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Dr. Mary AnnHopkins





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1963


Medical School

Harvard Medical School


Geography

LOCATION
New York


Career Path

Surgery
Education: Teaching
Dr. Mary AnnHopkins



Inspiration

The further I matured the more I realized that I needed to be more involved and engaged with the world and the health care crises that engulf so much of the world. When I was in college, I volunteered in orphanages in Southern India and Somalia with my younger sister. I was majoring in classics at the time, and subsequent to graduation, I got a master's of philosophy in the history and philosophy of medicine. My experiences in India and Somalia kept coming back into my thoughts. We had accompanied the children to the hospitals, lived in the special care center for physically, mentally, and emotionally challenged children, and even had some die in our arms. Experiences like that never leave you... I had applied only to medical schools with good schools of public policy or public health, thinking that I would work to develop medical schools and help establish strong programs of medical education in developing countries. Then I fell in love with surgery...and am now challenging myself to find how to reconcile those two goals.



Biography

Dr. Hopkins brings diverse interests in the arts and the sciences to her career in medicine. In her dual roles as assistant professor of surgery at New York University and attending surgeon at Bellevue Hospital Center-New York University Medical Center, she tries to instill in medical students and residents what it means to be a caring and compassionate physician.

Mary Ann Hopkins took the classical route to becoming a physician—by way of a master's degree in history and philosophy of medicine from King's College, Cambridge University. During her undergraduate years at Harvard, where she majored in classics (and graduated with high honors as a member of Phi Beta Kappa), she spent the summers of 1982, 1983, and 1984 working alongside her younger sister as a volunteer in the orphanages of southern India and Somalia. "My experiences [there] kept coming back into my thoughts," she recalls. "We had accompanied the children to the hospitals, lived in the special care center for physically, mentally, and emotionally challenged children, and some even died in our arms."

After earning her M.D. at Harvard Medical School in 1992, Dr. Hopkins took up a surgery residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center from 1992 to 1997, a fellowship in laparoscopic surgery at the Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery at White Plains, New York from 1997 to 1998, and was attending surgeon and assistant director of laparoscopic surgery at Staten Island University Hospital from 1998 to 1999.

Though her humanities education is now an enriching backdrop to her career as a surgeon, she continues to seek ways to integrate all her interests in her work. In her role as an assistant professor of surgery at New York University Medical Center since 1999, she strives to teach as much by example as by course curriculum: "I try to instill in the medical students and residents what it means to be a compassionate and caring physician example. I also try to show them that stereotypes no longer have a place in surgery—that you can enjoy modern dance and performance art and know nothing about sports—and still be a 'typical' surgeon." She has worked with Doctors Without Borders in Burundi in 1999 and Sri Lanka in 1996, in a war zone where she was the sole surgeon in a population of 500,000.

Though still only in her fourth year of practice, Dr. Hopkins is determined to combine her diverse experiences and education into a career that will make a difference: "My two major interests are in medical education and international health care, and I see them as two integral parts of a whole." Dr. Hopkins encourages medical students and residents to see that the "macho" surgeon is an outdated stereotype and that today's best doctors include people with a broad range of interests and talents. She volunteers with Doctors Without Borders, both as a surgeon and as a public speaker, to help raise awareness of global health care needs.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

None, I'm a bit head strong. Now I want to make surgery accessible to everyone based on their desire to be a surgeon so they don't reject surgery because of racial, sexual, or alternative lifestyle biases that have been prevalent in surgery.

How do I make a difference?

I run the clerkship for medical students at New York University (NYU). There I try to instill in the medical students and residents what it means to be a compassionate and caring physician (vs. a "macho" surgeon) by example. I also try to show them that stereotypes no longer have a place in surgery—that you can enjoy modern dance and performance art and know nothing about sports—and still be a "typical" surgeon.

I also work with Doctors Without Borders and do a lot of public speaking for them. Through my outreach, I try to expose doctors and lay people alike to the tremendous needs that exist in healthcare throughout the world. I hope to inspire students—high school, college, and medical school—to consider a career in public service and humanitarian areas.

Who was my mentor?

Mary Ellen Avery was my advisor in medical school. She discovered surfactant, an extremely important substance in the development of the lungs. She never had any doubt in herself and her intelligence. She once went out on a date with Jim Watson who was telling her about his work on DNA (before he became famous). He never asked her about what she did. Finally, she said something to the extent of "Well, enough about you. Let me tell you what I discovered...!" She was a real inspiration and both her (female) proteges that year went into surgery!

How has my career evolved over time?

Well, I'm only in my third/fourth year of practice, but I know where I want to go. My two major interests are in medical education and international health care, and I see them as two integral parts of a whole. For me NYU has shown itself to be the perfect place. The department of surgery has a new chairman who has made education the keystone of his stewardship and in that vein, has supported and encouraged my endeavors in education beyond what I could have hoped. One of the senior associate deans is extremely interested in international health care and has put me on the planning committee of the Institute of Urban and Global Health.



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