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Summer Trip Mixes Medicine, Leadership

Attending the National Student Leadership Conference over the summer, Allison Enjetti learned leadership skills that will be useful in any field.

Allison, 17, will be a senior at Hayfield Secondary, enrolled in medical-related courses with plans on becoming a doctor. Working around the hospital and operating room will require leadership training.

"They combine leadership skills with medicine," Allison said, of the NSL conference.

Four hundred students from around the country attended the June 22-July 2 conference at the University of Maryland. They got to travel to different medical centers in the area, experiencing various aspects of the field. Those included a trip to the National Institute of Health, the Georgetown University Medical facility and Walter Reed Army Hospital. The students debated medical decisions, operated on a pig's heart and learned how to stitch it up afterward. They also heard a lecture by Richard Marfuggi M.D., on the emotions involved with medicine.

Allison's family lives in Fairfax Station and Allison's mother Pamela Enjetti is an anesthesiologist at Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge. She went to school in India where a woman's field of choice when it cam to education was limited.

"I crossed frontiers on my own, I took it on as a personal challenge," Pamela Enjetti said.

At home, it's the type of life she wants for Allison.

"We've created an environment of taking on challenges," Pamela Enjetti said.

Allison has seen her mother take on challenges and leadership roles. This has served as inspiration.

"They [parents] definitely gave me opportunities where I can pursue medicine," Allison said.

AT UMD, Allison was housed in a dorm room with three other students and enjoyed the contact with fellow students the best. On the first day of the conference, they did team building exercises with a rope ladder and log stumps.

"We had to all hold onto each other, hold hands. To help each other, we had to help ourselves," she said.

Allison compared the experience to a reality television show without the staged arguments. The only difference was that the students got along, unlike their television counterparts.

"We were all stuck together," she said.

As Allison begins her senior year at Hayfield, she faces full schedule. She's enrolled in anatomy, physiology, advanced placement biology and a leadership class.

Fairfax County Public School spokesperson Mary Shaw indicated the variety of medical education offered in the public schools. Although Hayfield is one of the Fairfax County schools that's not considered an "academy," some of the advanced classes are still offered. At the Chantilly Academy, for instance, classes are offered in medical health technology, dental careers, and health care in the community.

According to its Web site, the NSLC has been in existence since 1989. High school students from across the United States and more than 45 countries have come to the NSLC.

Students have had the opportunity to work with and learn from many prominent national and world leaders such as secretary of education Rod Paige, supreme court justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor, attorney general Janet Reno, secretary of state Madeline Albright, renowned surgeons and medical researchers, ambassadors, and Pentagon and White House officials. Courses offered at the conference included "Mastering Leadership," "Law & Advocacy," "Medicine and Healthcare," "International Diplomacy," "Business and Commerce," and the "Congressional Process."