Miami Palmetto High School senior Alexander Gazo saw a movie when he was eight that changed his life. That movie convinced him he needed to become a doctor.
“In the movie the crowd yelled, ‘is there a doctor in the house?’” he says. “They couldn’t find anybody and the person died. I want to be able to save someone if need be.”
Since freshman year, Gazo has been spending much of his free time shadowing doctors to see which area he wants to specialize in. Surgery tops his list – the question is what kind – cardiology or neurology.
When he shadows a doctor, he is there for the doctor’s daily routine, including bedside visits, consults, and diagnoses.
One of the issues he’s found fascinating and troubling in the medical field is getting insurance to pay in some cases.
“It is unbelievably difficult to get some insurances to pay for critical procedures,” he says. “Sometimes the children worsen or die because the insurance doesn’t pay. The doctors would willingly do the surgeries, but the private hospitals don’t allow it.”
Gazo recently when on a Blue Missions trip to El Jobo in the Dominican Republic where he built bathrooms for the people in a remote village.
“They had never used bathrooms,” he says. “They used a hole in the ground. We essentially built them privacy, and brought them into the modern world”
He decided to go on the trip after friends who went last year and told him how rewarding it was to help the people.
“It was a truly gratifying experience,” he says. “You could see the people’s faces when they saw what we were going to build for them.”
Bathroom privacy is expected here in the United States but is a luxury there.
“When you are over there, you realize we take so much for granted,” he says. “When we think of luxury in this country, we think of cars and planes. There, clean water to drink is a luxury.”
And yet, Gazo says the people there seem happier than we do.
“We were happy to go home at the end of eight days,” he says. “We knew we were going back to our houses with air conditioning and clean water. There was no envy on their part.”
After returning, Gazo researched medical missions for future trips.
“I have a friend who just got back from Haiti for relief efforts,” Gazo says. “He was the only teenager who went.”
At Palmetto, Gazo is a co-founder and vice president of the Psychology Club. He heads the club’s monthly lecture series, where guest speakers discuss issues pertaining to teens.
“We had the Switchboard of Miami come,” he says. “They talked to the student body about the importance of seeking help when you know you are having issues. It’s important to know there is always somebody you can talk to.”
He’s also a member of the Health Information Project. He goes to freshman classes once a month to talk about health issues, including obesity, drugs, drinking, and HIV/Aids.
“I love it,” he says. “It’s gratifying to give them information and resources. It truly opens their eyes.”
For Gazo, Dec. 15 could be a big day. That’s when he learns if he will be going to Duke University. Applications also went to Vanderbilt, the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan, University of Chicago, University of Miami, University of Florida and Tulane.
He plans to major in Anthropology and Global Health or Pre-Med.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld