Officials at The University of Southern Mississippi did not have to look far in finding a new executive director for the Moffitt Health Center on the Hattiesburg campus.
Dr. Melissa Brown Roberts, who has served as assistant director for the past five years, has been named the University’s health services leader following the retirement of Dr. Virginia Crawford last month. Crawford had served in that capacity since 1989.
“Although I knew that Dr. Crawford was nearing retirement, it was still a shock when she announced that she was leaving because she leaves big shoes to fill,” said Roberts. “It has been an honor to work alongside her these past five years, and I hope as the new director that I can continue to lead Moffitt Health Center into the future to ensure quality healthcare for the students, faculty, and staff at Southern Miss.”
Roberts, a State Line, Miss., native, earned her undergraduate degree from Southern Miss in 1992 and her M.D. from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1997. She became Board Certified in Pediatrics in 2000 and Board Certified in Emergency Medicine in 2003.
“I am pleased that Dr. Roberts, a physician who has provided health care to Southern Miss students for the past five years, has accepted the important role of executive director of the Moffitt Health Center,” said Dr. Thomas Burke, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs. “Dr. Roberts clearly understands that collegiate health is a comprehensive approach to health care delivery that incorporates a model of ambulatory care, health education and mental health support for students. I am confident that she is well prepared in practice and training to accept this important challenge.”
Labeling her new role as both “exciting and frightening,” Roberts remains humble in her approach to the myriad responsibilities associated with leadership of health services for a major university community.
“I’m just a southern girl who happens to be a doctor,” said Roberts. “Through the years, I have come to embrace my southern ways. I am who I am. That being said, I love taking care of my patients and being able to make a difference in their lives.”
The state-of-the-art Moffitt Health Center opened in March of 2015 on the first floor of Scott Hall, which is part of the Century Park South residential complex on the Hattiesburg campus. The center replaced the Beedie Smith Health Clinic, a free-standing building that opened on the Hattiesburg campus in 1962.
The new facility increased the square footage dedicated to health services by 30 percent, providing much-needed space for more efficient laboratory and X-ray activity, larger health care provider work areas, a more accessible pharmacy and a dental care area.
Roberts notes that with change comes the opportunity for growth in services provided by the Moffitt Health Center. Immediate plans for expansion include increasing the center’s presence on campus, especially through the health education department.
“I feel that basic health education topics such as sexual health, alcohol use, drug use, nutrition/fitness, successful study habits, stress management, and mental health are areas of growth that could help all students,” said Roberts. “My hope is to be more proactive about these topics so that crisis situations can be averted.”
Roberts is married to Paul Roberts and the couple have three children: Jake, 19, Emma, 15, and Caleb, 13.