Ally D'Angelo eyes her future

West Milford senior attends summit on medicine at Brandeis University

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  • Ally D'Angelo, an incoming senior at West Milford High School, attended Brandeis University's Global Youth Summit on the Future of Medicine this summer.


Ally D'Angelo has her eye on the future. The West Milford student will be entering 12th grade in the fall, but already has her future in medicine planned. Due to her academic achievement and interest, her school nominated her and she was accepted for Brandeis University's Global Youth Summit on the Future of Medicine this summer.

"I want to go into neuroscience and long term sequelae of traumatic brain injuries, and then go to medical school and eventually become a surgeon," Ally said, explaining her interest in the summit.

The summit on the future of medicine was held at Brandeis University from June 25 through July 1. Two hundred and thirty students from across the United States and around the world were selected to attend.

In Ally's group of 16, there were students from Greece, China and the Bahamas; all were mentored by a fourth-year medical student from Boston University. They followed a rigorous schedule, in part to replicate the long days of medical students.

"We began every day at 7 a.m. and didn't get back to dorms until 12 a.m.," Ally said.

She and the other students spent time with doctors, innovators and students in different fields covering the newest innovations in medical research and practice.

The group visited Lahey Medical Center where they shadowed doctors in cardiac/neuro ICU, toured the medical/surgical unit, the simulation lab, and attended a presentation on surgical robotics. They had the opportunity to lunch with current medical students from Tufts Medical School.

They toured Harvard Medical Center and attended lectures from the Dean of External Education, a pediatric oncologist, a surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the CEO of a biotechnology company. In addition, they learned about admissions at Harvard Medical School and from the dean of admissions at Brandeis.

A lecture on "visual cortex cell selectivity" was of particular significance to Ally because of her interest in neuroscience.

"I wanted to be around others with the same interests and learn about the steps to get where I want to be," said Ally. "I wanted to be exposed firsthand to the medical field."

There were plenty of problem-based learning sessions where the participants must come up with a differential diagnosis — pinpointing a diagnosis by eliminating others with similar features.

Sessions focused on genomics and the future and ethics of genetic engineering, a field that holds much promise for the cure and prevention of many conditions. The relatively new field of 3-D printing has enabled scientists to regrow human tissue and, they hope, eventually, organs, from a patient's own cells, to replace diseased or damaged ones. Genetic research now promises a future of genetically customized treatments for the individual.

Ally was also given a week-long research project — coming up with a solution to a 21st century medical issue. At its completion, she presented her findings in front of a panel of expert judges.

As part of her project, she researched familial amyloidosis, a hereditary disease that causes liver failure, and proposed prophylactic hepatic autotransplantation as a solution, a process by which 3D printing and genetic engineering would be used to edit out the mutated gene and regenerate the patient’s own liver cells to create a new liver which would not be subject to rejection.

"Overall I had a very memorable experience that validated my interest in medicine," Ally said, "and I learned a lot about recent advances in the field as well as how to succeed in it."

With her medical future firmly in her sights, now she just has to work on degrading her handwriting.

In a press release about The Global Youth Summit on the Future of Medicine, Brandeis University stated:
"The next generation of health care providers will practice in an environment hard to imagine just a few years ago. Leading-edge science is rapidly changing the daily practice of health care," said Steven Goldstein, MA, MD, PhD, FAAP. “We are in the midst of the most significant and fundamental change in health care delivery in our lifetime and young people who start now will be the future leaders in the field of medicine.”
"Delegates to the Summit will gain unique, behind-the-scenes insight into the dynamic world of health care through experiential learning, guest lectures and networking opportunities with leaders and innovators in the global medical community in order to build upon their already significant abilities and chart their path to becoming leaders in medicine."

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