Students converge on Washington to learn about medicine


By Sherry White
St. Michael's All Grade School
Arnold's Cove, Newfoundland

Hundreds of students from around the world got the chance to try out a career in medicine this summer in Washington, D.C.

They travelled to Washington to take part in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, at Georgetown University. The forum gave about 360 young people -- myself included -- countless opportunities to explore as many different areas of medicine as possible.

The students were offered a broad choice of medical specialties we would like to learn more about, at which time I opted to participate in activities dealing with such topics as rolfing (a type of deep tissue massage), physiotherapy, drug abuse and herbal medicine.

The group travelled to numerous hospitals, medical schools and research clinics in the area. There, I learned first hand what it would actually feel like to become a doctor and then practice as one.


For my hospital experience, I job-shadowed at the Northeastern Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I spent the entire day in the Short Procedures Unit where I helped interview patients who were preparing for surgery and assisted those returning. I found this experience to be very inspiring. Although I wasn't qualified enough to do much more than take patients' blood pressure or bring them beverages, I still felt good knowing that I was doing as much as I could to help.

Another day of the forum was focused on AIDS. We discussed research into new drugs and what we could do to prevent further spread of the disease. At the end of the day, we participated in a panel discussion which included four people living with AIDS. They were incredible people who had adapted to their lifestyle and knew that life should not be taken for granted.

Obviously, this wasn't just an educational experience for me, it was also a chance for personal growth. The people living with AIDS helped me realize that life is the most precious gift of all. Having said that, what could be better than going home at the end of the day knowing that you saved a life?

While in Washington, I was exposed to various cultures, including that of my roommate, who was from Africa. I also made many new friends from the United States, England, Singapore and Taiwan. They enjoyed the forum as much as I did and plan to pursue a career in medicine in the United States. I hope to meet them again in the future as my colleagues.

On the weekend, we had a chance to relax and dress casually. We went to Arlington Cemetery and took part in a wreath-laying ceremony, had a nighttime sightseeing tour and visited the Smithsonian. We also spent a day at Adventure World, which was a local theme park. Everyone took full advantage of the free time and enjoyed the company of new friends.

I feel that this forum has benefited me tremendously and it has certainly given me great insight into the field of medicine. It also helped develop my social and organizational skills in ways that I have never before experienced. I returned home with inspiration, motivation and excitement that will help me to reach my goals.


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