A Southeast Kansas high school student will be learning cutting-edge medical techniques from the experts. Freshman Abigail Vanleeuwen will be learning from a variety of people, including Nobel Prize winners, next year.
She’ll be headed to Massachusetts next year for the Congress of Future Medical Leaders. Over the course of several days, she’ll have a chance to learn about a field she’s wanted to work in for as long as she can remember. And it all began with one person.
“There are a lot of people in my family who are doctors, but especially my mom. she’s a huge inspiration for me. She’s the one who really gets me excited about medicine and everything,” says Abigail VanLeeuwen, Freshman, Erie High School.
Abigail says her appointment to the congress of future medical leaders wasn’t exactly something she planned on.
“I had never heard of it before. It came as a complete surprise. My dad thought it was junk,” says Abigail VanLeeuwen.
But that didn’t last long.
“It took me a little bit to, like, fully process everything, but then after I finally understood I was really excited,” says VanLeeuwen.
The Congress will give Abigail a chance to learn from some of the leaders in the medical field. And even though she’s only a freshman in high school, she says this will give her a head start on her future.
“I’m leaning towards neonatal or a trauma surgeon. I think both are exciting,” says VanLeeuwen.
And while this is a huge honor for Abigail, Erie High School science teacher Stephanie Stark says it came as no surprise to her.
“She’s always been a go-getter, and she’s really strong in science, and so I knew immediately when she was offered this opportunity that it was, you know, a wise choice,” says Stephanie Stark.
And Stark hopes Abigail can help serve as an example to other kids in the district.
“It kind of puts us on the map for people to realize that just because you’re from a small town and a small community does not mean that you do not have the capabilities,” says Stark.
She’s also hoping to take what Abigail learns and use it to help build on what the kids are already learning.
“The knowledge that she’ll receive from just listening to and interacting with, you can’t even begin to, I don’t even know how to put it into words,” says Stark.
Abigail says while she’s excited for the trip as a whole, there’s one big thing she’s really looking forward to.
“It said that we get to observe a surgery, so I’m really excited about that since I’m interested in surgery,” says VanLeeuwen.
The three day congress takes place next June in Lowell, Massachusetts.