Resident Spotlight: Dr. Hilary Elom

Get to know Dr. Hilary Elom, PGY-II internal medicine resident, public health graduate, and Captain in the US Army National Guard.

Tell us about you.

I was born in Nigeria where I spent most of my formative years and eventually graduated from Ebonyi State University College of Health Sciences. I moved to Tennessee in 2016 for graduate school at the East Tennessee State University where  I obtained a masters in public health (MPH); I did enjoy living in the home of country music! Following completion of my MPH, I moved to California where I worked as infection preventionist before enlisting in the US Army National Guard as a combat medic. I started my military career in Fort Sill, Oklahoma where I completed army basic training before proceeding to Fort Sam in Houston, Texas  for Advanced individualized training (AIT). After my AIT, I was posted to the 330th Military Police Unit in California where I served until the commencement of my residency training here in Mississippi. I have recently been commissioned and promoted to the rank of Captain.

Why did you choose UMMC for residency?

Well, I would say that my motivation for choosing UMMC for residency is multifactorial. First, I wanted to enjoy the southern hospitality, which was apparent on my first day of the interview; Seth, Lucas, and Miles, just to mention a few, really made the pre-interview night memorable. Other factors were from my internet search. I am sure many people do not know that the first heart transplant in the world was done in UMMC,  but this caught my attention. Somehow, I knew that UMMC was the right institution that would mold me into a great physician. Sure, I knew because, out of all the places I interviewed, UMMC was the only program that devoted time to talk about point of care ultrasound, and the only program that had zero percent central line-associated bloodstream infection that year. Yes, I heard it during Dr. Thigpen’s presentation, and I was like ‘wow!!!’, this is where I want to be.

Tell us about a memorable experience from training.

Hmmm! My first rotation, night float, and the sound of a pager. It was one of my most memorable rotations as an intern. I could still recall the events of almost every night, but one that stood out was a ‘page’ for GI bleeding. It was my second week of residency and my first GI bleed case as a resident. I arrived at the room, the nurse at the patient side, called, Dr! “Mr.X had gone to the toilet earlier and had pooped blood. It’s big”. On calling the patient’s name, his response was sluggish, and his blood pressure was becoming ‘soft’. I remember asking the nursing staff to lower the head of the patient bed, and another staff to start IV fluid and get additional wide bore IV access, while I called my upper level. Within a minute, my upper level was around and the rapid response team was called; the patient was transfused emergently and transferred to the MICU. It was a good learning point for me and central to it was the teamwork and realizing the important roles of every member of the team. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to interns?

One piece of advice I would give to an intern is to ‘know your patient’. Understand that your patient is your family, try to learn what is going on with them, know their ‘pathophysiology and their ‘sociopathology’, and treat them the way you would like to be treated.

What could you give a presentation on with absolutely no preparation?

Ask me how to prepare a Nigerian delicacy ‘jollof rice’ and I will give you a concise road map to making the best delicacy in Africa. I know Ghanaians will argue with me on this.

How has COVID-19 changed the way you practice medicine? Well, I used to work as an infection preventionist prior to starting my residency. I knew the drill: wash your hands in and out, don and doff your gown properly, wear a mask. That was easy. What was not easy was watching patients fight through mechanical ventilation in the ICU for days and weeks, talking to their family members everyday explaining what’s going on, and breaking bad news to their loved ones that they could not visit. I asked myself, what else could I do? I make sure I speak to my patients about the importance of COVID vaccine and I encourage them to get vaccinated.  

What are some small things that make your day better?

Family is everything, getting to hear from them means a lot, except when they are yelling at me. Also, the  satisfaction that comes with your patient returning your smile with an even bigger smile. This fulfills my day.

Where could we find you when you are not at the hospital?

If I am not in the hospital, I could be on my bed chatting with friends on WhatsApp. If I am not in my house, look for me somewhere at the reservoir in Brandon, my favorite spot for relaxation. On a free weekend, I am either doing military stuff or I am at the nearest sandy beach sunbathing.

What profession would you have chosen if you weren’t a physician?

If I wasn’t a physician or in the military, my back up career was to be a pilot.

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