodall and work with animals, but it was her work volunteering with Mother Teresa that made her want to go into medicine.
“I was 17 years old, and I wrote her a letter and she must have seen something in me. She invited me to volunteer with her at an orphanage. Most people connect with her on a spiritual level, we connected on a human level,” Dr. Mele said.
It was through her experience caring for children, from infancy to teens – administering vaccines, feeding, bathing, changing diapers and simply playing with kids– that Dr. Mele she wanted to be a doctor.
“She told me ‘The best way to help is with your hands.’”
Taking that advice with her throughout her career, being a physician felt limiting for Dr. Mele, who wanted to be doing more with her knowledge. This led her to start My Gut Instinct, her non- profit organization that she created to increase awareness of preventable diseases that impact community health.
“We aim to provide people with health knowledge and empower them to take action to live healthier lives and become beautiful from the inside, out, because we believe beauty starts on the inside,” said Dr. Mele. “We also want to show the community that eating and living healthy is not only easy to do, but it can also be fun and delicious too!”
In 2023, the organization is celebrating its 10th anniversary of hosting the annual “Guts and Glory Digestive and Wellness Expo” a free, large scale, non-profit community-wide celebration of health for all ages and showcases a farmer’s market, educational booths, community outreach, fresh locally sourced food made by local chefs. Dr. Mele says that it is the community she works in that inspires her to do what she does every day.
“It is clear that Dr. Mele is as dedicated to the health of the community as she is to her patients. I am extremely proud she works for US Digestive Health and is doing such meaningful work to advance digestive health in Berks County,” said Dr. Louis La Luna at Digestive Disease Associates/US Digestive Health at Wyomissing.
PAMED’s Everyday Hero Award, launched in 2018, is designed to showcase talented physicians who go above and beyond in their profession and in providing patient care. Dr. Mele remarked, “The title of the award says its all, I’m an everyday person but among other heroes in my small town, making change.”