Warwick resident Kayla Barry will join a select group of high school students to explore her passion for a career in medicine during the National Youth Leadership Forum: Careers in Medicine (NYLF Medicine) program in Boston.
This year there are forum sessions being held in 13 cities across the country to allow high school students to get a hands-on experience in and meet professionals from the medical field. NYLF Medicine is part of the Envision program, which has helped 800,000 students in 145 countries explore their interests and have one-of-a-kind learning experiences outside the classroom since 1985.
Sixteen-year-old Barry will spend nine days from June 22 to June 30 at Babson College being introduced to issues in public health, medical ethics, research and general practice, visiting top medical schools and facilities such as Harvard School of Medicine, and listening to guest speakers talk about their experience in the medical field. Barry will stay at Babson in the dorms for the program and is required to wear business attire to class and scrubs to any hospital experiences.
In 2014, only 5,000 high school students were selected to participate in 25 sessions occurring in 13 cities across the county including Boston, Miami and Chicago.
Barry was anonymously nominated for the Forum, she believes, by one of her science teachers and guidance counselors at La Salle Academy. This is her second year to be nominated for the program but the first that she will be attending.
“I looked into the program again this year and it was more geared towards what I’m interested in,” explained Barry.
Barry is excited to get the hands-on experiences one would normally not get until pre-medical classes, performing medical treatments such as applying stitches on mannequins.
According to a press release about the program, one of the highlights for students will be a chance to test their knowledge as they triage patients during a simulation of a mass casualty event.
“I’m really looking forward to the hands-on,” said Barry. “There is only so much you can do in school with models [in a book].”
She also is looking forward to hearing from guest speakers because she is often inspired by hearing the stories of how others got interested in the field and the experiences they have had.
According to Barry Lawrence, a spokesperson for Envision, this selective group of highly motivated students will gain out-of-classroom skills and experiences they wouldn’t get in a tradition setting. “This includes exposing them to real-world problem solving and critical thinking, and showing them how to communicate and collaborate in the global knowledge economy of the 21st century,” said Lawrence in an email.
Currently a junior at La Salle, Barry hopes to study neurobiology or neuroscience in college, and eventually move on to a medical program to become a physician’s assistant. She wants to attend University of Rhode Island, University of Connecticut or Quinnipiac University.
Barry became interested in the medical field in her freshman year of high school after taking biology with a teacher who did lab research and would allow Barry to help.
For the past two summers, Barry has volunteered at Rhode Island Hospital in the recovery room. She handled different levels of patient care, spending her first summer talking with patients or bringing them food and drinks. During her second volunteering experience, Barry was able to perform tasks such as changing bandages and taking blood pressure.
“It was a lot of fun. They knew I was mature enough and could handle it,” explained Barry, adding that she would always volunteer for more tasks at the hospital and ask a lot of questions. “The longer I worked there, the more hands-on it got.”
Barry has also volunteered with the organization Children’s Friend, which helped her decide she wants to work with children, not infants or adults.
Last summer, Barry also spent the month of June working as a pharmacy intern.
“I learned a lot about prescriptions. It is good background to have, but not something I want to do every day,” explained Barry.
Barry’s mother Kristen, a teacher at Smithfield High School, helped get her daughter into the volunteer program at the hospital, and is not surprised she wants to take advantage of NYLF Medicine.
“We always knew she was goal-oriented,” said Kristen, adding that when her daughter received a partial scholarship for the program, they couldn’t say no.
Barry will also earn two college credits from George Mason University for taking part in the Forum. Tuition costs $2,695 and covers classes, briefings, lectures, simulations, a Certificate of Completion, housing, breakfasts, dinners, course materials, transportation to site visits, and program faculty and staff.
“I’m nervous, but I’m excited,” said Barry. “Even if it’s hard, it’s something I enjoy.”
Barry also believes that this experience will cement her decision to pursue a career in medicine.
“I pretty much know what I want to do, but this will be the key point in making sure,” she said.
Kristen agrees that this experience should help her daughter be sure before starting an intensive medical program in college. “Before you go into the medical field, you should make sure it’s something you want,” said Kristen.
Barry admits that a number of her friends are interested in the medical field, but they are not as interested in anatomy and the specifics as she is yet.
“I’m excited to be around people who have the same goals and interest level as I do,” said Barry.
In addition to this unique experience, Barry hopes to volunteer at Women & Infants Hospital this summer to build on her work with Rhode Island Hospital but work with a different type of patient.
“At Rhode Island Hospital I worked with a lot of older patients,” explained Barry, adding that volunteering at Women & Infants would also give her a chance to meet even more professionals and learn more about the field.