What Kason George did on his summer vacation has helped him decide what he wants to do in life.
The Cleburne High School senior spent 10 days observing the procedures and practices of health professionals at Boston’s leading medical facilities as a participant in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine.
After receiving an invitation to participate, George, with recommendations from teachers and physicians in his community, was accepted for the June 10-19 session taking place in Boston.
“They had sent me a letter at the end of my sophomore year,” George said. “When they sent me a second letter in my junior year, we decided to look into it.”
His mother, Holly, said she and husband, Derek, felt it would be a good opportunity for their son, who has been interested in medicine since he was a young boy. Growing up with severe allergies, Kason has had more than his share of health care experiences as a patient.
“I started thinking about the medical field when I was little,” George said. “I’ve had lots of allergies and been in intensive care for pneumonia.”
“Medicine fascinates me,” he said. “I really liked taking biology as a freshman, learning about DNA and how cells have certain objectives. It was the same for me in Biology II, especially learning about the organs of the body. After just a few Pharmacy Tech classes this year, I began to see myself as an anesthesiologist.”
George saw anesthesiologists in action, along with surgeons, a variety of specialists, nurses and other health professionals who make up the teams at Boston’s Medical Center Surgery, Harvard University Medical School and other industry landmarks.
“We visited hospitals and clinics,” George said. “We went on rounds with doctors, viewed a two-hour surgery as it was being performed, watched as IVs were started and spent time in the emergency room.”
“My favorite experience was the surgery,” he said. “I got to see an anesthesiologist at work. Seeing his part in the surgery, I could see myself doing that. I’m fascinated with the process of putting someone to sleep, then waking them up.”
That experience also verified the field of medicine that he probably won’t enter — surgery.
“What we saw was a knee surgery,” he said. “They were replacing the knee cap. They used a Home Depot saw during part of the procedure. A few of the kids passed out, but not me. However, if it had been a brain surgery, I might have.”
After time spent with a variety of specialists, he has also ruled out eye, ear, nose and throat—too bland. On the flip side, his group’s visit to the emergency room was a little too exciting, with the arrival of a gunshot victim.
George portrayed a victim in an emergency setting as a participant in a mock triage in which health care professionals practiced their roles in a crisis situation.
“The crisis involved an earthquake which had hit the city,” he said. “I played a victim with a concussion. I also played a victim with a ‘5’ rating, which meant I had expired.”
As a member of the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, George was among 300 high school students from across the nation, including six from Texas.
“My roommate was from Corpus Christi,” he said. “But I met kids from all over—Alaska, lots from Puerto Rico. I have a good friend now who is from Miami. I also met a kid in my group who was Sikh. He wore a turban because it is part of his religion. This whole experience really got me out of my box.”
Students were exposed to all aspects of the medical field, from the research environment at Harvard Medical School to getting a true picture of what it takes to enter the field from their group leaders who are currently in medical school.
“They told us it wouldn’t be easy,” George said. “We were also told to be sure it was what we wanted—and not to do it for the money.”
“It was a lot of work,” he said. “You woke up at six every morning, got a 30-minute break in the middle of the day and got to bed at 11 that night. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I thought I’d get homesick, but I didn’t—they kept us very busy. There were times my head was throbbing—so much knowledge was going in. When we got to the end, I didn’t want to leave.”
Holly says she has seen a change in her son, due to the experience.
“I know he grew up a lot, being thrown out there on his own in a huge group of strangers,” she said. “It was great preparation for college. He also learned a lot about leadership and his individual leadership skills.”
“It’s so hard at this age for them to know what they want,” she said. “But he’s always been fascinated with medicine, and Kason is a warm, caring person. Between the experience and the opportunity to see so many great medical facilities, I think he has a clear vision of where he wants to go.”
Kason agrees that it was a reality check which has given him some new personal skills and goals to achieve.
“In those 10 days, I learned how to make a way — from making sure I got up on time to overcoming my shyness in getting to know people,” George said. “The classes were what I expect college will be like. It really helped me prepare for college. It was the first time I had ever been away from home that long.
“I have also set some major senior year goals, starting with working as hard as I can. I am learning how to study, and how not to procrastinate. My philosophy is to work hard and never give up; giving up gets you nowhere.”
His summer vacation experience is also a major source of inspiration as a student in Marcia Sloan’s pharmacy technician class.
“I am so excited to be in this class,” George said. “At the end of the course, I can take the exam for the Certified Pharmacy Tech license. Working as a pharmacy tech would be something I could do while I’m in college.”
As for college, he is considering Baylor, Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas. He also has the University of Oregon on his list.
“If I could get a scholarship, I would go,” he said. “It’s a beautiful state and there are no allergy issues. It’s cold, I love the mountains and they have great hunting. They also have a great biology program.”
George is a three-time Academic Excellence Award honoree and a member of National Honor Society, Student Council and the CHS Leadership Class. He is in the top 10 percent of his graduating class.