From UT to an M.D. in Emergency Medicine

Michael Hixson, a Dallas native, completed his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering (BME) at Vanderbilt University. After graduation, he decided that getting a master’s in BME would clarify whether or not research was the direction he wanted to pursue.

His desire to be closer to home and an attractive National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowship brought him back to his roots, here at The University of Texas at Austin. Through the department’s Integrative Education and Research Training Grant (IGERT), Hixson was able to work with faculty in engineering and natural sciences. The program was a collaborative effort between the graduate programs in biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, and biophysics.

During Hixson’s time here at UT Austin, He worked with Dr. Christine Schmidt in biomedical engineering and in the Physics Department trying to attach beads to cells with antibodies. Other research goals included trying to label antibodies on the surface of a nerve cell and applying electricity in order for the nerve cells to grow faster. Labeling receptors would allow them to see if this would show that nerves were capable of growth. The ultimate goal was to regenerate nerve cells.

Medical school had always been a dream for Hixson, and as he participated in research, he realized that being around patients was a bigger drive for him than working in a lab.

“I’m happy I got an M.S.E. in BME,” Hixson says, “It gave me a perspective of what I wanted to do. I learned I wanted to work with people, and the thought processes I learned helped prepare me in medical school.”

After earning his M.S.E., Hixson attended medical school at The University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston.

Hixson says his M.S.E. degree benefited him in medical school.

“My BME degree made me more competitive, and my engineering background gave me an edge in my med school classes.”

He entertained working in orthopedics but, after a summer rotation, selected emergency medicine as his specialty instead. It was in medical school where Hixson also met his wife, Paige. 

Both did their residencies at Wright State University in Ohio through a program that partnered with the U.S. Air Force, and today they live in Las Vegas. She works in internal medicine, and he splits his time between emergency rooms in Las Vegas and northern Arizona. 

“I like that every day is different in the ER,” Hixson says. “There’s no way I can predict what I will see or be working on medically that day.”

Although emergency medicine in Sin City certainly is unpredictable, Hixson says he hasn’t seen anything resembling the movie “The Hangover” quite yet.