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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Paxton Paganelli, 17, has always wanted to be a doctor. The Broadneck High School senior is applying to several pre-med track programs at top-ranked universities nationwide.
He's hoping to become a neurosurgeon and have a parallel career running a neurotechnology program.
"I've always been fascinated by the brain, and in helping people," Paxton said. "I want to keep learning about it."
His sophomore year, Paxton decided to share his passion with his peers.
"I wanted to encourage my fellow students to pursue careers in the medical field," he said.
Paxton went through the myriad steps of founding an officially sanctioned school club — Future Doctors Organization. He sought permission from Broadneck High administrators. Government instructor Christina Sipe agreed to be the club sponsor. Paxton found a classroom in which to hold meetings. He drafted bylaws, recruited members, and created a logo — a blood-red map of the U.S. with a heartbeat's electrocardiograph line superimposed over it in white.
The logo is quite eye-catching on the club's website, http://www.futuredoctorsorg.com. He's had it printed on banners. Club members sport snowy-white polo shirts embroidered with the original logo.
The club, which meets twice monthly, has about 60 members. Its officers organize in-school events, guest speakers and off-site opportunities. In April, the organization hosted a Medical Night for all Broadneck High students and the public. Five doctors made presentations on careers in medicine, as did several nurses and physician's assistants.
The teens have had group field trips for its members to Anne Arundel Medical Center's Simulation for Advancement, Innovation and Learning Center, where Paxton is a volunteer.
"We got to use the equipment, like laparoscopic tools, in the surgery room and operating room simulators," he said.
Doctors Marc Brassard, an orthopedic specialist, and Kelly Sullivan, a plastic surgeon and founder of Wellness House, have made themselves available for the club's meetings and visits.
In turn, the future docs recently raised $340 for Wellness House by selling cake pops at school. They fund raised another $250 to donate to Operation Smile. That sum covers the cost of a surgery overseas.
"We've met a lot of interesting people through the club," said Paxton. "When we started this our sophomore year, we didn't think it would grow to other states."
But, it has.
A teen doing online research found the club and contacted Paxton, who quickly came up with a "Create a Club Chapter" how-to booklet. There is now a chapter in Olympia, Washington. Five other club chapters are forming in Texas, Connecticut and Maryland. No nibbles yet in Anne Arundel County, though.
The graduating seniors have developed a succession plan for the Broadneck chapter's next couple years. Younger members Sara Paganelli and Amanda Thornton will be taking the reins in the fall.
Currently, Paxton is the club's president.
Other officers are Maria Lim, vice president; Jade Ditta, second vice president; Micaela Frye, treasurer, and Katie Wesdyk, secretary.
In addition to their FDO duties, Paxton and Katie are vice presidents of the Bruins' class of 2015. Maria Lim is the Student Government Association president.
Like Paxton, Maria and Katie are going through the college application process.
After a mission trip to Nicaragua, Maria decided she wanted to continue helping people overseas as a doctor. Employed part-time in the physical rehabilitation department of Ginger Cove Retirement Community, Maria's original plan had been to become a physical therapist.
Katie would like to combine her dual interested in medicine and engineering. Already accepted to the Coast Guard Academy, she also is applying to the other four service academies and has received several letters of assurance. After graduating from a service academy, she hopes to go to a military medical school.
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com
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