A Dallas-based occupational medicine physician who consults with companies on their occupational health programs, Melissa Tonn serves as the president and chief medical officer of OccMD Group, P.A. As part of her work as a Dallas-based medical benefits manager, Melissa Tonn has an interest in studying the impact of social determinants on health.
Non-medical factors, known as social determinants, can have a large impact on people’s health outcomes. For instance, socio-economic status, race, and the environments in which people live, learn, and work have a significant influence on their ability to maintain health. As more policymakers realize that addressing social determinants of health can lead to both improved health outcomes and long-term cost savings, they are adapting some health plans to cover non-medical benefits and starting to move toward a more comprehensive care model.
Currently, nearly 95 percent of healthcare expenditures fund direct medical care, rather than comprehensive programs focused on mitigating the negative impacts of social determinants of health. Researchers estimate that an individual’s social and physical environment make up about 20 percent of their overall health picture, with behavior accounting for another 40-50 percent. Given that health care delivery only impacts health during injury or illness, more attention must be given to the social determinants that impact health on a daily and long-term basis.
After completing occupational medicine residencies at the Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center, Melissa Tonn assumed the role of president and chief medical officer of OccMD Group, P.A., in Dallas. In addition to overseeing occupational injury medical management for employers who opt out of Workers’ Compensation, Melissa Tonn serves as an advisory board member for the New Friends New Life organization.
New Friends New Life seeks to empower survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation while building a movement to stop the abuse. In the Dallas area alone, the illegal sex trade takes in $99 million annually, according to Department of Justice data. New Friends New Life takes the stance that the pornography industry is a gateway to sexual trafficking and exploitation. Since data shows that most pornography is viewed during the daytime, part of the organization’s strategy is building alliances with employers to reduce employees' pornography consumption at work.
To this end, New Friends New Life established an advocacy group focused on reducing men’s pornography consumption called the No Harm Network. The initiative asks businesses to protect women and girls from sex trafficking and exploitation by adopting and enforcing specific policies in the workplace. These policies include controls to deter employees from visiting pornographic websites while working as well as rejecting business expense reimbursement for adult entertainment, such as visiting a strip club. New Friends New Life believes these proactive measures help reduce the demand for sexual exploitation and trafficking of teen girls and women.
A Dallas-based occupational medicine physician, Dr. Melissa Tonn consults with companies on their occupational health programs as the president and chief medical officer of OccMD Group, P.A. Also a fellow of the International Academy of Independent Medical Evaluators, Dallas-based medical benefits manager Dr. Melissa Tonn has an interest in studying how social determinants impact health.
While many people think of health mainly as a current physical condition, a person’s overall health is influenced by a variety of factors in their environment, which are mostly out of their immediate control. Social determinants of health are conditions that contribute to either positive or negative health outcomes for an individual or community.
Examples of social determinants are the extent of someone’s social support network and their level of access to quality education and healthcare. Other social determinants impacting health are a person’s working and living conditions and the availability of community infrastructure to support health and safety. In addition to increasing funding for education and health programs, community leaders can improve public health by also addressing infrastructure needs like safe and reliable transportation, neighborhood security, and convenient access to healthy food and outdoor recreation opportunities.
A distinguished Dallas-area occupational medicine physician and healthcare executive, Melissa Tonn, MD, serves as the president and chief medical officer of OccMD Group, P.A. In addition to her professional work, Dr. Melissa Tonn devotes time and effort to improving conditions for the less fortunate, including by donating to Christ’s Family Clinic in Dallas.
For 16 years, Christ’s Family Clinic (CFC) has provided critical healthcare services to uninsured people of all backgrounds who have nowhere else to go. While many charity clinics only offer urgent care, CFC emphasizes comprehensive, preventive care and ongoing support for chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac conditions.
CFC strives to provide a safety net for Dallas’ working poor who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. Even with the Affordable Care Act, more than 30 million people still lack health insurance, including one in four Texans. Without any federal or state funding, the clinic relies solely on donations to serve those who fall into the insurance gap. Find out more at https://christsfamilyclinic.org.
A graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center, Melissa D. Tonn, MD, serves Dallas’ OccMD Group P.A. as the president and chief medical officer. Melissa D. Tonn, MD, has served on several boards, including the Texas Woman’s University Board of Regents, completing her 7 year tenure as the vice chair.
Texas Woman’s University (TWU) provides a number of services designed to financially support students who have been part of the foster-care system. The Education Training Voucher program is particularly impactful in this regard. Through the initiative, administered by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, individuals can receive grants in a wide range of important areas, from tuition and academic fees to assistance with child care. The program also helps students with transportation needs and significant expenses related to coursework, such as computers.
Additional kinds of financial support available through TWU include assistance in completing Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms, scholarships opportunities through the Pioneer Scholarship System, and emergency aid for adults who have aged out of foster care.
Dr. Melissa Tonn, an MD trained in occupational medicine and pain management, currently leads OccMD Group P.A. as the firm’s president and chief medical officer. She additionally holds an adjunct position at the University of Texas School of Public Health, and has also made many noteworthy community contributions. Dr. Melissa Tonn and her practice associates have spent several years supporting the anti-human trafficking nonprofit New Friends, New Life by “adopting” one or more families in need at the holiday season.
Experts point out that Christmas and other joyful holidays can be highly stressful and fraught with conflicting emotions for anyone who has been the victim of trauma. Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder may feel alienated from the happy experiences of others, or may become depressed.
But there are practices that family, friends, and caring individuals can use to lessen these negative feelings for someone who has been victimized. A few of these are described below.
Make sure to provide a place for the person to retreat to if additional private space is needed. To avoid embarrassment in front of others, it can also be helpful to agree on a signal that the person can use to indicate that they need help in making a graceful exit from an uncomfortable situation.
The person should understand that they have the right to refuse to discuss anything they don’t want to discuss. If they do want to talk about something that is bothering or upsetting them, listen non-judgmentally and acknowledge their experiences. Providing a sense of agency is key.
Dr. Melissa Tonn teaches population health as a clinical assistant professor at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin and serves as an occupational medicine physician in Dallas. In addition, Dr. Melissa Tonn is the vice chair of the Board of Regents of Texas Woman’s University, where she established the Melissa D. Tonn Emergency Fund for adults aging out of the foster care system.
Students aging out of the foster care system can encounter unexpected financial problems and life circumstances that make it difficult to continue to finance their education. The Emergency Fund offers financial assistance to these students, provided they meet all program requirements and remain in good academic standing. Qualifying emergencies range from homelessness and inadequate food supplies to significant uncovered medical expenses and cutoff of necessary utilities.
To qualify, students must be currently registered for at least nine credit hours and either plan to enroll or already be enrolled in the semester following their request for aid. In addition, they must provide documentation of the emergency. Funds do not cover routine expenses, and approved recipients receive emergency funding only once per academic year.
An experienced physician, Melissa D. Tonn, MD, specializes in musculoskeletal disorders, workers’ compensation and disability cases, and chronic regional pain syndrome.