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On the right track. La Grange student participates in prestigious pre-med program

La Grange resident Grace Dekoker spent her summer confirming she is on the correct career track.

Dekoker, 21, who wants to become a doctor, will be a senior this coming school year at Washington University in St. Louis.

Rather than spend her days at the beach, waiting on tables or babysitting for neighbors, Dekoker worked in the prestigious Northwestern Medicine Summer Pre-Med Internship program in Chicago.

She was one of the 51 selected from the more than 1,200 who applied.

“I was really excited. I applied last year and was not selected. I was really bummed after that,” Dekoker said.

“I threw my hat in the ring one more time. I think I benefited from having another year of college under my belt.”

The program ran from mid-June through the week of Aug. 8.

Each student studied under a physician mentor in one of 41 specialties. The students attended sessions on topics related to the current state of medicine, presented by leading physicians and hospital executives.

Dekoker worked with Dr. Steven Baughman, a urologist in the Department of Urology at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.

She typically worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but would come in earlier if there was surgery planned. She was in the operating room “five feet from the action.”

“I did not know much about urology, so I was nervous going in.” Dekoker said. “I did a lot of reading to get up to speed. I became super interested in the field. I saw some pretty amazing procedures.”

Besides urology surgeries, Dekoker witnessed a C-section and several deliveries.

Working close to home was a perk, along with having “an awesome, unique and fantastic opportunity,” she said.

Dekoker, who graduated from Lyons Township High School in 2019, plans on specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.

“I have wanted to work in medicine for a very long time,” she said. “To be able to work as a physician is the ultimate honor, to be able to talk with people and help them when they’re the most vulnerable.”

She thinks having the internship on her resume will help when she applies to med schools.

“It’s given me such affirmation that this is what I want to do. So many great experiences. That will be the biggest win. I’ve seen physicians who are competent and kind. It showed me that’s the kind of doctor I want to be someday,” Dekoker said.

Dr. Micah J. Elmer, a cardiologist and medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Glenview, Evanston and Deerfield Outpatient Centers, has chaired the program since 2019.

“We strive to provide a blend of both academic work and observation, and we are pleased to offer these dedicated students who have already shown a passion for medicine an eight-week, paid opportunity to work with some of the leading experts in medicine,” Elmer said.

It’s not just students who benefit.

“What I’m realizing now is how impactful it also is for the physicians who are provided a moment to ‘step back’ from their packed schedules and work demands and take some time to provide individual guidance and inspiration to a younger adult who has shown a passion for the study of medicine,” Elmer said.

143 pre-med students have completed the program, with many now in medical school, said Kim Waterman, media relations manager for Northwestern Medicine.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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