Essay by Emma LeSieur

Emma LeSieur of Newport Beach won the $3000 Art Mattson Memorial Scholarship.

“What time do ducks wake up in the morning?” My question hung in the air as I looked out at the young, weary faces of twenty pediatric cancer patients and their families in the Ronald McDonald House of Los Angeles, a housing facility for families with children receiving serious medical treatment. I was there as a part of my Comedy Lab project – a charitable organization that I started to bring comedy to pediatric patients and children in-need. I paused, then delivered the punchline – “At the quack of dawn.” Laughter erupted across the room, from both children and parents alike . The reason I was standing in that room, delivering that joke was because, in my own life, comedy had always lifted my spirits. Furthermore, during my sophomore year, I found a medical review paper proving the actual scientific health benefits of laughter, including boosting the immune response and reducing depression. I had long dreamt of a career as a physician, but, when I read that article, I saw a way I could bring a form of healing to people before I get my medical degree.

This was confirmed during one of my workshops, when I was approached by a father whose 7-year old daughter was suffering from leukemia. With tears in his eyes, the father said that, as he watched his sick daughter come to life giggling along with my balloon animal comedy, he saw a side of his child that he had not seen since her diagnosis. I will never forget the look on his face as he spoke those words to me.

That moment helped crystallize the two goals I have for my future – 1) to become a physician that takes part in research on diseases that afflict humanity, especially cancer and 2) to volunteer globally with groups like Doctors Without Borders.

I am going to major in biology, with a minor in global health at a liberal arts college, where I can combine my love of science with a passion for understanding the larger context of the world. Alongside my classwork, I will conduct public health interviews with different members of the community, study abroad to assess different healthcare systems, and continue the journey I began in high school assisting a local dermatologist with his Madelung’s Disease case study.

After college, I plan on attending medical school to train to become a pediatric oncologist. As a doctor, I want to combine pioneering clinical research with a warm, comforting bedside manner (and, drawing on my experiences with The Comedy Lab, hopefully, spread joy whenever I can!). Later on, I hope to practice medicine not just in hospitals in the United States, but around the world, using my knowledge of global health to provide pediatric care to kids in desperate need. Inequities in healthcare are issues I feel strongly about, and I want to use my medical training to help confront them. As I look towards my future, full of excitement and determination, I cannot wait to see where my passion for medicine and global service will lead me. But, as I work to make these dreams a reality and obtain the required education to become a doctor, I will continue working with children in need, while sharing the best medicine I can currently provide: laughter.


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