By Crystal Hayduk
[This is the fourth story in the Willard H. Johnson Scholarship recipient series. Related story here: https://chelseaupdate.com/pay-it-forward-principle-21-years-and-counting-of-willard-h-johnson-scholarships/]
Emily Hogikyan works long shifts as a pediatric medical resident at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. She always knew she’d be putting in extended hours, but whether those hours would be spent in education or in medicine was the question she couldn’t answer until partway through her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan (U-M).
Hogikyan’s parents were her earliest and most important source of her inspiration. Her mother, Patricia Hogikyan, has served the Chelsea community as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital since 1996. Her father, Norman Hogikyan, is a U-M doctor specializing in otolaryngology.
“Both of my parents found a lot of satisfaction and felt like they were doing valuable work in health care,” she said. “Even when it was hard, they knew they were helping people and that helped them keep going.”
With her future career plans undecided, the 2010 Saline High School graduate majored in both history and biology at U-M. “I landed on medicine partway through college after shadowing Dr. Eric Skye, a family medicine primary care doctor in Chelsea,” she said. “I liked that he did a lot of education with his patients in addition to the medicine.”
In 2014, Hogikyan spent a year working for City Year Chicago, an AmeriCorps program. “I wanted life and work experience that was education focused,” she said.
Hogikyan worked with small groups of students at an elementary school during the day, and ran an afterschool program. Most of the students she worked with were financially disadvantaged or children of immigrants. “Working with the children was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about getting to know people and helping them make and reach their goals,” she said. Whether the goal was to pay attention in class or memorize multiplication tables, Hogikyan said it was rewarding to see the children’s excitement about how far their hard work would take them.
“That experience solidified my decision about pediatrics, and it’s helping me to be a better doctor because I learned about kids and their lives—about meeting people where they are. Working in education taught me those things better than anything I learned in medical school.”
Hogikyan remembers her AmeriCorps service fondly, not only for the educational experience, but also for the personal connections—most importantly meeting teacher Thaddeus Chatto, whom she married last year, after receiving her medical doctorate degree from U-M.
The couple returned to Chicago last summer, when Hogikyan began her pediatric residency (scheduled to complete in 2022) and Chatto began a graduate program in public policy at the University of Chicago.
“Before the world shut down, we enjoyed exploring the city,” said Hogikyan. “Now we go on walks.”
So far, Hogikyan believes she’s been “shielded from the worst” of COVID-19 because the number of cases in young children has been lower than in adults. The pandemic has led to different challenges for primary care pediatricians, though. “I’ve had to work pretty hard to get parents to bring in their babies and children for well visits and vaccines,” she said. “We want as many kids as possible to get their vaccines on time, especially the babies. It’s kind of scary.
“If the child was under two years of age, or if there were vaccines due, we wanted to keep appointments, but the parents didn’t want to come. For less urgent visits, we did phone or video visits or rescheduled them.”
Pediatricians are still catching up with appointments missed since March, all with the expectation that managing the upcoming flu season will be another challenge, she said.
Hogikyan credits a number of mentors and others who took the time to talk with her about her interests, show her their work, and guide her as she made education and career decisions. She said she would encourage young people to “…reach out and be open to learning from all kinds of people along the way.”
Through her mom’s employment, Hogikyan was eligible for the Willard H. Johnson scholarship, which also helped her as she’s pursued her goals. “Kind people like Mr. Johnson will help young people in more tangible ways,” she said.
“I have a lot of gratitude for all the people who helped me get here and I hope I can give back to others who are interested in this field or to kids in general as they figure out what they want to do and who they want to be,” she said.