As a child, Elisabeth “Lisa” Hesse ’05 used to think: “Doctors in the Army have exciting jobs, where they chase around these really cool diseases.”
Fast forward to present day and Hesse is now one of those doctors – and she still thinks her job is pretty cool.
During her time at Hiram, where she studied biology and biomedical humanities, Hesse participated in an internship that took her all the way to Haiti. Through her weeklong research project abroad, she experienced a great deal and affirmed her childhood aspirations.
“That trip really showed me about the importance of public health and hygiene, and how improving those does more to make people healthy than giving out pills all day,” Hesse said.
After graduating with a double major, Hesse immediately went to The Ohio State University and received her medical degree in 2009. Most recently, she received her master’s degree in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2011 from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
This degree has led her to her current job as a Battalion Surgeon for the Army in Global Health in the 82nd Civil Affairs Battalion.
Hesse’s decision to join the Army was multi-faceted. For one, she always had a fascination for a career in disease outbreaks with the Center for Disease Control or in the Army. In addition, there was the financial aspect and the opportunity to serve her country.
“The Army is one of the biggest players in global health, and there aren’t too many organizations that do what the Army does for public health abroad,” Hesse said.
Because of her background, Hesse was asked to assist with public health and infectious disease missions in Africa. While on a mission, Hesse works with military doctors and nurses from the country to increase public health in their military. She also works in clinics and teaches academic classes.
Hesse has already spent some time in the Democratic Republic of Congo and will continue to travel to Africa and South America over the summer.
Hesse said that her time at Hiram prepared her in a number of ways for what she is doing today.
“One of the most important things I do in my job is communicate, and Hiram helped teach me how to communicate with people of all levels,” Hesse said. “Whether I am speaking to a patient who knows rudimentary English or to a two star general, I have to communicate in a way that I can be understood, but not condescending.”
Her advice to current Hiram College students is as follows:
To all students: “Take a class you don’t think you’ll enjoy — history, religious studies, biology, whatever — It’ll end up opening your mind and changing the way you think about things, if you let it.”
To pre-med students: “Listen to your pre-med adviser’s advice (it is what they are there for), do mock interviews with professors before you go to a real interview, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in right away. Also, experience makes you interesting, so don’t be afraid to get some.”