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Dartmouth Medical School Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Vital Signs

Clinical Observation

In this section, we highlight the human side of clinical academic medicine, putting a few questions to a physician at DMS-DHMC.

Kay Hillinger, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine

Hillinger specializes in allergy medicine and clinical immunology. She has a particular interest in urticaria (hives) and allergic rhinitis. She has been on the DMS faculty since 2003.

When did you decide to become a physician?
In 1969, when I was a second-year college student. I had a summer job in the microbiology lab at the local hospital in my hometown of Monroe, La. Women physicians were a minority then (less than 10% of the students in my medical school class were female). I remember being asked during my medical school interview if, in my third year of school, I decided to get married whether I'd continue medical school or drop out. It's unthinkable to imagine that question being asked today.

What's the last movie you saw?
The King's Speech. I'm interested in English history, especially during the World War II era, and I thought it was a great story. It's about a man who never expected to be king and how he was able to overcome a speech impediment so he could do radio broadcasts to his people during that awful time.

If you invented a time machine, where would you go?
To London in 1940 during the Battle of Britain. There was such a courageous, united effort on the part of the British people during that time to keep the enemy from occupying their island.

What three people would you like to have over for dinner?
Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, and Leonardo da Vinci, all of whom I admire very much.

Do you use Twitter, Facebook, or other social media?
I do use Facebook, mainly to keep up with my family, all of whom live far from here. As to my impression of it, I'll put it this way: I'm glad Facebook wasn't around when my daughter was in high school.

What do family and friends give you a hard time about?
Not being very computer literate. I had never used a computer before coming to DHMC except to send an occasional e-mail. It was quite a learning curve for me.

Finish this sentence: If I had more time I would . . .
Travel and read more. I love to read and enjoy books and short stories about New Orleans and the rest of the South. Although not set in the South, one of my favorite books is Grapes of Wrath. I also enjoy books about animals.

What music is in your CD player or on your iPod now?
Mostly jazz, classical, and rock. I've always liked classical music, especially Bach and Mozart—I took piano and violin lessons for several years. Rock music, especially of the '60s and '70s, reminds me of my high school, college, and medical school years. I was a big fan of the Beatles and Stones (who wasn't then?). When I moved to New Orleans to attend medical school, I heard music by some of the best musicians anywhere—R&B, gospel, brass bands, Dixieland, jazz, the list goes on. I also think Cajun and zydeco music are great.

What is your most memorable accomplishment?
Becoming a physician. It's really the only career I ever seriously considered. On the personal side, raising a wonderful daughter with many talents and accomplishments.

What do you think makes for a successful physician?
Taking the time to listen to patients and using that information in formulating the diagnosis and treatment plan.

What was your first paying job?
Cataloguing books in my high school library.


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