Our Youth

Let Them Speak: Character, Courage and Commitment

By Elizabeth Goberdhan


I always viewed life through rose-colored glasses, but from 2015 to 2018, numerous circumstances in my life challenged me personally and academically. Nevertheless, these circumstances were blessings in disguise as they allowed me to overcome these hardships and give back to the community through volunteer work and define a specific career path that would benefit humanity.

In 2015,  my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I was devastated because I believed this was a death sentence and my mother only had months to live. I spiraled from sadness to despair and would often go to bed crying.

Trusting in Jesus and Mary

However, my mother always maintained a positive attitude and told me that everything would be okay as long as we trust in Jesus and Mary.

At first, I did not understand how someone facing death could have such unwavering faith, but as time progressed, I learned to put my faith in action and came to understand that in the midst of the storm, all we really need to do is trust in Jesus and Mary.

With stronger belief in God, I attended every medical consultation with my parents. In fact, when my mother underwent surgery at the Northwell Health, Katz Women’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center to remove the tumor, my soul was in peace, as I knew God would bring her through it. After the surgery, my mother did chemotherapy at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and it was at that moment I realized that my calling is to be an oncologist and to help cancer victims.

While I was studying for my Biology SAT in the summer of 2018, I was armed with this burning desire to be an oncologist and assist patients like my mother.

I started to volunteer at both the Vascular Surgery Department and the Medical Library at Northwell Health, Katz Women’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

As a volunteer, I did numerous activities. I created care packets for diabetes patients, comforted patients before and after surgery, and made rounds to ensure patients’ needs were met. In addition, I assisted physicians to obtain research materials for patient care and aided the department with inter-library loans.

Still, I had a burning desire to do more, so in October of 2018, I became a Hematology / Oncology Research Associate Volunteer at Drexel University College of Medicine /Hahnemann University Hospital.

To this day, I am still a research associate volunteer and often travel to Philadelphia to assist on the appropriate use of fresh frozen plasma in a university teaching hospital by analyzing patient charts and comparing them against a predefined metric.

Of course, being a high school student, the learning curve is steep and I am constantly reading and studying Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. In fact, the analytical skills required for this project are so intense, I am taking Physics next year in an effort to develop in this area. As for the SAT Biology, I scored 740 out of 800!

Tragic Turn of Events

In August 2018, while attending Mass, I fainted. My parents got very concerned and had extensive blood work done. A week later, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, which is a medical condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. I was terrified because this disease not only affects the heart functions, but it slows down brain function making learning difficult.

In an effort to counteract these effects, I prayed to Jesus, Mary and my patron saint daily as well as studied at least six to eight hours a day because my goal is to become an oncologist and I would not let this disease get the best of me.

In February 2019, I was prescribed thryoid medication that I take on a daily basis to regulate my thyroid function. I feel like a normal 15 year old again.

‘Hills and Valleys’

Throughout my life, many hills and valleys shaped my very existence. These experiences allowed me to deepen trust in God and realize that my calling is to be an oncologist.

This realization catapulted me on a path to volunteer at Northwell Health, Katz Women’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where I assisted patients, physicians, and staff. Moreover, I am so focused on being an oncologist, I conduct research at Drexel University College of Medicine / Hahnemann University Hospital in an effort to improve patient care.

Of course, these experiences also enabled me to stay positive when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. Even though I am now on prescribed medication, my character, courage and commitment to succeed were forged by these experiences and have prepared me for all the curveballs in life.

Goberdhan is a sophomore at The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates. She received the 2019 Official Triple C Award by the state Attorney General’s Office and Philo4thought, awarded to a student who displays ‘character, courage and commitment’ in personal growth.

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