On certain days, Dr. Jenny Hyppolite must wonder how it all turned out this way.
That the little girl who grew up in Haiti is now practicing medicine in the United States – in the state of Connecticut, in the city of Groton, in offices on Thames Street that look out on the enormous cranes of a shipyard called Electric Boat.
Then again, Dr. Hyppolite’s parents (and a loving aunt), always worked hard to make sure young Jenny’s journey would be rewarding and meaningful. They surely wouldn’t be surprised that she has come so far and done so well.
Today, Dr. Hyppolite is growing roots in southeastern Connecticut and building her patient base as a family physician with Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.
Her family helped her find her course, but she also glimpsed her destiny as a physician from her early days in Haiti.
Dr. Hyppolite was only about eight years old when she visited a Haitian hospital and saw the suffering of patients in a mental health facility plagued by poverty and a lack of resources.
“The way those patients looked, physically and mentally, it was kind of horrifying, and I had this feeling inside of me that I can still remember,” Dr. Hyppolite says. “They were helpless and I had this feeling of ‘How can I help?’ I realized, eventually, that the answer was to go into medicine.”
Dr. Hyppolite’s parents left her in Haiti with her aunt when she was just five years old. It was part of a plan: her parents would immigrate to the United States and try to establish themselves in a new land of opportunity. They would send for their daughter as soon as they could.
Landing in a Caribbean enclave of Brooklyn, Dr. Hyppolite’s parents built a new life. As soon as they could – about five years later – they brought their daughter “home” to her new world in the United States.
Even without her parents in Haiti, the young Jenny Hyppolite had the positive influence of her aunt.
“My aunt was a very progressive woman,” she recalls. “She was a teacher, a professor and a civil engineer. She was traveling and building roads and bridges. She was a very strong, hard-working woman, and, with her, education was always key – she believed in a lifetime of learning.”
Once reunited with her parents, Dr. Hyppolite’s lifetime of learning hit full stride. She learned English, went to school in Brooklyn, and decided to pursue medicine. She eventually graduated from SUNY Upstate Medical University at Syracuse. She completed her residency at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and later received her fellowship in Geriatrics from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Dr. Hyppolite practiced internal medicine in Buffalo, NY, and also in North Carolina, but when she arrived in southeastern Connecticut and joined L+M a year and a half ago, she knew that this was the place she and her family were meant to be.
“I’m staying put,” she says. “I like it here, and I look forward to taking care of my patients here for many years. That is always what I’ve really wanted to do. I believe in continuity of care and this is where I can really do that. It took a lot for us to make the decision to come here, and that’s why I know my husband and our three children will be here for a long time.”
Dr. Hyppolite still has family in New York, so the area is convenient.
“We’re near the water and we like boating, too,” she says. “This area offers everything we’ve been looking for.”
Dr. Hyppolite is taking new patients, ages 18 and up. And, with her background in geriatrics, she is equipped to guide the health of her patients into old age.
Her philosophy with older patients is to make sure they are fully participating in their care and, by extension, fully participating in their lives.
“In medicine,” she says, “we often want to make everybody perfect. In the elderly, that may not be the goal, but a good quality of life can still be the goal. I believe that the older people should not be forgotten as part of our community. In my work, I have learned much from the knowledge imparted to me by my older patients. Their resiliency is something that we can all learn from.”
Dr. Hyppolite’s philosophy of care is also holistic. She believes that it takes a healthy mind to have a healthy body. She believes that care is a team approach between the patient, his or her family, and the patient’s physician. And she always stresses preventative care.
“I can give a medication for blood pressure, but, in the end, the patient and the family has to take charge of their care in conjunction with the doctor,” she says.
In that sense, Dr. Hyppolite continues to encourage people to help each other – especially through family ties – just as she was helped and encouraged growing up in Haiti and in Brooklyn.
“My work is very gratifying,” she says. “I love it when I see a patient come back for a follow-up visit and I see that they’re improving. It’s gratifying for me to see someone who is taking care of themselves and living a quality life.”
To learn more about Dr. Hyppolite, click here.