Dr. Melissa M. Freeman is a 91-year-old medical doctor on the front lines of the fight against the opioid epidemic. According to experts, as of March 2018, more than two million Americans have become dependent on or abused prescription pain pills and street drugs.
Freeman finished medical school in 1955. She has practised medicine since 1961 and isn’t ready to retire anytime soon. “A little ache, yes, but other than that, I don’t feel that I’m my age,” she says.
She specializes in internal medicine and has dedicated her time to tackling the opioid epidemic.
“I’ve had friends who say, ‘What are you doing? Why are you working in that field treating addiction? Somebody has to do it, and not enough people are doing it,” she explains.
Freeman’s first love was music but she ultimately pursued music. Today, she sees patients in her office uptown and still rides the subway and buses.
Freeman is a Bronx native and the granddaughter of a slave in Virginia. Her maternal grandfather, Albert B. Walker, was separated from his mother at the age of 7. After the Emancipation of Proclamation, he was told he could return to his mother. He later moved north to New York City, where Freeman’s parents eventually bought the home in the Williamsburg section of the Bronx where she grew up.
She says she’s not ready for retirement.
“It’s been a nice journey. I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” Freeman says.