Local high school students recently attended the Congress of Future Medical Leaders with the National Academy of Future Physicians in Washington D.C. from Feb. 14-16.

Among these students were Karlee Grudi, 16, of Elizabethtown Area High School and Marissa Witmer, 15, of Solanco High School.

The congress is a program for high schoool honors students who want to become physicians or go into medical research fields.

Along with more than 3,000 students from across the country, Grudi and Witmer had the opportunity to hear from Nobel Laureates, National Medal of Science winners, Ivy League and medical school deans, patients with miracle experiences and teen medicinal prodigies.

Grudi aspires to pursue higher education to become either a family physician or emergency room doctor.

She was able to hear from and interact with many doctors at the event.

“Doctor after doctor reiterated how much they loved being a doctor because they have the chance to profoundly impact humanity,” Grudi says.

She particularly enjoyed meeting former White House Physician Dr. Connie Marion.

“I felt that I could connect with her the most because she was a female physician who loves her country,” Grudi says.

A few of the highlights of Grudi’s experience were watching a live laparoscopic surgery, hearing from students her own age who are making medical discoveries and listening to stories from patients in recovery.

Grudi called the opportunity “amazing, inspiring and a great learning experience.

“I want to impact people’s lives for the better. I want to be for them what my doctor is for me — a doctor, a mentor, an inspiration and source of hope,” Grudi says.

The event also inspired Witmer. She is interested in pursuing a career as a surgeon, particularly in cardio thoracic surgery.

She says the experience “gave me this huge new drive to push forward and do what I can no matter what.”

“It makes me excited to learn, just to think and explore in the medical field overall,” Witmer says.

Witmer enjoyed meeting countless fellow students and says they exchanged contact information, realizing that they might be working together in the future.

She’s been interested in the medical field since middle school. The Congress of Future Medical Leaders furthered her dream of being a surgeon.

“On any given day I can picture myself as a surgeon, walking around, seeing patients, and performing surgeries,” Witmer says.

Her drive for a medical profession is why the congress exists.

According to the National Academy of Future Physician’s website, the purpose of the Future Medical Leaders conference is because the organizers “believe it is unacceptable that so many of America’s highest potential students never fulfill their dream of entering the medical profession because they lack resources, direction, self confidence or guidance.”