Melissa Cherry grew up in a very small lower/middle class town in New Jersey just across the bridge from Philadelphia. The town consisted mostly of blue-collar workers. Although she only had one sister, her parents combined had nine siblings. This allowed her to be constantly surrounded by numerous cousins, aunts and uncles. Additionally, she was the oldest granddaughter on both sides of the family and the first to ever graduate from college.
Cherry was always interested in medicine and helping people in general but admits to not having the grades needed to even fathom a career in medicine. After high school, she entered a local community college and by age 19 found her grades only marginally better. She decided to go to a technical school and become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). She entered the Burlington County Vocational School in Medford, NJ, in September 1999 and graduated in August 2000. It was a short program and at the time ensured a decent salary. Initially, Cherry thought she had reached the end of the road in terms of her academic career. However, once she began working as a nurse in a local Philadelphia downtown hospital, she interacted with various healthcare students (medical, PA, nursing, etc.). These interactions inspired her and awakened a new confidence and belief that she could advance her education and career as well. However, she quickly realized that in order to focus on career and education, she would need to move from her small town and start a new life. Cherry decided to move to Florida and surround herself with successful, goal driven professionals and students. It didn’t take long for her to realize she “wasn’t stupid” but simply living in the wrong environment.
In January 2002, Cherry entered Saint John’s Community College in Saint Augustine, FL. She found herself excelling in biology, chemistry and math. Studying became second nature to her, and in May 2003 she graduated with an Associates of Arts in Medicine. She went on to the University of North Florida, Jacksonville, and in December 2005 earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Chemistry. She continued her education at the Nova Southeastern University PA Program in Naples, FL, graduating with a Master’s in Medical Science and a Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies in October 2007.
After PA school in November 2007, Cherry’s first position was as a PA and research coordinator at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital/Nemours Pediatric Endocrinology in Philadelphia. She was involved in all facets of the practice.
Her research centered around the cognitive, physical, and genetic aspects of Klinefelter’s Syndrome, 47 XYY Syndrome, and use of growth hormones in growth failure and insulin resistance. During this time, she also became a Certified Diabetic Educator (CDE), educating providers on how to manage diabetics and direct patients to better outcomes.
In July 2015, Cherry became a medical liaison with Novo Nordisk, Inc. in Princeton, NJ; a position she still holds today. This position involves field based medical support and medical and scientific information responses at the request of scientific experts. In 2022, she became a senior medical liaison for Novo Nordisk, Inc.
Cherry states that her major role model is her first supervising physician, Martha Bardsley, MD. She frequently asks herself “What would Martha do” when faced with challenging situations. She thinks about Martha’s patience, her perfect articulation of complex material and her deep love for other human beings.
Cherry believes her most significant professional accomplishment is becoming a medical science liaison. When she started the position in 2015, the idea of a PA doing it was unheard of; being a medical science liaison was thought to be the province of physicians and PharmDs. It took five years to prove herself, and now it is not uncommon to see a PA in this role.
Cherry’s most recent academic accomplishment is the completion and earning of her Doctor of Medical Science Degree from A.T. Still University in Phoenix, AZ, in May 2021.
Today Cherry is a single mother, raising three amazingly strong kids. She works full time as a senior medical liaison and teaches endocrinology at several universities as an adjunct professor. She is currently exploring the possibility of attending law school and transitioning into a new career in which she will be able to apply her medical background and (future) legal expertise to help children and families who are victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Richard Vause with the assistance of Melissa Cherry. It was submitted to the Society in November 2023. All photographs are courtesy of Dr. Cherry.