As an adult, junior Xing “Melody” Gao said she plans to travel the world. However, her idea of traveling does not include taking pictures with monuments, visiting art museums or staying in lavish hotels. Instead, Gao said her goal is to become involved in Doctors Without Borders, which is an international medical humanitarian organization.
“Ideally I would be traveling around continents and less developed areas around the world and just giving the people there what we take as necessities here,” Gao said.
Gao is not the only American who has taken an interest in Doctors Without Borders. Since its creation in France in 1971, the organization has spread to countries around the world, including the United States. In America, the organization has grown each year. The United States went from having 200 American aid workers in 2009 to 340 in 2010, according to the Doctors Without Borders website.
According to the website, the organization provides assistance in more than 60 countries to those whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect or catastrophe and is made up of doctors, nurses, administrators, mental health professionals and others.
For Gao, the passion to become a doctor and become involved in the organization was personal. She said her father, who has a PhD in genetics, helped to spark her interest in science and biology at a young age, and her mother inspired her goal as well.
“My mom was born with a heart condition, and because of this heart condition her life expectancy wasn’t supposed to be like over 20 years,” Gao said. “She had open heart surgery when she was nine, so that has allowed me to realize how important doctors are and how much they can affect one person’s life forever. My mom and basically my whole family are really grateful for it, and so whenever we go back to China we always visit (the doctor).”
While some parents may be slightly deterred by the idea of their child taking part in such an organization due to the risks associated with traveling to foreign countries, Gao said her parents support her.
“We are very proud of her and her decision to make this her goal,” Gao’s father Wenxiang Gao said. “She’s very independent and capable of achieving what she wants to do, and she has such a big heart. She loves people and helping people, and she’s also very smart. We support her with what she wants to do.”
As for Xing, she said the idea of traveling to new countries is more exciting for her than frightening.
“I’ve always moved around a lot. I was born in China, and when I was two I came to the United States, and since then I’ve lived in a couple of states,” Gao said. “My parents are adventurous, so I get that from them. I just really like exploring new places, so I thought this was a really good idea because I get to do what I’m interested in with science, and I also get to travel around, meet people and explore new cultures around the world while helping people.”