Column: Suturing a new futureFormaldehyde was the figurative glue that bonded us together. We were 140 self-professed “nerds” who just wanted to learn more about medicine, 140 high school students who aspired to be the future’s medical leaders.
By: Sarah Alabsi, Duluth Budgeteer News
Formaldehyde was the figurative glue that bonded us together.
We were 140 self-professed “nerds” who just wanted to learn more about medicine, 140 high school students who aspired to be the future’s medical leaders.
Walking onto the American University campus on July 26, I was just another camper nervous about fitting in. Little did I know that 10 days later, I would be nervous about leaving those whom I was worried about connecting with.
This summer, I attended the National Student Leadership Conference on Medicine and Healthcare. Being the curious, college-bound teenager that I am, I chose to attend the conference to help me decide if a career in the medical field is something I could really see myself having.
And help me it did.
The forum consisted of 10 days of lectures, field trips, challenges, team bonding and living on a college campus. Lectures focused on either leadership or medicine. Lectures on leadership were given by Bill Johnson, a motivational speaker who loved to tell surprisingly insightful anecdotes. Those on medicine were given by notable plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Marfuggi who had us shaking in our seats when he randomly called on one of us to translate a Latin phrase.
The other aspects of the forum were led by our team advisors, or TAs, as we called them. Each TA had a group of about 15 students who would grow close by the end of the camp experience. My TA was named Raquel, whom we loved to call Rocky. Soon, our group would be called the Rocky Balboas, because what’s summer camp without cheesy team names?
Our first full day in Washington, D.C as a group started off with a trip to the University of Maryland challenge rope course. At the rope course, the TA groups participated in activities to learn more about each other’s styles of leadership. You learn to trust quickly when you’re climbing a hundred feet in the air and four people are holding your life in a belay.
As the week went on, there was a balance of leadership and medical-oriented activities. A highlight for many on the trip was the visit to the University of Maryland School of Medicine. There, we got to discuss case studies, test vital signs and even tour an anatomy lab with cadavers and organs. The anatomy lab was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was amazing to see how much research and progress can come out of a thwarting thing like death.
Another method of TA group bonding came in the form of a public health initiative project. Each group had the task of picking a public health issue, inventing a possible solution or intervention to tackle it, presenting the solution and filming a public service announcement creating awareness of it. My presentation group chose teenage pregnancy and created a telephone hotline to help. Other issues included antibiotic misuse, suicide and prenatal health.
Ever since returning from the conference, I have had the insatiable need to tie surgeons’ knots on every piece of rope or string I see. This is most likely the result of the amount of suturing and surgical knot-tying we had to do during those 10 days. Using different kinds of needles, string, and skin, I was able to learn various types of knots used in the medical field today. I am proud to say I have mastered a few of the knots, though at one-fifth of the speed surgeons have.
To me, NSLC was the difference between going into my senior year unprepared for what’s next and being ready for whatever lies ahead.
I do not know that everything I want to do right now will be the same in 10 years, or five, or maybe even one.
I do know, however, that NSLC has helped given me the tools,
confidence and friendship to tackle the future head-on.
Alabsi is a summer reporter at the Budgeteer News through the Pohlad Family Foundation. In the fall, she will be a senior at East High School.