“The day I walked in, I fell in love”: Lenz selected Nurse of the Month for May

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Mel Lenz is Roswell Park's Nurse of the Month for May.
Pictured: Mel Lenz is Roswell Park's Nurse of the Month for May.

When MaryEllen “Mel” Lenz, RN, AAS, was 39, she decided she needed a change in her life.

“I was a purchasing agent at my dad’s company and he was retiring. Things were changing and I needed a different job,” she says. After talking with a friend who worked as a nurse at Buffalo General Hospital, she decided to try nursing.

Now we’re proud to announce Lenz has been selected as our Nurse of the Month for May.

“I put myself through school. I did five years of night school to do a two-year degree, because I worked so many other jobs while in school,” she says. “My last clinical [rotation] was at Roswell Park, and I was petrified to go here. But the day I walked in, I fell in love.”

Lenz started as a nurse on 5 West in 2006, spending three years there before transferring to the Intensive Care Unit, where she worked for nine years. Today she’s a nurse in the Assessment and Treatment Center (ATC).

“I love the people I work with,” says Lenz, who admits being “in shock” when she received the Nurse of the Month award. “I love my job, the people I work with and I love the patients.”

Catherine Casacci, MS, BSN, RN, Clinical Nurse Manager in the ATC, says she’s happy to have Lenz on her team.

“Working in the ATC, you don’t always know what will be coming through the door, and you have to be prepared for anything. During moments of perceived chaos, Mel has a unique way of keeping things calm. She is a pleasant voice on the other end of the phone, and always has a positive demeanor regardless of what is happening behind the scenes.”

Casacci describes Lenz as “a role model. She is patient- and family-centered, compassionate, reliable, accountable, proactive, a team player and a leader. Mel is always willing to take on something new and volunteers fearlessly, successfully completing the task at hand.”

In early 2020, when Roswell Park started to offer COVID-19 testing, Lenz volunteered to lead the charge. “We didn’t have drive-up testing yet, so you’d go to Employee Health lot,” she recalls. “One day, I did 23 tests by myself. I was out there in the wind in a yellow paper gown. I swabbed 23 people in 15 minutes,” Lenz laughs. “I got it done.”

When she returned to her floor, her team had printed out a photo and designated her their “COVID Queen” for her efforts.

“Mel also volunteered to be the first ATC nurse to administer monoclonal antibodies to a COVID-positive patient when this practice was still in its infancy and the process was unfamiliar to our team,” Casacci says. “She is a key advocate for change in the ATC, and ultimately proves change is good!”

Lenz intends to keep working as a nurse for several more years, keeping busy in her off hours by babysitting her young granddaughter (soon to be joined by a new grandchild) and arranging flowers. “If I won the lottery, I’d open my own flower shop.”

For now, she continues to love her job in the ATC. “The patients keep you humble. You listen to them, spending even just a day at Roswell, and it puts you in check.

“It’s a special calling, being an oncology nurse.”

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