When I was asked whether I’d be interested in speaking to a Youth Leadership Exchange class last week, I was ambivalent.
I knew I’d agree to speak, because I consider it to be an important form of outreach that may get kids interested in current events and perhaps even pick up a newspaper now and then, but I’ve had some negative experiences.
Speaking to this group definitely was NOT one of them: Not one of them asked what kind of car I drive, how much money I make or which famous people I have met. I’ll typically answer these questions, but I always hope for better ones.
They didn’t disappoint.
Each member of the class, a part of Leadership Oklahoma City, applied to be there. When I asked what careers they were interested in, many said medicine. It was perhaps appropriate that I spoke on health care day. Speakers included a hospital executive and a scientist. Some of the class toured The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center.
(I was able to hold a human heart once while in high school. I never got to tour Children’s.)
For the first time in a while, I was nervous last week. Put me on camera, ask me questions, have me go up and get in a complete stranger’s business — these things have become second nature. Kinda have to be in my line of work. Speaking for a half-hour to smarty-pants sophomores and juniors from throughout Oklahoma County was enough to make my palms sweat.
Although I had a bullet-point presentation prepared, I realized it was too heavy on numbers and policy when my father suggested the kids likely would want to hear about some interesting things I’ve done.
By this point it was too late to change anything, and I’m not organized enough to be able to keep a group of high school students’ attention for 30 minutes without notes. Besides, going up for a flight with the Air Force, while exhilarating, has absolutely nothing to do with being a medical writer. Being cloned, well, I forgot to mention that one.
I told the group things would be a lot less painful for them and for me if we talked back and forth. I threw out some numbers — the uninsured, growth in certain classes of prescription drugs, elective procedures, etc. — and we then discussed what they mean and what to do about them.
Not only were the kids open to discussing these (admittedly) wonkish ideas, they had varying, reasoned opinions. I was impressed.
Should health insurance be mandatory, like car insurance? Is this possible? Is this enough? Is this too much? Should a liver go to a 30-year-old or a 70-year-old teetotaler?
By the time we finished this back and forth, I had gone over my allotted time; it seemed like no time at all.
The only question that caught me completely off guard was whether a girl in the class should attend the University of Tulsa, my alma mater.
It’s nice to be an expert in something. I told her yes.
Jeff Raymond, Medical Writer