By Hassan AlAlami (YES 2018 – 2019, Gaza, hosted by AFS in Santa Clarita, CA)
When coming to the United States, I had high hopes for school and to learn more about American culture, but I didn’t expect to work on my career goals! Throughout my exchange year I got involved in many activities that gave me a great experience in the medical field, as I want to be a trauma surgeon. I'm involved in the Medical Science Academy at my high school, the Bridge to the Future program, and I am also shadowing doctors.
My experience at the Medical Science Academy of Valencia High School has been fabulous. I chose to be in the Emergency Medicine pathway where we learn about EMT skills and we do a lot of interactive activities. I got certified in CPR/First Aid, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), Blood borne Pathogens, and EpiPen Administration. Also MSA provided me the opportunity to do work-based hours with Atlantic events (Sports Med). All these activities improved my medical knowledge, and gave me experience in the medical field.
I'm a student at Bridge to the Future (B2F) STEM program established by Boston Scientific. In this program, we learn about the STEM fields and improve our leadership skills. B2F provided me the opportunity to do a cadaver lab about Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and the technology behind it. DBS is used to stop the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Dr. Nathan Rowland demonstrated the surgery on the cadaver, and showed us the tools used for it. The cadaver lab showed how technology role in medicine is super important.
Recently, I got to meet Dr. Asad Khaja who works at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, and I got to shadow him throughout the day to provide patient care and learn more about my future career work environment. Dr. Asad introduced me to Dr. Basel Abdulkarim who's a cardiologist, and I got to shadow him until he introduced me to Dr. Philippe Lemoine, a Cardiac Surgeon, who was about to do a Heart Lung Bypass surgery on one of his patients. Dr. Lemoine invited me to observe the surgery. I learned a lot about it, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I also got to keep the scrubs of my first surgery!
Before spring break, I got to represent Valencia High School with my classmates in the Medical Science Academy at the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) State Leadership Conference in Sacramento. Students from different schools across California come to compete in many fields like Sports Medicine, and EMT skills attend the cool workshops. I got to participate in Camp Cal-HOSA which improved my leadership skills. I was mentioned at the award ceremony for my participation on the workshop and passing the test afterwards. Valencia High School Medical Science Academy was awarded the most professional chapter in California. I'm so glad that I got to be a part of HOSA where I enjoyed the bonding activities and the team spirit. It was definitely an amazing experience.
I'm so thankful for all the opportunities that I had, and I wish to use the knowledge and the experience that I gained in my future career. This year’s benefits haven't only been focused in cultural exchange and travel experience, but its impact is helping me to make my way for my future career. Thanks to the U.S. Department of State, YES program, my host family and community for providing me with these opportunities.
Read more about Hassan's exchange year in California in his blog post from November during International Education Week 2018!