A couple of days ago, I was a panelist participant in a forum called "Young Women In Science". High school women (ages 14-17) were invited to attend the half day event where geologists, engineers, a surgeon (me), dentists, biologists, chemists and other women who have scientific careers could tell these young women about their careers and career possibilities. They could also participate in workshops where they could isolate DNA or study the physics of a soap bubble.
I took along some of my trauma photos along with some photos from medical school. I took a photo of our classroom, of bunches of us standing around during lunch and of some residency shots where I am operating or in the trauma bay. The students were just enthralled by some of the things that we showed them. They asked great questions about lifestyle, getting good grades and how difficult it was to be a surgeon.
One very astute 14-year-old noted that I must really like what I do because the hours are so long. She said that couldn't imagine spending that much time at work each day. I told her that I love what I do so much that it isn't like being at "work" for those amount of hours. It's really fun most of the time.
A couple of the students expressed an interest in working with me in the research lab during the summer to gain some experience. I had to pinch myself and remind myself that these were high school students and not undergraduate students. They were thoughtful and eager to experience everything that was out there. There were a few who were not happy about getting up early and spending Saturday morning at a university instead of the shopping mall but for the most part, they seemed to enjoy meeting all of the women who gave of their time so generously.
My thoughts returned to when I was in secondary school. I had such broad interests and checked out everything, scientific or not, that I could experience. My school sent us to plays, to symphony concerts, to scientific exhibits, embassies and to botanical gardens. I took advantage of every speaker and every opportunity to listen, learn and experience new things. I am so thankful that my parents made sure that my school provided these opportunities for the students.
It's was very satisfying to meet all of the young women and talk about something that I love, surgery. I was taken back to my days of mastery of calculus, chemistry, Greek, Latin and French. To be come educated was the goal of each of the 24 women in my secondary school graduating class. In then end, our minds absorbed every bit of education that was thrown in our direction. It was a great time. We didn't have proms, football games or cheer leading but we had far more.