2021 Top Doctor: Jennifer Leigh Hill, M.D.

Editorial StaffMay 5, 2021
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft

Allergy/Immunology

Med School/Year Graduated: University of Arizona/2011

Years in Practice: 7

What’s your early impression of the COVID-19 vaccines? Which version do you predict will ultimately be most beneficial and/or widespread?

Currently there are two COVID vaccines available, one developed by Pfizer and the other by Moderna. Both vaccines utilize messenger RNA, or mRNA technology… [which] essentially deliver instructions for our immune cells to make a piece of the spike protein which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Fortunately, the available data suggests that COVID-19 vaccination with one of these two vaccines is very effective, with the ability to prevent mild to severe symptoms of COVID-19 in approximately 95 percent of those vaccinated. Other vaccines utilizing alternative methods are in development, but so far, the data does not look as promising as the mRNA-based vaccines.

Do you struggle with allergies yourself? What are common allergens in the desert?

Growing up in the Phoenix area, I struggled with severe year-round allergies and asthma. In fact, this is a big reason I was drawn to allergy and immunology as a specialty. Ragweed is one of the most common allergy-inducing plants in the U.S., and that is no different in Phoenix. We have over a dozen native species of ragweed and it is a perennial allergen. Bermuda grass is… [also] extremely allergenic and contributes to allergy symptoms for many patients.

What is a common myth about boosting your immune system that you want people to know?

[T]hat high doses of certain vitamins or minerals will “boost” your immune system. The most important step one can take to optimize their immune function is getting plenty of sleep, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and consuming a healthy, whole foods diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

You grew up in Mesa. What has it been like to see it transform into the largest suburban city in the U.S.? Any favorite local haunts?

I am a third-generation Mesa native and it has been incredible to not only witness the abundant growth firsthand, but also to hear about how far Mesa has come over the lifetime of my relatives as well. I still love to head over to The Orange Patch when visiting my parents. I [also] love being outdoors and have fond memories of hiking with my brother at Usery Mountain Park, particularly the Wind Cave Trail.

What’s the last book you read?

I really enjoy audiobooks, especially while commuting. My most recent listen, Think Again by Adam Grant, was excellent and provided insight on intellectual humility, the importance of challenging our belief systems, and the power of listening to others, learning to rethink and reframe. Very fitting for these challenging times.

Name the best depiction of your field in TV or film that you’ve ever seen.

Hardly a day goes by in clinic that I don’t reference Will Smith’s allergic reaction in Hitch while describing food allergy, but Harold Ramis’ character in As Good As It Gets probably most closely depicts my field. In the film, Helen Hunt’s son suffers from severe and debilitating asthma, which has been mismanaged. Ramis’ character spends an incredible amount of time with the family. He listens. He builds trust. He reassures. And he is confident that the boy is likely to feel much better in the future because he took the time to really understand his problem.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”

A bakery or small restaurant owner. I often joke that when I retire from medicine, I plan to open a late-night eatery… [called] Fries and Pies, for two of my favorite foods!

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