People of the U: Hanna Broome
Published on Monday, February 20, 2023
By: Andrea Wright Dilworth, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos By: Joe Ellis/ UMMC Communications
Dr. Hanna Broome so loved teaching at Mississippi College that she thought she’d retire there.
What she didn’t know was she’d made such an impression as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Mississippi Medical Center that her former mentors had other plans.
After four years as an assistant professor teaching biology, genetics and anatomy classes at MC, she was offered a new role created with her in mind.
”We closely followed her progress as a faculty member at MC, and when we created a program director position for our ever-growing Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences program, we knew Hanna was the best person for the position,” said Dr. Joey Granger, associate vice chancellor of research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences.
“I welcomed the challenge,” Broome said of the offer. “It was an easy decision to come back here because I loved my training here, so I knew I would love working here.”
Four years later, she is associate dean of student affairs, SGSHS, where her official responsibilities include advising current students, recruiting prospective students, communicating resources and mediating grievances. She’s also assistant professor of cell and molecular biology in the School of Medicine and director of the MD-PhD program.
Unofficially, she is a cheerleader, motivator and counselor to students craving advice and perspective.
But being the go-to person when students are facing challenges can present its own challenges.
“You have to have a certain level of emotional stamina,” said the lifelong Madison resident and mother to three sons: ages 2, 6 and 9. “To be able to pour myself into these students and really show them that I care about each of them, because I do.
“I often feel like I have 85 graduate-school-aged children. It can be emotionally taxing. But it’s my favorite part. Really trying to communicate to the student that it’s OK if they fail at something, OK if they change their minds, and really take on their struggles.”
Being on the receiving end of her wise counsel was a blessing for three former students who’ve completed the biomedical sciences program and are now progressing through their respective doctoral programs at UMMC.
Keauna Hilton, a third-year medical student, said Broome made her experience in the program easier. When she felt overwhelmed, she’d talk to her and almost instantly feel at ease.
“Dr. Broome always encouraged me to learn from situations in a way to prepare me for compassionate care for my future patients. I was always reminded that although things happen in life that may
interrupt our plans, it doesn't alter how capable I am of achieving goals I’ve set or have to change who I am as an individual.”
James “Jack” Cutrer, fourth-year dental student, considers her a friend. He remembers asking to drop by her office after not performing well on his first biochemistry exam.
“As I sat in her office dejected, she began to encourage me with the progress I had made. She knew I wanted to go to dental school, and she was adamant on getting me to achieve my goal. I will never forget that day because I left her office feeling rejuvenated and encouraged. Since graduating from the master’s program, she never hesitates to check in on me to see how things are going in my life.”
Even after entering medical school, Tyler Holm still stops by Broome’s office when he needs to vent. One day during his second year stands out.
“In the midst of my rambling, she said, ‘I always knew you’d become a physician,’ and that resonated with me,” said Holm, who graduates in May. “There were many days I doubted myself, but hearing her say that made me realize people can see things in you that you don’t always see in yourself. She is a big reason I am in the position I am in today, and I will never be able to thank her enough for that.”
Along with being a strong advocate for students, under her leadership, the biomedical sciences program has flourished, the MD-PhD program has been reinvigorated, and the quality of diverse applicants from throughout the country has increased, said Granger.
“Bottom line: Hanna has made a tremendous impact on our school, and we are very fortunate to have her.”
Broome herself had wanted to become a physician until the research bug bit her at MC, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology-research. After teaching high school for two years, she applied to UMMC, where she earned a master’s in biomedical science and Ph.D. in biochemistry.
Teaching high school was the hardest job she’s ever had. But that’s where she fell in love with advising, teaching and mentoring, and knew she wanted to do that with older students. Graduate school can be a vulnerable time for students, she said.
“Many are turning down a different path than what they set out to do. Many set out to go to medical school but get their eyes opened to different opportunities, like research, industry or teaching. Those are my success stories: anytime students feel they achieved something they didn’t expect to achieve, and maybe changed their career goals in the process. That’s a really vulnerable place to be: Having to explain that to their loved ones who have supported them can be unsettling. I often have to counsel them on how to explain that to their parents.
“One of my favorite things is walking from the parking garage in the morning and getting to pass so many students going to medical school or dental school that I knew from the graduate school. Or going on LinkedIn and seeing them doing something completely different from what they’d planned. But that they love. I celebrate with them.