Juniors Umeera Farooq and Alexis Nadreau explore medical field at UC Berkeley


Photo Courtesy of: Umeera Farooq

Watching her group member suture a chicken breast, junior Umeera Farooq learns more about the medical field of surgery. Being able to do hands-on work helped Farooq solidify her passion for medicine and learn about different aspects of the field. “I want to go into medicine for sure. This camp opened my eyes to the variety of opportunities in the surgery field. Instead of just being interested in being a surgeon, now I’m thinking of anesthesiology or being an OBGYN,” Farooq said.

Attending the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) at University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) July 15-23, juniors Umeera Farooq and Alexis Nadreau learned about medicine and healthcare through lectures and hands-on work.

“I’m really interested in going into a job in the medical field, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do that and see what it’s all about,” Nadreau said. “I just think it solidified the fact that I really do want to go into the medical field, and I loved it.”

Throughout the nine-day camp, students learned about different career paths involving medicine, such as public health and sports medicine.

“They went into individual talks about different studies that you can do, and I hadn’t even thought of the research part of it. It just completely opened my mind to how much there is,” Nadreau said.

On some days, medical professionals came in to lecture campers about their respective careers.

“I really liked Dr. Cindy Chang. She works at San Francisco General Hospital, which we also went to. She talked about sports medicine, but we also did casting and suturing with her. She just made all of it so interesting,” Farooq said.

Sharing an interest in becoming surgeons, Farooq and Nadreau enjoyed learning about sutures and being able to practice doing them.

“Right now, I’m leaning towards being a surgeon and just doing the suturing makes me want to do it more. At first, I was thinking about being a pediatrician because they get to work with kids and they have structure, but that just bores me now,” Farooq said. “After being hands-on with the sutures, I’m thinking I want to be a pediatric surgeon or something like that. You still have a routine in work and what you do in the surgery, but it’s not as structured.”

Besides sutures, students also practiced CPR, dissection and intubation at San Francisco General Hospital, getting the chance to understand what working in a hospital would be like.

“They actually gave us a chance to try it, and we were using all the equipment that doctors would use. It just felt like really good,” Farooq said. “I’ve never had that experience before. I’ve volunteered at hospitals before, but that’s more clinical, and this is way more hands on. You actually feel like you’re working, and not many people get that opportunity, so getting so hands on you’re like, ‘oh, this is what I would do if I were to have that as my career.’”

Along with learning more about medicine, campers were also able to experience what it’s like to be in college and live on campus.

“We stayed in the dorms, and all the lectures and activities were in the classrooms there, so it was really cool; it was like you were staying at a college,” Nadreau said. “I can’t wait to go to college because you learn so much about being independent and living on your own. It just feels like you’re actually growing up and becoming an adult.”

Although Nadreau and Farooq lived in the same dorm, they were separated into different groups. Each group had teacher advisors (TA), spent the day together and did certain bonding activities, including a ropes course and dyadic encounters, which helped them become more comfortable with each other.

“When I got to the top of the ladder of the ropes course, I was about to be like, ‘take me back down’ because I have a really big fear of heights. Overcoming that was incredible because my group was all there saying like, ‘you got it, you got it,’” Farooq said. “We also did dyadic encounters where your TA sets you up with one other person during the second or third day who they don’t think that you talk to very much. I got set up with another Alexis, not from our school, and she became one of my best friends from the camp. You just talk about deep stuff because they give you questions to ask each other. That was super cool because she became one of my closest friends there.”

Photo Courtesy of Alexis Nadreau
Wrapping a group member’s arm, junior Alexis Nadreau participates in a casting activity.

Although Farooq and Nadreau found it hard to make friends in the beginning, by the end of the nine days, they felt closer than ever to their TAs and fellow group members.

“Because it’s really hard to make friends, Alexis and I didn’t really enjoy it in the beginning. After all the other bonding activities at the end of the camp though, there was this activity where you go around and hug the people you appreciate just to let them know that you appreciate them. This one girl in my group came up to me, and she was crying, so then I started crying,” Farooq said. “The last day, it was just so hard to say goodbye. It’s only for nine days, but you build friendships so quickly. That activity was really memorable because it was so little, but it meant so much.”

Feeling that the TAs helped make her experience so enjoyable, Farooq is thinking about going back to this camp in the future as a TA.

“I think if I ever get that chance, I might [become a TA] because they really impacted my life. My time there was so great because of them, and they were some of the people that it was so hard to say goodbye to,” Farooq said. “As a TA, you get to do something with medicine your entire summer, rather than being stuck in a lab, and you get to work with people, which I love.”

Through this camp, Nadreau was able to learn about the environment of a hospital, cementing her desire to work in medicine.  

“Both my parents have done stuff in business, but I’m not the kind of person who would want to sit in a cubicle all day. I find medicine really interesting because you get to help people, and it’s never slow,” Nadreau said. “I would love to be a surgeon because everything about that’s really interesting to me, and I feel like there’s so much to learn about. I feel like you could never stop learning.”

Both Nadreau and Farooq feel that this camp has opened up future opportunities in the medical field and would recommend the camp to those interested in this field.

“In the beginning, Alexis and I wanted to go home, but near the end, we really genuinely liked it, and we wanted to stay. It was really inspiring and motivating experience to meet people who have the same interests as you,” Farooq said. “Medicine’s a direct way to help people, and I love that. I just don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t going into medicine–I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”