Why did you want to become a doctor?
Dr. Hightower’s desire to become a doctor started during college when she had received a scholarship to study abroad in Kenya, Africa. She had not been outside the United States nor had she been exposed to such extreme poverty. “The quality of life is very different” Dr. Hightower stated. She compares herself to a young Kenyan woman who had been carrying a child on her back, wood, and a jug of water on her head walking in the Serengeti. She realized that she was extremely fortunate and had “so many opportunities that many-don’t have”. She knew at that moment she wanted to be a doctor to “help alleviate suffering”. She became passionate about addressing healthcare disparities and social determinants.
Who encouraged you or mentored you on your way to becoming a doctor?
Many people have mentored Dr. Hightower on her way to becoming a doctor. She recalls a middle school and high school pipeline program called the “Partnership Program ” through UC Berkeley. She was paired with a counselor named Coleman that helped answer all of her questions regarding the college application process and even helped her find an honors math tutor when she needed it. He was always cheering for her and there as a resource and support system. Dr. Hightower applauds the program recognizing that this program didn’t let her fall through the cracks. The “Partnership Program” allowed her to apply herself and follow her big dreams.
In medical school, her faculty sponsor at the University of Rochester much like the “Partnership Program”, was there from beginning to end, he was there to nominate her to give the “White Coat Ceremony” speech for the incoming class.
Lastly, she mentions Dr. Lori Wan who helped to guide her through her residency at UC San Diego. Dr. Wan helped Dr. Hightower become the best resident she could be and saw great potential. Through Dr. Wan’s nomination Dr. Hightower won an award for being the best resident at UC San Diego.
She recognizes how fortunate she has been to have a great support system and states that she still continues to seek that support through colleagues today.
In what way do you think BPOU will benefit utah?
Dr. Hightower believes BPOU will be able to provide that same level of support that she was able to receive. She states, “Sometimes it’s just not clear what the pathway is and having that concentrated support(BPOU) where, we’ve been there, we know what the journey is like. We know where the doors can be opened and where they can be difficult to navigate and to be able to provide that(knowledge) to the next generation and the current physicians that are here in our community. So that no one feels alone, so everyone feels supported and able to do the best work for the people of Utah.”