Aspiring Doctors Explore Future at Summer Congress

What did you do last summer? Hillcrest High School 10th-grader Paolaenid Rodney-Hernandez went to Lowell, Massachusetts, and watched a surgery live-streamed from Louisiana.

“It was a partial knee replacement surgery, and the surgeon walked us through the whole process and let us ask questions,” said Rodney-Hernandez, who viewed the operation along with other delegates to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders last June.

The congress is an honors-only program for high school students who want to become physicians or go into medical research fields. It is meant to honor, inspire, motivate, and direct these students to not only stay true to their dream, but after the event, provide a path, plan, and resources to help them reach their goal.

Not only did the delegates get to listen to speakers in the auditorium, but they also got to talk to and take pictures with some amazing people.

“I met lots of people my age who are interested in both the medical and science fields. It was very empowering and will stay with me for the rest of my life.” -Paolaenid Rodney-Hernandez

She also met Shree Bose, a Duke University medical student known for winning the 2011 Google Global Science Fair.

Rodney-Hernandez met the recipient of the first bionic eye as well as a 12-year-old girl who won an award with Google for creating a procedure that tests water for malaria in 30 seconds rather than over several hours.

“My experience is something that I will never forget,” Rodney-Hernandez stated. “I met lots of people my age who are interested in both the medical and science fields. It was very empowering and will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

The congress lasted a week with delegates in session from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily with a 2-hour lunch break. More than 1,000 people filled the arena. During the breaks, delegates talked with each other and made connections and relationships that could last a lifetime. “Even though there are a lot of challenges, there are always people who will be there for you,” Rodney-Hernandez said. “I know I’ve chosen a hard and difficult field, but being at the congress taught me that there are plenty of people, both my age and older, who are there to support, encourage, and mentor me.

“It also solidified my desire to go into the medical field. As a Hispanic, I was inspired to see people like myself achieving great success. When I saw them and what they had achieved, I knew that I could do it too,” she said. “It helped me stick to what I want to do.” Her mother, Rosenid Hernandez Badia of Franklin, Mississippi, saw the experience as a great honor for Rodney-Hernandez and a transformative one, too.

“It really helped her security as both a young girl and in her choice of major/career,” Hernandez Badia said.

Rodney-Hernandez’s summer medical learning experiences didn’t end with the congress.

Afterward, she traveled to Puerto Rico and shadowed a doctor in the ER and got to see a trauma doctor work with patients in real-time.

Rodney-Hernandez wants to become a trauma surgeon, too, or perhaps a neurosurgeon.

Maybe her next summer opportunity will help narrow down her options.

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