Dr. Melvyn Schaff, a longtime Northern Westchester pediatrician who also served as the medical director for the Lakeland, Hendrick Hudson and Peekskill school districts, died Oct. 3 from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 74.
Born May 19, 1949, Dr. Schaff received his medical degree in 1977 and became Chief Pediatric Resident at Westchester Medical Center. He later served on the faculty at Westchester Medical College.
When a group of local pediatricians split up and moved their individual practices out of Peekskill, Dr. Schaff decided to buy the practice and remain in the city. He also practiced at the former Hudson Valley Hospital Center and Westchester Medical Center.
Carol Bumbolow, a retired school nurse from Walter Panas High School and St. Columbanus School, worked part-time for Dr. Schaff for years and said, “His diagnostic skills were unparalleled and his clinical judgement excelled as well.”
“In his practice he cared for the kids as if they were his own,” Bumbolow stated. “He was calm, compassionate, wise and intuitive. His knowledge base astounded me. He said he felt strongly that the children of the city deserved a good medical practice and consequently cared for many children who were not privileged as well as those from somewhat more affluent families. He cared for all with equal dedication.”
As medical director for the three school districts, Bumbolow said Dr. Schaff was instrumental in establishing best practices that adhered strictly to NYSED guidelines and provided the students with every opportunity to pursue education in a healthful environment.
“He was immediately accessible to all the school nurses to advise and support us,” she said. “He also was able to establish rapport with even the most difficult children as well as their parents so that we could depend upon him to intervene in difficult situations. He was a tireless advocate for all children with special needs.”
Bumbolow said Dr. Schaff was an innovator and a meticulous rule follower. In an effort to help school nurses and the residents at the Medical Center explore and implement best practices, Dr. Schaff began the very popular “Dine Around.”
“The nurses in all his districts joined medical students and residents at tables and specialists in a variety of pediatric medical practices would spend 20 minutes at each table before moving on to the next,” she explained. “The opportunity to discuss problems while always maintaining confidentiality was invaluable. To the benefit of the children we served, school nurses throughout our area developed strong professional relationships with pediatric specialist we never would have had access to otherwise.”
In addition, Dr. Schaff enjoyed mentoring students from the Medical Center and would give opportunities to high school students interested in medical or nursing careers to work in his office.
Dr. Schaff is survived by his wife of 43 years, Adriana, his son Peter of Peekskill, and his brother Craig of Montrose, Colorado.
A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held at Curry & Giordano Funeral Home in Peekskill, on Monday October 16, from 3 to 7 p.m.
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