Angela Hawkins remembers her daughter, Kristen, at age 5 watching the surgery channel on television before she went to bed.
“She stuck with that through elementary and middle school, watching different procedures including live births,” she said. “I thought she was kind of young, but that was what she wanted to watch.”
Kristen said she thinks she found the channel because it was close to the Disney Channel.
“At first, I thought it was a little gross, but it was interesting,” Kristen said. “I wanted to know, how did that baby get out of there?”
Now a rising sophomore at Georgetown High School, Kristen is planning to pursue a medical career and was chosen to be a delegate to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in Lowell, Massachusetts this summer.
The annual Congress, held from June 25 to 27, is an honors-only program for high school students who want to become physicians or go into medical research fields. The purpose of the event was to honor, inspire, motivate and direct the top students in the country who aspire to be physicians or medical scientists, to stay true to their dream and, after the event, to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal.
Kristen was nominated by Dr. Robert Darling, the Medical Director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists to represent Georgetown High School “based on her academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine.”
Her mother is a national board certified fourth-grade teacher at Sampit Elementary School and her father, Leonard Hawkins, is a dietary aid at National Health Care in Murrells Inlet. She has one brother, DaShawn Hawkins, 12, a seventh-grader at Georgetown Middle School.
During the three-day Congress, Kristen joined students from across the country and heard Nobel laureates and National Medal of Science winners talk about leading medical research, according to a press release. She was also given advice from Ivy League and top medical school deans on what to expect in medical school; witnessed stories told by patients who are living medical miracles; was inspired by fellow teen medical science prodigies; and learned about cutting-edge advances and the future in medicine and medical technology.
“This is a crucial time in America when we need more doctors and medical scientists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially,” said Richard Rossi, Executive Director, National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists. “Focused, bright and determined students like Kristen Hawkins are our future and she deserves all the mentoring and guidance we can give her.”
Kristen said her favorite part of the three-day program was hearing about a patient from Liberia.
“She looked pregnant, but she had a tumor in her stomach,” Kristen said. “It was interesting because we don’t really see things like that in the U.S.”
She also enjoyed watching a hernia surgery performed on the screens of the large auditorium where the congress was held.
“I thought it was cool that they showed us that,” she said. “They had a camera on the instrument that the doctor was using to do the surgery.”
Kristen said attending the congress gave her insight into other paths in the medical field, including pediatrics, ophthalmology and anesthesiology.
“It really broadened my perspective on the medical field and made me think about other career paths,” she said. “It also made me think about taking more math and science classes in high school.”
The Academy offers free services and programs to students who want to be physicians or go into medical science, the release states. Some of the services and programs the Academy offers are online social networks through which future doctors and medical scientists can communicate; opportunities for students to be guided and mentored by physicians and medical students; and communications for parents and students on college acceptance and finances, skills acquisition, internships, career guidance and much more.
The National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists was founded on the belief that it is important to “identify prospective medical talent at the earliest possible age and help these students acquire the necessary experience and skills to take them to the doorstep of this vital career.”
Based in Washington, D.C. and with offices in Boston, the Academy was chartered as a nonpartisan, taxpaying institution to help address this crisis by working to identify, encourage and mentor students who wish to devote their lives to the service of humanity as physicians, medical scientists.