|An inspiring, unforgettable experience|
Guardian Lifestyles Reporter
Published: Jul 18, 2012
For as long as she can remember, Nikita Smith has dreamed of being a doctor, so it was a dream come true for her to be invited to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum in Medicine (NYLF/MED), the United States’ foremost program in pre-medical education for high school students which allows them to get a valuable head start on their career path.
At the NYLF/MED program, which took place in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Emory School of Medicine at Emory University, Nikita, 16, who will commence her senior year at Kingsway Academy in September, was able to experience a hands-on, interactive curriculum that included shadowing practicing physicians, clinical site visits at top medical centers, and meet and interact with faculty from world-renowned medical institutions.
Students gain the opportunity to attend the Forum on Medicine through nomination from a teacher or educator, through NYLF alumni nominations, or based on information provided on pre-college surveys. To qualify as a Forum on Medicine scholar, a student must be in ninth through twelfth grade and have demonstrated academic achievement. Nikita’s cumulative grade point average is 3.10.
While Nikita is unclear who recommended her for the forum, she is glad they did. She said the experience has cemented for her the fact that she wants to pursue a career in the medical field. She has narrowed it down to cardiology or pathology.
“I was lucky to be a part of the program. I am not sure of my school or teachers recommended me but I am glad it happened because I had an amazing and unforgettable experience,” she said.
Nikita was among 358 high school students from around the United States and the Caribbean.
“[It] was more than just about discussing important topics in global medicine. It was also about helping young people like myself to discover just how suited to the medical field we are. From this experience I can really say this is my calling and I am excited to get into medical school and get even deeper in this field,” said the Kingsway Academy student. “I really feel enlightened and even more determined to get into medical school now.”
Some of the topics addressed with Nikita and her peers included emergency medicine, how stressful but rewarding it can be and how to deal with not being able to save every single patient. Another speaker spoke to them on HIV and AIDs, what’s new in the field and how best to combat stereotypes and ignorances about the topic. And they got the opportunity to hear from a patient who had multiple heart surgeries who was able to give the students an idea of how patients feel, and how valuable good doctors are in saving lives.
The students were also split into groups to debate essential topics in medicine as well. Smith’s group discussed universal health care and supported the concept by saying everyone has a right to good health care no matter their financial or socio-economic status. And that regulating health care for everyone would put less strain on the government. They also discussed sex selection and animal testing.
The high school senior also got the opportunity to see exactly how medical students learn through problem-based learning exercises and limited, but vital hands on experience with medical simulators and live patients. She also sat in on lectures given by professionals on emerging issues and past discoveries. Participation in the Forum on Medicine is also a great resume opportunity for her as it can be used as a reference on her college application and interviews.
The NYLF/MED program takes place annually at different intervals in 10 cities throughout the United States — Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Smith chose the Atlanta program not only because it was the first of the series, but also because it would allow her to visit the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), which is one of her dream schools.
“I really was excited to visit the PCOM. It was a school among others that participants in the program could visit. I liked it so much I now want to study medicine there when I finish high school,” said the young lady. “I like their program which allows me to have hands-on experience and simulate real medical work and surgeries throughout my studies.”
With a 3.10 grade point average, Smith said she knows she will have to “buckle up” to raise her grades even higher so that she can be considered for acceptance into the school of her choice. She hopes to have at least a 3.5 GPA by the end of her senior year.
She has six Bahamas Junior Certificates (BJCs) with an A grade in Mathematics, B grades in General Science, Health Science and Social Studies and C grades in English and Mathematics.
She sat two of her Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) in tenth grade and has achieved an A in English Language and a C grade in Mathematics. She sat six more exams in elventh grade — Biology, Chemistry, History, Food and Nutrition, Spanish and retook Mathematics because she wanted a better grade. She hopes she aced them all, so that she can concentrate on taking only science national exams in her final year.
Nikita is also focused on doing well on her Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) examinations.
“Besides really pushing me to do better in school, the best part of the 10-day program was the information I was able to gather. The forum was like a real college experience. I was living in a dorm room and had a roommate. I had a schedule to follow and lectures to attend. It was a lot of fun and it really opened my eyes. This was also the first time I was travelling on my own so that was new and great for me. I was nervous, but the trip really gave me a real idea of what I will find in college or university one day.”