Ellen Pittman has long enjoyed the sciences, and as an undergraduate she developed a passion for making health care available to many.
She took a class on health care policy and loved it, but found she wanted a more hands-on approach when it came to providing direct care to the underserved. The Milford native completed a biology major and Spanish minor at Dartmouth College and decided medical school was her calling.
She had a desire to help children and the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, with its affiliation to Cincinnati Children’s was a natural pull back to the Tristate. Pittman, 26, will be one of 148 medical students graduating during the UC College of Medicine’s Honors Day activities set for May 19, 2018, at Aronoff Center in downtown Cincinnati.
"I am so thankful for the education I got here and the clinical experience is really top notch,” says Pittman, who will stay in the Queen City for a residency in pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s.
"One of the things I will take away is some of the best friends I have made at UC, who are now going on to careers across the country,” says Pittman. "It is so special just to have that network of people to be able to say years from now that my friend is in this or that field and I know them so well because we did medical school together. We have this experience together that is really great.”
Pittman is also the student recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.
Ndidi Unaka, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s physician is faculty awardee. The honor recognizes graduating students and faculty members who demonstrate both clinical excellence and outstanding compassion in the delivery of care and who show respect for patients, their families, and health care colleagues.
"Ellen has a demonstrated commitment to service that has extended over many years, including throughout her time in medical school,” says Laura Malosh, PhD, assistant dean for academic support in the College of Medicine. "She is always ready and willing to assist her peers and serves as a positive role model.”
Pittman used her interest in assisting underserved populations by volunteering her service at the Racetrack Clinic in Belterra Park during the summer and fall of her first and second year in medical school. It’s a free medical clinic run by the Department of Family and Community Medicine to assist hundreds of seasonal workers, like grooms and stable hands, employed at Belterra Park, a Cincinnati gaming and live horse race destination along the Ohio River.
For many of the workers the clinic is their only primary care option, says Pittman.
"One of the things I really liked about it was that the patient experience at Belterra Park was truly longitudinal,” says Pittman. "People had charts there where they had been seen the previous summer and at the end of the season we would be writing prescriptions for medicine for 10 months or so or until they could come back to the clinic the next summer.”
Pittman’s interest in making health care accessible included participating in a research project designed to increase the number of private spaces for health professionals to collect samples to test for sexually transmitted infections at community events. The project was led by Lea Widdice, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UC and a Cincinnati Children’s physician, who served as a mentor for Pittman.
"We went to Cincinnati PRIDE and the Black Family Reunion at Sawyer Point and tested different types of private spaces that people could use,” says Pittman. "The idea was to use these new private spaces to increase access to testing for people that may not be able to make it to a traditional health care setting.”
Pittman was elected service chair of the Medical Student Association and has worked with student organizations to provide resources for planning and running community service opportunities. She served as the St. Baldrick’s Chair of the Pediatrics Club and helped to raise $10,000 for pediatric cancer research. Pittman also put in countless hours as a peer tutor, taught the student led board review course and facilitated the Roadmap to Residency session for medical students.
"I think that when you treat a patient you are also treating their family and their community,” says Pittman. "You have to also look at resources they have, all of which impacts their health. I’ve appreciated my opportunities at UC to be involved in community work and teach me these types of lessons.”
Pittman says there is also life outside of medical school and health care. She enjoys cooking, baking and exploring new restaurants.
"One of the coolest things when coming back to Cincinnati after Dartmouth was all of the renaissance happening downtown,” says Pittman. "I left at its very beginnings and then came back and it was blossoming, and even more has occurred during these last four years. It’s a really cool and great city and I’ve enjoyed exploring all it has to offer, including the restaurants.”
Her favorites: A Tavola and Boomtown Biscuits and Whiskey.