This past summer, I had the incredible experience of attending the National Student Leadership Conference on Medicine and Health Care at Vanderbilt University. I spent nine days in the freshman dorms with people from all over the country who share the same interests as me. I went into this experience expecting to observe the work of doctors, and to attend leadership seminars, but this experience went so much deeper than that. I attended lectures by world renowned surgeons, took part in hands-on simulations with the CELA simulations (which are the same ones that the current Vanderbilt medicine students use to train with), drilled burr holes into fetal pig brains, dissected sheep hearts and cow eyes, attended seminars on the topics of leadership, effectively solving conflict, and how different personality types have to “style flex” in order to effectively reach a goal.
"This experience entailed things that I never would have pictured myself doing at the age of 16."
What I listed is only a small portion of what I was able to partake in during the conference. Each day consisted of a densely packed schedule that ranged from activities, such as lectures, to field trips, like going on a tour of the Grand Ole Opry. This experience entailed things that I never would have pictured myself doing at the age of 16. For instance, I never would have pictured myself diagnosing patients with actual ailments, birthing a robotic baby from a talking robot, learning how to suture on a piece of raw chicken, or working hand in hand with one of the nation’s top neurosurgeons. As amazing as the medicine component was, this conference was also about furthering your leadership abilities. I took a personality test that revealed to me my strengths and weaknesses. After learning this, I learned the concept of “style flexing.” Style flexing is when you, or another person, have to alter your personality traits in order to work successfully with each other. Our skills were put to the test when we were placed in groups and had to actively use these tools to communicate to complete a task. We were given real world scenarios, and had to figure out how we were going to tackle these problems.
"I learned more about myself in those nine days than I ever have before."
We also got to partake in exercises that opened our eyes up to the struggles of poverty, healthcare for those who are unemployed, and budgeting in real life. One evening, we walked into the conference room where there was tape in the shape of different sized rectangles all over the floor. Inside of these rectangles were different items. Some contained loads of paper money and resources while others lacked the bare minimum. We were divided into groups and told to go build and budget a society based on what we were given. We were warned that if we did something the “police,” our instructors, did not like, we would be sent to jail. The purpose of this exercise was to show us that not all communities are as blessed as the ones we live in, the police sometimes abuse their power, you have to budget wisely, and sometimes, you have to make the hard decision of what is vital to have for a community and what is an excessive desire of the community. At the end of the week, we were required to give a presentation on a current public health issue. Each group was given a budget, told to find an actual public health issue, determine real statistics, research where and who the problem targets, find a viable solution that could be used within our society, budget every detail, and create a public health awareness video. We gave the presentation in front of all of the medical students who were counselors at the camp. They proceeded to ask questions to try and poke holes in our plan because each of them wanted their group to win. Unfortunately, my group placed second by one point. My experience at the NSLC will be one that I carry with me forever. I learned more about myself in those nine days than I ever have before. This experience allowed me to grow and discover a new confidence that I did not know I had. I was forced to step out of my comfort zone and live with people I had never met before. I not only grew in my knowledge of medicine and leadership, but as a person. I strongly suggest to anyone who is presented with this same opportunity, to take it. This was by far the best part of my summer.