Heeralal, new director for Age Friendly


Melanie Heeralal, a 24 year old from East Rockaway, is the first full-time director of Glen Cove’s Age-Friendly Program. Her journey to this role reflects a deep-seated passion for healthcare, community engagement and public health.
When Heeralal was 10 she was exposed to the healthcare environment when her father pursued a medical degree. She loved watching him navigate through his studies. His approach to learning greatly captivated her interest and helped her explore a potential career in healthcare.
“His way of studying was teaching me what he was learning in school,” Heeralal said. “I really was interested in all of the science and everything he was learning. He saw it as a great opportunity for me to see if this is something I really wanted to do as a career.”
Heeralal’s journey of service began at 14, when accompanying her father to Northwell Health at Long Island Jewish Hospital in New Hyde Park, where he worked as a surgical technologist. Amidst the sterile halls and bustling operating rooms she spent her summers volunteering eight-hour days, roughly three times a week. As a reward for finishing her clerical work, Heeralal sometimes got to sit in operating rooms during surgeries. Volunteering alongside her father, she was captivated by the intricate dance of medicine, the stories etched in each surgery, and the profound impact of healthcare on people’s lives.
In the summer of 2019, Heeralal transitioned from being a volunteer student to fully shadowing surgeries, further deepening her understanding and experience in the medical field.

Heeralal’s academic background is diverse and rich. She pursued a bachelor’s in criminology with triple minors in biochemistry, forensic science, and Spanish at Hofstra University. During her undergraduate years, Heeralal transitioned from a biology major to the pre-med track, drawn by her fascination with understanding human behavior, which led her to major in criminology.
“I thought that was so interesting at the time, because criminology is really understanding why people do the things that they do in the world and what makes them do those things,” Heeralal said. “I thought that could be applicable even in medicine, because it’s a behavioral science.”
The coronavirus pandemic piqued her interest in public health, which brought her back to Hofstra to study public health as a graduate student. She was particularly inspired by the concept of public health’s role in ensuring equitable access to healthcare and health education for all individuals, regardless of socio-economic background or age.
“Public health is where everyone in a community, no matter what size of that community, everyone has equitable access to health care, and health education,” Heeralal said. “It doesn’t matter your background, your socioeconomic status, your age, none of those things should define whether or not you have access to adequate health care, or the knowledge to make better health decisions for yourself. That’s what public health should be advocating for.”
Carol Waldman, the Age-Friendly liaison to Nassau County and the former director of the Glen Cove Senior Center, said even though Heeralal’s background is not in age- friendly work, she innately understands the need for communities to thrive through an age-friendly lens.
“I love her desire to connect with the community, and I really think she’s the right person at the right time,” Waldman said. “Having her be available full time is going to make all the difference in terms of getting a lot of the initiatives that we began off the ground and soaring.”
In her new role as the director of Glen Cove’s Age-Friendly Program, Heeralal aims to enhance socialization and resource accessibility for seniors and their caregivers within the Glen Cove community. She plans to expand existing programs such as time banking and “Walk with a Doc” to foster community engagement and bridge the gap between seniors and healthcare services.
“I find that a lot of young people tend to forget that just because someone is older doesn’t mean that they don’t have aspirations and things that they want to do,” Heeralal said. “I think that’s what drew me to this position because I get to have an impact. We’re involving not just senior populations, but their families, their caregivers, and other people in the community. Age doesn’t matter. You can still have fun, you should still be able to do things and enjoy life, enjoy what you’re doing every day.”