Cutthroat Q&A: Hannah Hennessy '08

Hannah Hennessy '08 grew up in the Wood River Valley in a family committed to community service and joined Community School in sixth grade. Her interest in service learning was fueled by opportunities to give back and engage with a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and efforts throughout her years at Community School, a factor, she says, in her decision to ultimately pursue a career in international health.

Hannah graduated from Middlebury College in 2012 with degrees in international studies and education. After completing public health internships in Uganda, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, she went on to work for the international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders. She served the organization in an administrative role in their New York office, as well as in field projects in Liberia and Nigeria. Having recently made the decision to apply to medical school, Hannah is looking forward to further exploring her passion for both service and medicine in a career as a physician. Here, she answers a few questions about the impact of service learning experiences at Community School, her career experience, and her plans for the future.

Can you describe your involvement with service learning at Community School?

At Community School, I was involved in community service beginning in sixth grade. In high school, I was a member of the community service leadership team and participated in a variety of activities.

Were there specific organizations, efforts, or faculty members that had an especially significant impact on your desire to pursue service opportunities when you were a Middle or Upper School student?

[Former Community School History teacher] Chris McAvoy was very influential throughout my high school career. He encouraged me to pursue my passions when it came to service during the school year and during the summers. He was also very helpful when I was designing my senior project, during which I traveled to Brazil to teach in the favelas.

What do you feel is unique about service learning at Community School?

At Community School, we were able to explore different areas through service to help us find our passions.  I discovered that I loved working with kids and coaching, so I was able to do that as one of my service projects.

How do you feel your career in international health reflects your passion for service?

My passion for service is rooted in my interest in connecting with and learning from people from different backgrounds. My career in international health has taken me all over the world and exposed me to so many cultures, people, and humanitarian issues.  I am so glad I was able to take my passion for service and health and turn it into a career. 

What do you find most rewarding or inspiring about your chosen career?

My favorite part of my career is the people that I get to work and interact with on a daily basis. The patients and their stories are so inspiring. The national staff of Doctors without Borders is so committed to their work and community, and the international staff members are some of the most genuine and interesting people I have ever met. 

As you head toward medical school, what are your career aspirations and your goals for continuing a life of service?

As a physician, I plan to continue my work with Doctors Without Borders in a different role, in the field, as well as work domestically. I will definitely continue in this line of work after I finish school.