Students discover potential career possibilities at the Operation Med School conference


Natalie Dosmond '21

The annual Operation Med School New York conference occurred virtually this year from March 29 to April 2.

With the goal of informing high school students about careers in medicine, Operation Med School (OMS) New York held its annual conference from March 29 to April 2.  The virtual format of this year’s event enabled the organization to host speakers and panelists from beyond the local area.  High school students with aspirations in the medical field gained exposure through a week filled with keynote speakers, interactive workshops, and Q&A panels.  As team members of the New York branch of the larger OMS organization, six Sacred Heart Greenwich students planned the week-long virtual conference. 

Founded in Vancouver, Canada in 2012, OMS is a non-profit, student-run organization that plans conferences throughout Canada and the United States to inform students about potential careers in medicine and to give them confidence when embarking on their future endeavors, according to  The New York branch of the organization is the first of its kind in the United States, holding conferences for students in the New York-area since 2018.  In past years, OMS only held one-day in-person conferences, but as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the conference occurred virtually via Zoom webinars from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. every night of the week. 

Students from schools in the local area came together to plan this year’s virtual conference.  Courtesy of Alexandra Hannett ’22

As the conference is entirely student-run, a group of ten high school students from Sacred Heart, St. Luke’s School, and Rye Country Day School (RCDS) came together to plan this year’s event.  Senior Ceci Duncan is the team’s co-president, taking the responsibility alongside senior Jordan Miller, who attends RCDS, of facilitating the overall production of the conference.  Sacred Heart students make up over half of the OMS New York team.  Junior Annie O’Connor helped find and secure the speakers for the conference as a part of her role as plenary director, and seniors Sasha Rivera and Natalie Dosmond worked to procure sponsorships and manage funding in their roles as co-finance director and corporate relations manager respectively.  Additionally, senior Eva Canellakis and junior Alexandra Hannett worked together as co-publicity directors to promote the conference through social media.

To commence this year’s conference, Dr. Alexandra Lewis ‘01 discussed her path after graduating from Sacred Heart to becoming a board-certified anesthesiologist.  Dr. Lewis attended Yale University before earning her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  She then went on to complete her residency at both Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School before her fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she specializes in thoracic anesthesia, acute pain, and regional anesthesia.  Dr. Lewis will attend Columbia University in the fall to earn her Master of Business Administration (MBA). 

Dr. Lewis imparted her knowledge about entering into the field of medicine to the next generation of aspiring medical professionals, while also speaking about the impact of her Sacred Heart education on her career.  Sasha particularly enjoyed hearing from Dr. Lewis as she related to certain aspects of her experience.

“Dr. Alexandra Lewis was my favorite speaker, not only because she came from our very own Sacred Heart Greenwich, but also because she represented the black woman’s experience in a white, male-dominated field and emphasized the importance of taking your time in the journey to medical school,” Sasha said.  “She shared how the gap year she took between college and medical school was life changing and allowed her to explore other interests besides medicine.”

Panelists Ms. Katrina Hannett and Ms. Caroline Geller, university students who are both pursuing careers in medicine, answered questions from students regarding their experiences in the early stages of their medical careers.  Ms. Hannett graduated from Greenwich Academy in 2018 and is now majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Chemistry on the pre-med track at the University of Chicago.  She is also a neurosurgery research assistant at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Ms. Geller graduated from RCDS last year and is now pursuing a degree in Biology & Society at Cornell University.

The conference consisted of two separate workshops, one about emergency response and the other about the basics of medicine, such as vital signs and triaging.  Sophomore Hannah Gunn who attends St. Luke’s School and sophomore Lara Nemeth, a student at RCDS, organized and planned these workshops as a part of their roles with the OMS team.  Hannah ran both of the workshops for the attendees, engaging them through follow along videos and interactive activities. 

To conclude the conference, students heard from keynote speaker Dr. Kisha Mitchell Richards, Director of Pathology at Greenwich Hospital, who specializes in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology, and forensic pathology.  Originally from Jamaica, Dr. Richards attended the University of West Indies Faculty of Medicine in Jamaica before her residencies at the University Hospital of West Indies and George Washington University.  She then completed her fellowship at the University of South Florida and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Dr. Kisha Mitchell Richards speaks about her journey to becoming a pathologist.  Natalie Dosmond ’21

In addition to speaking about her journey in the medical field, Dr. Richards discussed many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, including testing, mask wearing, and vaccines, using her expertise as a pathologist.  She also gave words of advice, specifically to young women who hope to explore careers in medicine, a historically male-dominated field. 

“As you ascend, you will often be the only woman,” Dr. Richards said.  “Don’t put things out of your reach.”

Sophomore Kate Nemec attended all five days of this year’s conference as she was eager to learn from medical students and professionals in different parts on the medical field.  OMS was beneficial to her as it allowed her to gain insight into a career that she is potentially interested in and to learn more about the many different routes that are available in becoming a medical professional.

“My favorite part of the conference was the personal experiences shared by each of the panelists, more specifically, the students that are on the pre-med track and beginning the application process for med school,” Kate said.  “I enjoyed hearing the perspectives from the panelists, and they helped contextualize how the path to medicine commences and how there are still many ambiguities in their respective pathways; one does not need to approach their undergraduate years with their whole medical career planned out for the future.”

Featured Image by Natalie Dosmond ’21