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Teen helped establish medical explorers program

Stephanie Flagle dreams of opening a clinic in a foreign country

April 23, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Watching her mother undergo treatment in a hospital in the Philippines changed Stephanie Flagle's life.

It was a hospital unlike any she had seen.

One large room filled with beds lacked the privacy she was accustomed to seeing in the United States.

The patients bore scars and visible bites from bugs.

Not much appeared sterile.

"It really opened my eyes," Flagle said.

Since childhood, Flagle, 17, said she knew she wanted to be a doctor.

The daughter of a midwife, she felt drawn to the field, she said.

But it was not until Flagle stood next to her mother, Emilia, in Pine City Hospital in Baguio City, Philippines, that her dream came into focus.

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"I dream of studying ER medicine and opening a clinic in a foreign country," she said.

Everything in that hospital stood in stark contrast to the clean, sterile walls of Chambersburg Hospital, where she volunteers, making her heart ache for those in great need.

As a senior at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, Flagle is many years from earning a medical doctorate and journeying abroad.

Still, every moment now prepares her for that dream, she said.

Most of her free time is spent on 2 West at Chambersburg Hospital working with surgery recovery patients.

If she is not on the second floor, her tall, thin frame and long black hair shadow doctors in the emergency room.

What draws Flagle to medicine is the element of care, she said

From being around patients to watching them progress under care, medicine has made Flagle a believer in the power of human compassion.

"When you help someone, it makes you feel like you can do anything," she said.

Because, like her, many teens often are curious about medicine, Flagle said she was eager to help establish a medical explorers program at the hospital.

The program gives youths a front-seat view of the profession, said Angela Austin, school liaison coordinator for the hospital.

Between the explorer program, her volunteer work at the hospital, her church, her waitress job at Menno Haven, sports and school, Flagle said she has little time for herself.

But that is OK, she said.

"I want to be like one of the doctors I shadow," she said. "I want to mentor and not be passive about my medicine. I want to help."

Preparing to graduate from CASHS in June, she said she is considering the start of her pre-med education at either Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., or Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.

Last summer, she attended a summer program for teens pursuing medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, she said.

"I have so much more respect for the profession now," she said. "But I am also more inspired and confused at the same time. I don't know any more what area of medicine I want to do."

Flagle also is responsible for developing a hand-washing initiative in the community as part of her service learning project.

She said the project taught children the importance of washing their hands to avoid spreading the flu and other diseases.

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