Avery Grimwood, a freshman at Emporia High, will participate in the Congress of Future Medical Leaders this March.

Avery Grimwood, a freshman at Emporia High, will participate in the Congress of Future Medical Leaders this March.

An Emporia teenager has been nominated to participate as a delegate for the Congress of Future Medical Leaders, a program hosted by the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists for high school students who are interested in the field of medicine.

Avery Grimwood, a 14-year-old freshman at Emporia High School, said she was surprised when she heard the news on Jan. 3.

“My mom called me upstairs because I wasn’t having too good of a day before that and she was like, ‘Avery, come here,’ and she told me,” she said. “And, oh my goodness. I was so excited. I was ecstatic. … All the information about it and reading through it just made me so excited. I can’t wait for this opportunity, honestly. It’s just amazing that I got nominated for it.”

Her mother, Crista, was the first to learn that Avery had been selected for the honor. In a stack of mail, Crista stumbled upon a letter with a formal seal that was addressed, in handwriting, to Avery. Thinking it might be another premature college letter, Crista opened it hesitantly.

“It was this complete embossed letter and it was signed by Dr. Cappecchi and it was just explaining how proud being nominated is,” Crista said. “I definitely was surprised. I showed my husband and he was like, ‘What in the world?’ … I just think it’s a fantastic opportunity for someone so young.”

Dr. Mario Cappecchi is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and is the Science Director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists. He signed off on Avery’s nomination, which was made by an unknown individual on the Emporia High School staff.

According to a press release put out by the National Academy, Avery was selected because of “her academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine.”

The Congress will be held virtually on March 20-21 and will bring in delegates from all 50 states. Participants will be able to engage in a variety of educational activities, including direct interactions with Nobel Peace Prize winners and exposure to innovations in medical technologies such as regenerative medicine and drug delivery microchips.

Avery said that all of the activities sound fascinating, but the one that she is most excited for is the opportunity to observe a live surgery.

“I get to pipe into the surgeon’s ear and I get to ask questions live, so I think that’s going to be pretty interesting,” she said.

While she understands that she still has three-plus years until she graduates and her future plans might change, at this point Avery wants to pursue higher education at the University of Kansas.

“I want to be a neurosurgeon, so I want to go to KU,” she said. “I would love to play soccer in college, even be a walk-on, if that. I would love to, but if it comes down to it, I want to go to KU. Even if I don’t get offered a scholarship [or get to walk-on] for soccer, I would still go to KU.”

Avery will play her first season of high school level soccer for Emporia High this spring and is also heavily involved in theater, Kay Club and her church youth group.

Crista, who is currently working on her doctorate in education, said that Avery has always been highly ambitious in reaching her goals.

“[Avery] has been competitive since birth,” Crista said. “If you can win something, Avery is going to try. She doesn’t always win, which is very humbling for her and a very important life lesson, but she does definitely give everything her all. I’ve never seen a kid so driven and motivated. … With grades, with sports, even family board games, Avery is in it to win it.”

However, she has not always wanted to go into the medical field. In fact, prior to last school year, Avery had wanted to be a criminal defense attorney.

“I’ve been interested in law since I was in third grade, it’s what I always wanted to do,” Avery said. “But [during eighth grade], in my science class, we dissected a frog. I’m extremely grateful for this eye-opening opportunity, because this is really what got me interested. All my friends were standing there gagging and I was over there thinking this is the coolest thing I could possibly do. … I told my mom and she was like, ‘Are you serious?’”

While Crista is squeamish around “blood and guts” and thus does not see the appeal of the medical field herself, she said she appreciates the way Avery actively pursues her interests no matter what.

“I just love the fact that Avery is so passionate about life and exploring that she opens herself up to trying anything,” she said. “There have been some social consequences of that, of course, but working through that and her resiliency and willingness to get back up and try again, I aspire to be like her.”

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