The Andover Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) invited several alumni speakers who specialize in the medical field, including Dr. Jennifer Ellis ’81, EJ Kim ’15, Dr. Brian Clark ’00, Dr. Robert Spang ’05, and Dr. Sherita Gaskins-Tillet ’90. Based on their individual Andover experiences, they shared their insights and advice with the participants.
In her speaker segment, Ellis, a chief cardiothoracic surgeon, pointed out the disparities that remain in medical treatment. She added that people subconsciously make assumptions based on an individual’s race and gender, which prevents them from providing fully equitable treatment. She describes a tragic incident when she witnessed a 14-year old boy get shot in his leg and then denied access to pain medication at the hospital. The reason behind this is because the staff thought the boy “looked tough” and “didn’t look like he was in pain.”
“You are torturing a child. And there was much discussion after that because they really were torturing a child, and that was an inherent bias of seeing somebody who looked grown so you aren’t treating them,” said Ellis.
Kim, a former biology teaching fellow, is currently a first-year student at Harvard Medical School. She discussed her personal growth during her time at Andover. Also formerly a writer for The Phillipian, Kim viewed her experiences interviewing people for her articles as specifically helpful in her current pursuit in medicine.
“But honestly, my favorite part was sort of being on the bench, chatting with people, seeing what they were up to. I had that innate interest in people. And when I got to college, that sort of curiosity led me to study neuroscience and psychology after doing a little bit of exploration,” said Kim.
Claire Song ’22, president of HOSA and a key organizer of the conference, resonated strongly with what Kim discussed.
“I think medicine isn’t just about STEM, it’s also [about] learning to advocate for the [patients’] stories, for the patient’s journey, and being with them and that human connection that people often forget. And hearing that from Ms. Kim again just further emphasizes that for me,” said Song.
Clark, Chief of Gastroenterology and Medical Director of Endoscopy for MelroseWakefield Hospital and director of gastroenterology at the Tufts Medical Center Community Care, discussed how the Andover Non Sibi spirit is applied in the medical field as well, when treating patients, caring for the greater community, and educating others.
“I can’t think of a better career that better embodies the Non Sibi spirit than medicine. ‘Not for self,’ that is at the crux, in the center of what medicine is. … It’s really a shared ideal that I find very rewarding to be a part of every day,” said Clark.
Song worked with Alicia Finney, Instructor in Biology and HOSA club advisor, to organize a mini-conference featuring Andover alumni in the medical field, with the intention to provide current Andover students with an opportunity to learn from people currently working in medicine.
“The primary goal here was to provide students interested in medicine the opportunity to hear what those careers actually look like, from the perspective of someone who had been in their shoes potentially fairly recently,” wrote Finney in an email to The Phillipian.
Finney enjoyed helping Song organize the conference and was excited to see what questions the students would have for the panelists.
“I think I was most looking forward to hearing what questions Andover students had for our panelists! As a biology teacher, I have many students who express an interest in medicine, that connects to an interest in the sciences. It was so interesting and informative to not only hear what things they were truly curious about but also what those responses were,” wrote Finney.