I left my house Thursday at roughly 1:30 p.m, despite the fact there was still heavy snow and ice on the ground and roads, and that it was still coming down on us. The most difficult part of the trip was getting out of the foot of snow and ice in my driveway, honestly. After that we managed to make it to the interstate and it was relatively easy driving from then on out.
We stopped that night at my grandpa’s apartment in Richmond, Va. We left there and made the rest of the drive to D.C around noon Friday.
D.C is only about an hour and a half from Richmond — until you take traffic into consideration. Never in my life have I seen traffic congested as the roads close to and within the city; Charlotte/Raleigh pale in comparison.
We made it to the hotel, a 19-story Holiday Inn that has an amazing view of the Potomac River from its windows and from the restaurant on the top floor. My first impression of D.C? Overwhelming. Culture shock. I had expected I’d be accustomed to it rather easily but when you’re from a town that has one caution light and you go to one of the most crowded cities in the nation … it takes time to get used to.
The first day of city life was very stressful. My first subway ride was brutal. Movies highly romanticize the metro trains and they are not all they are made out to be (Although I’ve grown used to them and actually like them now!) when you’re in a cart that jerks every direction with curves and jumps 2 feet it’s not that fun.
Buildings are packed closely together and lack any profound features. All have a generic, urban, business look. The McDonalds did not have a sign, merely a name above the door — it was part of a skyscraper complex. Starbucks existed in a similar fashion. The houses literally touched each other (save for alley ways on the rare occasion) and had no yard whatsoever. The city was painfully dry and cold, and even though snow and ice did fall, it seemed the city just stepped around it and kicked it to the side, unphased.
The city never sleeps. Lights stay on every hour of the night, and traffic constantly goes to and from the city. At 1:30 in the morning you can still see peole out and about and cars cover the roads. I even had a pizza delivered to my hotel room at 12:45 from a nearby Dominos on the first night.
D.C is … different, from the postcard views you’re usually given of it. I did visit the monuments and memorials which are amazing in person and are much larger than you can visualize (the Vietnam Wall in particular surprised me), but aside from that, it’s every bit as urban as say, New York city. The capitol overlooks the city yet it doesn’t seem so … antique, in comparison to the rest of the buildings. It simply stands as a symbol of authority, in a way, and fits into the city perfectly. The White House fits in with a similar fashion.
Alrighty, now to talk to about the medical congress. The congress proceedings were held within the National Guard armory. The Surgeon General of the United States held an opening speech, welcoming us to the capitol and congratulating us and told us about his job. He saluted us, and various other speakers came out and talked to us. A wealthy business man by the name of Dan Sullivan gave us advice on how to stay happy AND successful, and I took quite a lot from that. We also heard from a neurologist that night, and from other respected doctors.
The second day I observed live surgery, streamed to us from a hospital in Chicago. The hospital was extremely excited to do this for us and we were equally excited to learn from the surgeons. Within the day, we also heard from a Nobel Peace Prize-winning doctor, and a doctor that helped to create the process of a face transplant, and one of his patients. Her story was truly touching and the amount of support for her within the room was overwhelming.
We also heard from Jim Kwik, a man who specializes in helping with learning and memorization skills. He was an -amazing- speaker and was very fun to listen to and taught us a lot. He increased our reading skills to about 35 percent faster than they were prior to attending the Congress (and, don’t get me wrong, I’m a fast reader as is) and taught us how to memorize and take in information with more precise recall and interpretation.
On Sunday we heard from various other doctors, including yet another Nobel Peace Prize-winning doctor and a recipient of stem cell treatment that was working to cure a previously “uncureable” spinal cord injury. The closing ceremony was held by Dr. Connie Mariano (the president’s doctor). We were gathered around the stage, standing in a huge group (some stayed on the bleachers) and held candles as we took the Hipocratic Oath with her. There was a party after the closing ceremony. The entire experience was amazing and I am glad that I was fortunate enough to be able to attend.
Two themes were prevalent in all of the stories of the doctors. Their success stemmed from failure after failure. Failing does not make you a failure; it is those who give up that are failures. Regardless of failure or difficulty, anything this day and age truly is possible if you put your mind to it. Their stories are living proof of this. They emphasized effort and persistence towards your goals. They also emphasized that we find something we’re happy doing. simply pursue what you enjoy and the rest will come naturally. Both of the Nobel Peace Prize winners told us that neither of them had actually been trying to win the prize when they started, they simply were doing something they loved.
This was both a humbling and extremely iinspiring event. It’s truly amazing to be graced by the presence of the highest authority of medicine in the United States, by amazing doctors that have touched so many lives, by recipients of the most prestigious award on Earth- and even more surreal for them to congratulate us and tell us that we are the future of medicine. The Surgeon General saluted us and the rest all complimented us greatly and wished us well on our future goals and dreams, and this is by far the highest honor I’ve ever received in my life. I am proud to say that I attended this Congress.
Trey McInnis is a junior at Richmond Senior High School in Rockingham. He was awarded a $1,500 scholarship to attend the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in Washington D.C. Trey aspires to study psychology in college. He lives in Norman.