Hillary Esposito’s Career Path: From the Military to MSK

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center administrative assistant Hillary Esposito

“Everyone was surprised when I joined the military, but I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps,” says Hillary Esposito. “I saw it as the next challenge to embrace.”

Hillary Esposito lives to challenge herself. “Most people don’t challenge themselves enough,” she says. “I’ve always been adventurous and love the feeling and excitement of taking on something new and knowing that I’m growing as a leader.”

Ms. Esposito joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center four years ago and has been an administrative assistant in the Department of Medicine for two years. She started out as an office coordinator at MSK Monmouth before transferring to MSK’s main campus in Manhattan. In her current role, Ms. Esposito enjoys supporting clinical leaders and making the administrative side of their lives easier. She also helps organize the Grand Rounds education series and has been gratified to see its audience grow. “It’s been a great development opportunity for me to work with people across the department,” says Ms. Esposito. “Every day is something different. I like the variety.”

The Many Sides of Young Hillary

Ms. Esposito grew up in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Her mother was a teacher and her father was in the military — a Sergeant First Class, active duty Reserve in the US Army, stationed in New Jersey.

As a teenager, she ran cross-country and played volleyball. She also enjoyed creating ceramics in high school. “I was athletic but also enjoyed being artistic,” says Ms. Esposito. “Everyone was surprised when I joined the military, but I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps. I saw it as the next challenge to embrace.”

Her younger brother chose a different path and didn’t enlist. “My family and friends always joke about how he didn’t end up joining the military, but I did — the ‘girlie girl,’” says Ms. Esposito.

Hillary Esposito as a young child wearing camoflauge and posing with her father

Young Hillary with her father

Following in Her Father’s Footsteps

After she graduated from high school, Ms. Esposito joined up and went to boot camp in Fort Knox, Kentucky. From there, she went on to attend military college at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, where she got her associate’s degree in health sciences.

Enlisting was a very positive experience for Ms. Esposito. “I grew in a lot of different ways,” she says. “I learned about discipline, leadership, and my own capabilities. I also met diverse people who all care about going the extra mile to help each other. It felt good to be part of something larger than myself.”

Ms. Esposito commissioned with the rank of Second Lieutenant and, as an officer, officially outranked her enlisted father. She gave him a traditional coin during her first salute that symbolized the unity between the non-commissioned enlisted and the commissioned officers. While in the military, she served in medical operations, an administrative function for medical personnel. It was this meaningful work that helped Ms. Esposito realize that she wanted to work at a place like MSK.

Hillary with her father, both wearing formal military attire

Hillary and her father, when she became an officer. Her father was her first salute.

Knowing she wanted a career in healthcare, Ms. Esposito went on to attend Rutgers University and earn a bachelor’s degree in public health with a management certificate after she completed her initial military training. During her time at Rutgers, she also served as a cadet with a medical unit in the New Jersey National Guard.

“One summer, after I graduated from Rutgers, I went to Texas to attend medical officer training and then decided to apply to a master’s program in healthcare administration at Rutgers,” she says. Once she began her master’s program, Ms. Esposito knew she could balance school at night and work during the day. “I decided at that point to apply to MSK, and the rest is history.”

Veteran Support at MSK

For Ms. Esposito, working at MSK epitomizes her desire to be part of something larger than any one person — and to help others. The teamwork environment at MSK is reminiscent of the camaraderie she was accustomed to in the military and helps her feel aligned with her military roots.

“I’d recommend that any veteran join an organization that enables them to grow as a leader in a different capacity and provides support,” she says. “An environment like the one at MSK can help a veteran figure out what skills to utilize in the real world. It feels good to be recognized and have that support.”

Ms. Esposito is still active in the military. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Jersey National Guard called on her to assist with its COVID-19 operations. She helped the Pentagon gather COVID-19 infection rates and data, and assisted in organizing relief efforts. “It was overwhelming to some degree, but I felt super prepared for that role after working at MSK,” she says. 

In her spare time, Ms. Esposito enjoys salsa dancing and training for triathlons. “It helps me stay in shape for the National Guard and challenges me physically,” she says.