Newsletter Winter 2023

Northeastern Spotlight

Winter 2023 Volume 18

TB Limelight – Anna Hippchen, DNP

“Caring is the essence of nursing.” —Jean Watson

True to this quote is Anna C. Hippchen, DNP, who is currently the TB Nurse Lead in the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Growing up in upstate New York, Anna always knew she wanted to find a meaningful way to serve people. Her journey to the medical world started at Emory University where she studied biology while working as a teaching assistant in an anatomy and physiology lab. During one of these labs, she had the opportunity to discuss with a friend about her mother’s work as a nurse. Anna, who felt that that her academic plan was already mapped out, said out loud that if she had a “do over,” she would go to nursing school. Her professor, Dr. Steve Baker, overheard this and after establishing her sincerity, helped her map out her courses. Anna completed her Bachelor of Science degree in biology and the nursing school prerequisites in 3 years, and enrolled in the Emory School of Nursing.

Fresh out of nursing school, Anna worked the night shift at St. Joseph’s Emergency Department in Atlanta, gaining frontline nursing experience. She worked with an incredible team that helped each other and was good at mentoring a new graduate. This was the setting for a major “aha” moment for her. One evening, a physician called her over to the light box and showed an X-ray with old rib fractures and a collapsed lung. The patient was treated for TB in the pre-antibiotic era with an artificial pneumothorax. The reaction of those around the patient was memorable to Anna. Providers began to pull back once TB was mentioned despite the patient having TB decades prior. Anna was struck with the presentation of the disease, the emotional reaction around it, and the history written on the person’s x-ray. During this time, she was also reading the works of Dr. Paul Farmer. Like so many people in TB, she was deeply inspired by his example. Years later, she was thrilled to have the chance to meet Dr. Farmer at a TB conference and was able to share the impact that his book, Pathologies of Power, had on her.

After years at St. Joseph’s, Anna wanted to put her nursing skills to work outside of U.S and pursue a new challenge. She signed up for a volunteer opportunity with Care Corps International in Ayacucho, Peru. One of the projects was supporting TB surveillance in a local prison facility. Another project was working in a rural health post. Anna’s time in Peru was eye opening, and one of those world expanding moments. She grappled with the structural inequalities that she knew she benefited from in the Global North and how to move forward with that knowledge. This experience led her to realize she wanted to do this work more seriously,  but she felt that she needed more training. Anna felt as though she did not have a complete ‘toolkit,’ since illnesses such as TB and malaria are only briefly addressed in U.S. nursing education. So she enrolled in the Diploma of Tropical Nursing program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Anna then worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on projects in South Sudan, Uganda, Nepal, and Turkmenistan, and cared for many people with TB. “It was hard work but it was good work. The wins push you forward,” Anna emphasizes. She knew she had found her niche.

Anna then pursued a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at the University of Washington’s School of Nursing.  The program, under the leadership of Dr. Terri Simpson, was unique in having a specialty focus in infectious disease for nurse practitioners. She was also the grateful recipient of the Firland Foundation’s Graduate Pulmonary Nursing fellowship, recognizing commitment to the care of people with TB. Anna also worked at the Snohomish Health District working with a strong team of nurses in the TB control and refugee health program. These nurses and the TB medical consultant, Dr. Chris Spitters, were instrumental in her TB and public health training.

Thereafter, a friend suggested she apply for a nurse practitioner position at RISE, a state-supported RISE TB clinic at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. Anna drove across the country with her husband and 13-month-old son and ended up working at RISE for 9 ½ years. She enjoyed that the RISE clinic was a patient-centered, team environment. She loved the feeling when people would safely and successfully complete their TB treatment. She also enjoyed being able to help overcome patients’ fears and anxiety and educating them about TB. A patient may be in crisis at first, but you can reassure them that they can receive the treatment they need, and they will get better. Anna felt that the RISE TB clinic was a very welcoming and hospitable environment in assisting patients who had sociocultural barriers to care. She was working at RISE during the COVID-19 pandemic as TB professionals everywhere were called on to serve in various capacities. She is proud of all the hats everyone at RISE wore to keep systems operating, and doors open for patients. Anna was also pleased that her skills were utilized at her children’s school during the pandemic when she was part of its re-opening committee.  

Her colleague, Jill Lamantia, who was the TB Program Nurse at the Rhode Island (RI) Department of Health, shared some of her memorable moments with Anna. “As the TB program nurse at the RI Department of Health, I had the pleasure of working with Anna for several years. Her extensive knowledge of TB disease made her an outstanding navigator and advocate for patients with tuberculosis.  Anna not only provided clinical care at the RISE TB clinic, but she was also always available to assist me in the community for complex cases.”

After working in the RISE Clinic, Anna decided to move to a different setting and joined the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as the TB Nurse Lead. It’s a very different role from her previous position as a direct care provider, but she loves her team and finding new ways to serve. Anna thinks it is an exciting time to be in TB right now with lots of vitality in the field. She stated that she loves the TB spirit of “whatever it takes,” and thrives off the creativity and energy of her coworkers. “Folks who go into TB go in with their heads and their hearts, and with a commitment to care,” says Anna. She’s also excited to see more nurse practitioners joining the TB field, who can bring an understanding of comprehensive TB nurse case management to their clinical practice.

When Anna is not working, she likes to cook and bake, and spend time with her family, including her two young children. She loves to take walks in the woods and around coastal New England, and has kayaking and gardening on her bucket list of new pursuits to explore. Anna feels so grateful to have found a home in the TB field, and with her fellow TB teams.