On June 10th, 2012, I began my journey to Boston for the National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) on Medicine. I have traveled to many cities and villages in and out of the United States; however, I knew this trip was going to be different from any other that I had taken before. It is essential (and fulfilling!) to expand my horizons by meeting a myriad of people and learning as much as possible. My goal was undoubtedly fulfilled during the ten-day program I participated in at a little college called Babson. I learned more than I can fathom fitting into a 600 word paragraph about the medical field–but I can certainly try.
The two-hundred and fifty scholars that attended the program were split into twelve groups of twenty or so on our first night at Babson. These groups were assigned faculty advisors who led group sessions in a classroom setting. My group was called Brown, after Dorothy Lavina Brown, a successful African-American doctor of her time. One of us nicknamed our group “The Brownies,” and the name stuck for the entire trip. From the very first time my group met in the Tomasso building at Babson for our MED session, we all “clicked” instantly. In our group, the majority of scholars were from America; however, there was a girl from Puerto Rico, and boys from Thailand, China, and Jordan. Everyone was extremely friendly and accepting, even though we came from opposite sides of, not only the country, but the world. I became particularly close with three girls in my group: Kayla, Yemko, and Laura. We were attached at the hip for the entire trip, and they made it even more memorable for me.
Over the next week and a half, my new friends and I had the opportunity to visit historical sites and meet many prestigious professionals, hard-working students, and fearless valetudinarians. Even for students in medical school, the chance to so thoroughly explore the medical field across an entire city is a rarity; therefore, it was a privilege to go to so many places in such a short amount of time. NYLF scholars visited Harvard, Boston Medical Center, CityLab at Boston University School of Medicine, and many more. However, what had the greatest impact on me was not the picture-perfect Harvard campus or the fancy drug labs at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
I was most impressed by the experienced men and women whose journeys and hardships I listened to and learned from. One man had a particularly lasting impact on me. His name is Rev. Edward Burke. He is not a professional in the medical field–and openly admits he is far from it. After being infected with the HIV virus for over thirty years, being in and out of hospitals, and having many near-death experiences, he is still as lively as he was when he was first infected. The reason why I appreciated my conversation with him is because he was fearless, yet humble. He was brutally honest, and answered any questions that my group had without hesitation. Burke admitted that he made foolish choices as a teenager, and he hopes to prevent others from making the same foolish choices. Edward Burke now travels the world with Dave Butler, the founder of the Safe Haven Project, to provide men, women, and children with preventative and coping skills in regards to HIV/AIDS.
My experience in Boston was one of a kind, and it taught me a great deal about the medical field, and more importantly, about life– enjoy it, and never hesitate to help others.