Where Are They Now? A Conversation with Past HCIF Intern Michaela Hitchner

April 22, 2022

As part of our “Where Are They Now?” series featuring past interns, HCIF was excited to interview Michaela Hitchner, MD/MPH candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. Michaela was an intern with HCIF during the spring and summer of 2020. She supported HCIF’s health literacy activities in the Immigrant Health Literacy Initiative as a Navigation Data Project Intern. During her fieldwork, Michaela worked with project partner Global Wordsmiths to craft a unique data inquiry to better understand the experience of medical interpreters in the Pittsburgh area.

Currently, in addition to pursuing a dual degree, she also works on a podcast called Med Legs: Finding Your Footing As A First Generation and/or Low Income Student in Medicine.


Please share your current position/educational pursuits.

I am in medical school at the Perelman School of Medicine, and I will be graduating in 2024 with a dual MD/MPH degree, both from the University of Pennsylvania. I plan on applying into plastic surgery for residency.

I was a global health major in undergrad at Georgetown University, and I appreciate the way my global health background has shaped my perspective on patient interactions and health promotion narratives. I decided to pursue the dual MD/MPH degree to continue building on these skills. I am looking forward to bridging my interests in public health and plastic surgery over the next two years, though I must admit I am still ironing out what this may look like.


What did you find most valuable about your experience working with HCIF? What was something you learned from your internship with us? 

I loved how collaborative my internship with HCIF was, especially during a time when we were 100% virtual. The weekly meetings with other interns as well as Kelsey, Jibreel, and Susan were invaluable to my learning in terms of bouncing ideas off each other and incorporating these into my own project. These meetings made me feel extremely supported and like a real part of the HCIF team. It also gave me an example of what a well-structured internship experience looks like (and was even an example of the sort of work environment I’d like to have), which will help me when seeking future opportunities in my career.


If we were to check back in with you in 5 years, where would you like to be?

In 5 years I’d like to be halfway through my integrated plastic surgery residency. Right now just getting into a plastic surgery residency seems like a HUGE accomplishment, so I haven’t thought too much about other things I’d like to be doing and could realistically accomplish as a surgical resident. I’d probably like to create some resource for first generation and/or low-income medical students considering surgical residencies. I’ve always thought there are a lot of unwritten rules in medicine that students are not privy to if they do not know someone in medicine who has had similar experiences. I like mentoring students with similar backgrounds as me, and I would have really appreciated some sort of guide to medical school for the aspiring surgeon.


Tell us about Med Legs! What is the goal of the podcast and why is it important to you? 

Med Legs is a podcast created by three first generation and/or low-income (FGLI) medical students at the Perelman School of Medicine. On this podcast, we share our experiences and those of other FGLI individuals in medicine. These can range from discussing imposter syndrome, the barriers we’ve faced in applying to medical school and feeling like we belong in medical school, or simply what to expect about different parts of medical school since a lot of times these are not things individuals know if they do not hear it from other individuals in medicine. The goal is to create a community of support for other FGLI individuals who are considering or actively pursuing a career in medicine. This podcast is important to me because it is essentially a compilation of things I wish I knew. I felt like I spent a lot of my time in higher education having meetings with multiple individuals who all gave me completely different answers about the best path for me and my future. While there is obviously no one best path for anyone, it was extremely frustrating and isolating to feel like I did not know what to expect in terms of how to get into medical school and now how to get into a competitive residency. I enjoy creating a resource for others who may be in my shoes.


To reach out to Michaela, email her.

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