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The penultimate day of the inaugural week-long day camp of the American Chinese Medical Association (ACMA) on July 23, 2015 was a resounding success. Students listened to speeches from neurologists, psychiatrists, surgeons, research staff, and university students. 

The day started off bright and early at 8:45 with a brisk walk to the UMass Med Building. There, students were taken under the wing of neurologist Dr. Lan Qin, who brought them on a lengthy foot tour that spanned the Medical School Building, the Albert Sherman Center, and the UMass Memorial Hospital. Afterwards, after sitting all the campers down in a medical school classroom, she introduced them to the world of medical school. As the students eagerly inquired about the admissions process and the interviews, Dr. Qin reminded them that they were still young and had a lot to look forward to. Afterwards, the group toured specific areas of the hospital.

After the tour, the excited students began trekking up the hill to Biotech One, one of the office building offshoots a couple of minutes off campus. There, they were welcomed by the members of Dr. Xiaoduo Fan’s research program, a well-versed group in which all of whom have had experience working with public health abroad. After a couple minutes to rest up after the morning tour, the campers listened as two program members, Sarah Hopkins and Laura Nunnelly, talked about their experiences working with mental health in El Salvador and HIV in China respectively. The group would later hear from another program member, Alan Xie, about his experience working with leprosy in China. The breadth of the experiences of the university students and recent alumni proved to be inspiring for the campers, who later cited their closeness of age to the speakers and relatability of the speeches as a major pro of the day. Throughout the global health presentations, however, the campers remained relatively shy, perhaps a reaction to all the new information with which they were being inundated.

Next, Dr. Xiaoduo Fan gave a short presentation of his work in psychiatry to the campers, which proved to be particularly interactive and fun for the campers. They were excited to recite the various pieces of knowledge that they had learned from psychology classes. In particular, one of the campers happily shared her knowledge of various psychological phenomena such as the relationship between the prefrontal cortex and personality, as demonstrated by the famous case of Phineas Gage. Together, Dr. Fan and the campers discussed the symptoms and treatment of various disorders such as clinical depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Although most of the campers proclaimed that they had no interest in psychiatry, one could not help but wonder if their engaged participation in the stimulating discussion hinted otherwise.

And thus, morning ended, and Dr. Bill Lian arrived, along with eight boxes of Domino’s pizza. The campers dug in, rewarded for their patience the whole morning learning about the various aspects of the medical field. As everyone enjoyed the delicious and hot meal, Dr. Lian challenged the campers’ perceptions of medicine, giving a more stark and gritty account of life. Dr. Lian provided his own life as an example for the tenacity and perseverance required to succeed in medicine, repeatedly reminding the campers of the power of will and the need to make a difference. Among his colorful illustrations of his major points, Dr. Lian compared the life of a passive person to a dying leaf and showcased the multiple failures of Abraham Lincoln before he became the greatest US president of all time. Therefore, Dr. Lian concluded, it is necessary for the campers to persist through difficulties and be proactive in making a difference in order to be great.

After the inspirational presentation, Dr. Lian and the campers walked back down the hill to the Memorial Hospital to meet Dr. Hongyi Cui, one of the surgeons on campus. Dr. Cui screened a video clip that chronicled one particular woman’s emotional journey through amputation. Afterwards, Dr. Cui stressed that despite the financial incentives that come with being a surgeon, he was primarily motivated by surgeons’ ability to make a difference in others’ lives. He reminded everyone that surgery is not all pomp and circumstance: it has very real consequences, and surgeons bear a huge responsibility in their real-time work decisions. Finally, Dr. Cui showed the students an anatomical model of a person, giving a brief anatomy and physiology lesson to the campers, as well as answering various questions regarding medical school and residency.

Alas, the day concluded, and the campers began their trek up to Biotech One, where they went to a debriefing session led by Dr. Fan and signed out. As they left, a group picture was taken under the blue sky with the towering school in the background. The campers voiced that they had truly enjoyed what they learned and that they were more inspired than ever to become involved in the medical field.

Written by Mark Liu, Harvard College, '16