By Nikki Ross Inda - August 19, 2019
The minute Dr. Wade Sexton unpacked his scalpel, clamps and other shiny surgical instruments, he had 45 teenagers staring in wide-eyed wonder. The students from the Brain Expansion Scholastic Training program and the Berkeley Academy recently visited Moffitt Cancer Center to learn more about a future in health care. They got front-row seats to meet Moffitt’s physician of the year as part of the Healthy KIDZ program, which educates youth on cancer prevention, healthy living, positive life choices and the health care field.
Sexton, who is also director of the Urologic Oncology Fellowship and Robotics, shared his humble beginnings with the students. The high school scholar used his talents on the football field to earn a scholarship to Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. He was a member of Furman’s national championship football team while earning a bachelor’s in biology. After graduation, he joined the United States Air Force where he flew high-powered T-38 jets. His service in the military helped offset the hefty costs of medical school. He encouraged the students to be just as well-rounded
“Be active in clubs, music, school organizations and athletics. Study and major in what you love. Whether you seek opportunities in medicine or another career field, I challenge you to understand the importance of integrity and to pursue excellence,” Sexton said. “Most importantly, life is not only about you. Serving and giving to others will provide greater joy than most anything you’ll ever be able to receive in return.”
It’s a career path that had the students thinking as they got hands-on experience with cancer surgery tools. They also got to quiz brain surgeon Arnold Etame, who jumped at the chance to help shape these young minds.
“The goal of the program is to empower students to consider future careers in health care,” said Etame, a neurological surgeon and scientist. Etame grew up in Africa and went on to study and practice medicine in Canada and the U.S. There was no shortage of questions as he described his technique for performing brain surgery while patients are awake.
“Without programs like Moffitt Healthy KIDZ, our students would not have the opportunity to see firsthand how they can contribute to the medical community and maybe even find the cure for cancer,” said Berkeley Academy chaperone Linda Adams. “We are grateful to the amazing speakers for sharing their advice with our kids. The doctors made their stories relatable to these young people who are just beginning their journey and encouraged them to aim high.”
The students took a behind-the-scenes tour of Moffitt’s laboratories, where they saw how scientists are working toward advances in research. The day of learning ended with a yoga session to help the kids learn techniques to reduce stress and anxiety in their daily lives.
“We’re honored to have the opportunity to expose our students to Moffitt Cancer Center,” said B.E.S.T. Program president and founder Dexter Frederick, M.D. “It’s a great way for them to learn about the different types of health care careers, not just the traditional ones.”