The most unique aspect of HPME is that it allows you to pursue a career in medicine along a path that is individualized to your interests and talents, no matter how unrelated to medicine they might seem. For me, the flexibility and freedom allowed by HPME gave me the opportunity to major in German, and I had no idea at the time that it would actually serve as a major influence in my medical education as well.
Coming into college I did not know what I wanted to major in. I really enjoyed many aspects of my high school education, and I did not want to zero in on science alone. As I began to take classes in the German Department, ranging from philosophy and music to politics and history, I found a major that allowed me to pursue a wide variety of interests. Due to the flexibility of the HPME program, I was able to broaden the scope of my undergraduate education without worrying about how it would appear on my medical school application. Additionally, I had the opportunity to live and study in Germany for a summer through funding of a German Department grant. As the only American student in the program I learned and experienced so much from people all across the world – including Nigeria, Laos, Uzbekistan, Iceland, Brazil, Syria. One of the things I discovered was how much room and opportunity there is to learn when you step outside of your comfort zone.
Getting outside of my comfort zone was exactly what HPME allowed me to do during college, and this is what made my college experience so valuable. In addition to my German studies, I also joined the Northwestern Sailing Team—where we sailed daily on beautiful Lake Michigan and competed nationally against schools across America. There were a number of health education and youth mentor groups that I joined as well, including Peer Health Exchange and Project SOAR at the local YMCA. These were all experiences and activities I was able to devote myself to without worry of my medical school application.
HPME allowed me all to explore all of my interests outside of medicine, which truly bolstered my undergraduate experience, but what I did not realize at the time is that it also prepared me for medical school. Often it was in the little things, like educating teens about pregnancy prevention or STIs—a skill learned in Peer Health Exchange—or efficiently tying knots in surgery—a trusty trick developed throughout my time on the sailing team. However, the biggest benefit was actually during my Global Health Elective as a 4th year medical student in Berlin. Here I spent time at the Charité Hospital on the Orthopaedic service, where I took care of patients with pathology ranging from high energy femur fractures to adult hip dysplasia and more. My knowledge and understanding of German language and culture allowed me to immerse myself as a member of the team, taking care of patients and experiencing the healthcare system from a brand new perspective. Now as I head into residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California—San Francisco I carry with me a myriad of experiences and connections from all across the world that will help me throughout my career.