WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 15, 2011, 12:21 AM

West Fargo 16-year-old Prepares For Medical School

Sixteen-year-old Mackenzie Gasal may be only a junior at West Fargo High School, but she has already attended medical school.

By: Stephanie Fail, Forum Communications

WEST FARGO – Sixteen-year-old Mackenzie Gasal may be only a junior at West Fargo High School, but she has already attended medical school.

This past July, Gasal attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Boston, where students attended lectures and studied medicine at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University for 10 days. Her mother, Tammy Gasal, said her daughter’s longtime interest in pediatric medicine stems from traveling to her sister’s home country of Vietnam.

“Helping out at an orphanage there when she was pretty young had a huge impact on her life,” Gasal said.

After visiting Tufts Medical School and comparing it with Harvard’s, Mackenzie Gasal described them as two different worlds.

She loved the supportive atmosphere of Tufts, where students were taken on rotations to teach them about blood pressure, breathing and reflexes.

“Tufts felt a lot more friendly, and the people treated everyone like family,” said Gasal.

“People seemed stressed and stuck up at Harvard and around Harvard Square. Even the receptionist was a crab, rolling her eyes at us,” she said.

Gasal was shocked when before allowing the students to touch the medical equipment, the Harvard teacher sat down and explained to them that they had almost no chance of getting into the prestigious school.

“He was telling us to not be disappointed and to set our standards lower,” Gasal said.

Gasal was surprised because the National Youth Leadership has very high standards for nomination and enrollment.

Gasal met all the requirements and has already taken dual credit and AP courses at West Fargo. She scored in the top 5 percent of the nation on her PSAT, a test giving students practice for the SAT and a chance to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, last fall.

Gasal has been an active participant in the community, taking on a variety of extracurricular activities such as French Club, National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars.

She has received awards for the essays she entered in Patriots Pen and Voice of Democracy.

She also volunteers her time, helping the elderly at nursing homes and sending care packages to soldiers fighting in Iraq.

Gasal was pleased with the experience and grew strong relationships with her teachers and peers.

“Our teacher encouraged us to choose a school where you see yourself most happy and fit in,” said Gasal.

“He warned us not to choose a college just because our friends are going or because of the prestige of its name,” she said.