Does med school take forever? Is it really that hard? Do you get paid? How do you handle dying patients? These are a few of the questions on the minds of participants during this week's Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine.
Now in its 13th year, the four-day program, run by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, is designed to encourage outstanding students to consider careers in medicine. The forum gives 25 high schoolers or recent graduates a behind-the-scenes look at health care as they shadow local physicians in a variety of fields, including internal medicine, radiology, vascular surgery, emergency medicine and orthopedics.
"It opens doors and opportunities for you," said Khadijah Melvin, a participant who just graduated from Central High School. "After meeting a lot of the doctors, they're very willing to let you come in and shadow them or their surgeries. It's just a great opportunity."
Participants were nominated and selected after an application process of more than 100 students from high schools across the region.
For participant Michaela Miller, following the residents in the emergency department has been the most rewarding part of the week so far.
"This program has definitely helped give me a lot of information about things I've always wondered about, and just being in that environment has helped me gain some insight into a field I'd really enjoy," said Miller, who will be a senior at Collegiate High in the fall.
Students spent their lunchtime Wednesday fielding questions from a panel of medical students from University of Tennessee College of Medicine, including third-year med student Reed Butler, who is from Chattanooga. He shared his story with the aspiring students and told them how working as a patient care tech for pediatric surgeon Lisa Smith during the summer was a pivotal moment in his career.
"When I was doing that every day in the summer and I was excited about being at work that's when I was like, 'OK, I should probably do this med school thing,'" he said. "There's a lot of sacrifices you make along the way, a lot of time spent studying. It's definitely been the most challenging thing I've done so far, but it's rewarding."
Other advice to the youngsters from the residents included: see as much as you can, have fun, know yourself, stay true to your passion, stay encouraged even when you feel defeated, learn how to fail, don't be too hard on yourself, ask for help and do what you love.
Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6673.