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Ashley Wietsma

Dr. Ashley W.

Alumna, NYLF Medicine 2002
Resident, Duke University Medical Center

"NYLF Medicine showed me that being a doctor is not simply a career choice but a life calling. By meeting medical students, residents, doctors, and patients during my 10 day program, I gained a complete picture of both the educational path of medicine and the impact of a medical career. After completing my NYLF Medicine experience, I knew that medicine was my calling."

Dr. Ashley Wietsma, a 2002 NYLF Medicine alumna, holds a Bachelors of Arts from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and completed a post-baccalaureate pre-medical graduate program at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Wietsma received her Medical Degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD before continuing her training as a Robotic and Telemedicine Research Fellow in the Department of Pediatric Urology at Boston Children’s Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, in Boston, MA. Currently Dr. Wietsma is a urology resident at Duke University Medical Center, where she plans to continue her research pursuits while training as a urologic surgeon.

During her summers before entering medical school, Dr. Wietsma returned to the Envision Company as the Program Director for LeadAmerica’s Medicine & Healthcare conferences at Georgetown University and Columbia University. Dr. Wiestma continues to lend her time to Envision’s NYLF Medicine and Advanced Medicine & Health Care programs as an alumna and expert panelist. Dr. Wietsma credits her decision to become a doctor to her experiences at NYLF Medicine as a teenager.

Q&A with Ashley

  • What inspires you most as a young medical professional?
    One of my greatest motivations in pursuing a medical career is the unique nature of the doctor-patient relationship. During an office visit or in the emergency room, physicians have less than 15 minutes to create a safe and welcoming environment that will allow a patient to feel comfortable discussing their vulnerabilities. In that truncated time, a truly gifted and compassionate physician can build the foundation for a relationship that may last for the entirety of a patient’s life. Having the honor to bond with people in that manner inspires me the most about my career.
  • What part of the National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF): Medicine did you enjoy the most?
    At NYLF Medicine, I had the unique opportunity to observe a urology surgery case at Lahey Clinic outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Some of my fellow NYLF participants were a bit squeamish plastering themselves into the corner of the room, but I stood right at the patient’s side peering over the surgical drape to be as close to the action as possible. Four hours flew by as I chatted with the surgeon and residents about the procedure, the patient, and their own personal career paths. I was enthralled by the surgery itself and pleasantly surprised by the upbeat, jovial atmosphere in the operating room. I was astounded by the fact that the patient would allow others to put him to sleep and trust that when he awoke he would be healed. Having this opportunity as a high school student allowed me to recognize that being a physician was by far the most awe inspiring, challenging, and fun career I could choose.
  • What was the most interesting thing that you learned from attending the NYLF?
    Although my NYLF Medicine program focused on the medical field, I appreciated its emphasis on becoming a well-rounded student and professional. I distinctly remember my own Faculty Advisor discussing her educational journey; she was planning to apply to medical school after college but first wanted to explore the realms of basic science research and public health. This was echoed in my tour at Harvard Medical School when the Dean of Admissions encouraged us to pursue our passions outside of medicine. These pieces of advice resonated with me and directly influenced my decision to double major in English and Pre-Medical studies at Johns Hopkins University. I loved the dichotomy of my undergraduate studies in liberal arts and science. I was confident in my decision to pursue this nontraditional path because of the advice of my NYLF mentors. In the end, having a Bachelor of Arts in English made me a unique and well-rounded medical school applicant. 
  • How did it lead you to medical school?
    My experiences at NYLF Medicine directly influenced my decision to become a doctor. There are many noble careers that include lifelong education, technological advancements, and creative problem solving. But medicine goes beyond that. As doctors, we are choosing to bravely fight against man’s greatest enemies, sickness and death. NYLF Medicine showed me that being a doctor is not simply a career choice but a life calling. By meeting medical students, residents, doctors, and patients during my 10 day program, I gained a complete picture of both the educational path of medicine and the impact of a medical career. After completing my NYLF Medicine experience, I knew that medicine was my calling.
  • What do you think is the biggest challenge for a young person who wants to enter the medical profession?
    It is no secret that applying to college and medical school is becoming more and more competitive. I served as an admissions interviewer for both my undergraduate university and my medical school, and I was overwhelmed by the deluge of impressive applications we received each year. The best way to make your application stand out is to be a well-rounded student and a leader in your community. I loved asking applicants about their achievements outside of the classroom; the champion surf boarder who organized a school wide clothing drive for her local homeless shelter is a more memorable and impressive applicant than the student whose only focus was getting straight A’s. I continue to encourage high school and college students to pursue their passions outside of the traditional classroom and to strive to make an impact in their communities. Those themes make your application shine.
  • How was attending the NYLF program different from learning in a traditional classroom?
    A traditional classroom experience cannot even compare to the NYLF Medicine experience. Students are given a head-start in the field of medicine by meeting experts in medicine and biologic research, learning portions of the medical school curriculum, and having hands-on experiences in clinical settings. In addition to introducing students to the intricacies of a specific career path, such as medicine or law, NYLF Medicine helps students establish a foundation of skills in leadership, problem solving, and communication on which to build their careers. NYLF Medicine’s goal is to tap in to your leadership potential encouraging you to critically examine your own life goals.
  • What would you tell other students who are considering enrolling in NYLF Medicine?
    As both a participant of NYLF Medicine and a Program Director of its sister program, LeadAmerica, I have witnessed the profound impact these experiences have on young adults. One of my favorite memories is being approached by a mother on move in day asking me to keep a special eye on her son, who was Autistic. During our closing ceremonies, he asked me if he could go up on stage to perform a song he wrote about his experience. By the end of the performance, all 200 students were on their feet giving him a standing ovation and chanting his name. That is the type of life changing experience students have at these programs. The experience will instill in you a strong sense of self, giving you the confidence to return to your community to make a difference and pursue a career centered on leadership and service.
  • Where has your nontraditional path taken you?
    After graduating from medical school at University of Maryland School of Medicine, I decided to delay my residency training by a year to work as the Robotic Surgery and Technology Research Fellow in Pediatric Urology at Harvard Medical School/Boston Children’s Hospital. My research explored the impact of cutting edge technology on patient outcomes and hospital efficacy, and ways in which we can successfully educate young surgeons in this new technology. The most incredible part is that I returned to Boston, the city where my journey started in NYLF, and I am working towards a career in Urology, the surgical specialty I was exposed to in the operating room as an NYLF Medicine student. I have just begun a Urology residency at Duke University Medical Center, where I plan to continue my research pursuits while training as a urologic surgeon.