The New York Minute

Interview Series: Meet Your Remarkable New York Neighbors

The Surgeon

Paul & Vince would like to welcome to the conversation Mary Ann Hopkins, MD of New York University School of Medicine.
No one will tell you this, but surgery is very arts and craftsy, in a way…Surgery is technically sewing. It’s a fantastic field because it’s very hands-on, and you have this crazy deep bond with your patients…more than in other fields, and it’s amazing.

At NYU, Mary Ann oversees all of the clerkship years at New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine as the Director of Education of the Clinical Sciences. She is also the director of global health initiatives, overseeing education and projects for medical students in Global Health. She is a nationally recognized leader and was elected to the prestigious Academy of Master Surgeon Educators in the American College of Surgeons.


Paul & Vince: How did you come to be in New York City in your current career?

Mary Ann: I became a New Yorker because I did my residence here. I went to high school, college, and medical school in Boston. I spent a year in England at Cambridge. And then, I arrived in New York for my residency, thinking this would be cool for a year, then I’ll return to Boston. And then the second I hit New York, I felt, wow, I’m going to be a lifelong New Yorker! [Laughs]

This was 1992, and when you’re a resident, you work a hundred hours a week; it was crazy. So, having your laundry picked up and delivered, you could have a bagel and coffee delivered…It was my idea of heaven. It was like a miracle to me. And I love the energy, noise, and diversity of the city. I was on the Upper East Side, but now in Chelsea. I love it.


Paul & Vince: So, what does a typical day on the job look like for you?

Mary Ann: As you know, I’m a full professor of surgery at NYU. And I do clinical work as well. So, I see patients in the office Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday and Friday are earlier days; I’m in scrubs and my white coat, and I operate. And then my academic day is Wednesday. I’m the director of Global Health Initiatives, which runs a program for medical students. That includes the international health program, where we send first-year students worldwide to do locally relevant research in a particular global context. We send students to Latin America, Africa, to Asia.

Paul & Vince: And you developed new training for young surgeons.

Mary Ann: Yes, several years ago, I designed these multimedia modules that use animation, live surgery, and video to create a simulated patient-doctor encounter, so students can learn what master clinicians do. We’re now expanding into a module of an on-call experience. And these modules are now used in over 180 schools throughout the United States.


Paul & Vince: Could you tell us something people don’t realize about your work?

Mary Ann: Well, no one will tell you this, but surgery is very arts and craftsy, in a way…Surgery is technically sewing. It’s a fantastic field because it’s very hands-on, and you have this crazy deep bond with your patients…I think you end up with this really deep bond with people, more than in other fields, and it’s amazing. I love surgery.

Paul & Vince: But of course, you must deal with a lot of life and death.

Mary Ann: Of course, the life and death stuff is very hard. And as you know, I’ve been involved in Doctors Without Borders for a long time, even before their 1999 Nobel Prize, and when you’re in a war zone, bad things are going to happen.

You can get people so far in surgery, but then there may be no ICUs. There’s no blood bank. I remember once in Sri Lanka, I had a twelve-year-old girl as a patient, and the surgery went great, but, you know, she ended up dying due to disease. I was a basket case, a total mess. But witnessing cases like that is a large part of my commitment to Global Health.


Paul & Vince: Wow! So, when you have downtime, what are your favorite things to do in New York? You certainly deserve time off from your work.

Mary Ann: On the weekends, I’ve taken up pottery classes, which is my new favorite thing to do, and I love the people in my pottery group. I love biking. I bike to work every day. And my husband and I love restaurants, like Perry Steet in Greenwich Village, which must be my favorite place in the whole world.

Paul & Vince: And we heard you like it so much you had your wedding there?

Mary Ann: Yes, we got married there! The general manager there, Daniel, is so great, he planned everything. So, yes so many great things all around. I guess you could say New York is still a miracle place to me after all this time.

…and one more, Just For Fun

Paul & Vince: Now it’s time for our Just For Fun question. What’s a hidden talent you have that most people would find surprising?

Mary Ann: Ah! Well, I love dancing; I’ve taken hip-hop dance classes at Alvin Ailey. I love it! I break out some moves at work in my scrubs, and everyone cracks up…the nurses and the residents. I even teach it to them sometimes.

Paul & Vince: Really? That’s hilarious. Do you have any favorite musical artists?

Mary Ann: It’s funny because my residents say they love my playlists. It’ll have some Lizzo, some hip-hop stuff, some Jay-Z, and stuff like that, too—a lot of alternative rock. Good music is calming when I’m in surgery.

Paul & Vince: That’s good that the surgeon’s calm after dancing off the stress! 

Mary Ann: Exactly! [Laughs]

Original artwork by Jolisa Robinson, Gavriani-Falcone Team Marketing

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