The patient was Carmen Tarleton, one of the first people to receive a face transplant. And listening in the audience was Hannah Caraway, who has wanted to be a doctor since she was small.
Hannah, 16, is a rising junior at O’Fallon Township High School, the top of her class with a 4.18 GPA on a four-point scale. This summer, she was selected to attend the Congress of Future Medical Leaders, a national convention to allow prospective doctors to hear from physicians, researchers and patients.
That included patients like Tarleton, who sustained severe chemical burns over 80 percent of her body after her estranged husband beat her with a baseball bat and poured industrial lye over her face and body, blinding her. Tarleton received a successful face transplant and has restored vision in one eye, and her story made Hannah cry, she said.
“I’ve always felt it was my drive to help people, and that’s what I wanted to do,” Hannah said. “(The Congress) was a fantastic opportunity to learn from doctors and their patients.”
Hannah specifically remembered Tarleton’s powerful story, as she spoke about how her medical treatment has helped her live life again at the June conference in Boston.
“I thought, ‘This is why I want to do this, to help her like those doctors helped her,’” Hannah said.
Hannah was chosen for the Congress of Future Medical Leaders because of her high academic performance, PSAT scores and endorsements from teachers. In addition to her studies, she is on the math team, Scholar Bowl, French club, Model United Nations, French honor society, the National Society of High School Scholars, Torch and Laurel Society, Friends of Rachel and more.
The Congress experience has been a highlight so far, Hannah said. Only 4,000 students were admitted nationwide, and she received a letter of congratulations from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.