A few hundred high school girls this morning got a strong nudge from leaders in the medical industry to work hard and to be ready to jump when opportunities come their way.
The teens are in U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock’s 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program. Now in its sixth year, the program gives high school girls the opportunity to meet and speak with women who hold leadership positions in a variety of fields.
This morning, they visited K2M, a medical device company based in Leesburg. Ahead of touring the company’s campus off Hope Parkway, the girls heard from a panel of women who work in top positions at K2M, Inova Loudoun Hospital and Amgen Pharmaceuticals.
Two K2M employees—Caitlyn Seidl and Catherine Ross—encouraged the girls to be open to job paths that they maybe haven’t thought about before.
As a teen, Seidl was adamant that she wanted to be a doctor. But as she learned more about the education and the schedule required, she hesitated. After spotting a “we’re hiring” flyer in her college dorm about a research position, she discovered that medical research and product testing better suit her skillset.
“Now I get to use problem-solving, math and science to make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Seidl, who now tests products for K2M as their clinical director.
As a young woman, Ross had plans to be a professional ballerina—and she had the training and talent to get there. But she was diagnosed with scoliosis, which triggered a series of failed surgeries, and dashed her hopes to dance professionally. Amid that disappointment, a high school teacher suggested she consider a career in engineering.
Now, she’s serving as senior quality control manager at K2M, where she actually helped design the medical device in her spine that made her fourth—and final—surgery a success.
“If you haven’t quite figured out what you want to do, that’s fine … but listen to those moments in your life where you get pushed in a certain direction,” Ross told the girls. “Because you can do anything that you want and you can impact so many people if you just believe in yourself and keep pushing forward.”
Also on the panel were: Vicki Phillos, vice president of Customer Care at K2M; Stacey Miller Metcalfe, director of Government and Community Relations at Inova Loudoun Hospital; Monika Stolze, manager of the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Inova Loudoun Hospital; Rebecca Valdesuso, senior director for Perioperative Services at Inova Loudoun Hospital; and Laura Bloss, who oversees regulatory development at Amgen Pharmaceuticals.
Comstock’s office started the District Young Women Leadership Program in her first term in Congress. It’s grown each year since, from about 100 students to more than 600 who are signed up this year.
The congresswoman said her staff has worked hard to get the word out about the free program—to make sure high school girls in every corner of the district know they’re invited to take part, especially those from underserved populations.
“We want to make sure they know that they can pursue careers in a variety of industries, and each industry has a wide variety of positions,” Comstock said. She gave the example of an event the program held last year where the students heard from a woman who’s an astronaut and a woman who works in marketing for NASA. “It makes a difference when they can meet these women and see, hear and touch—and really get a glimpse—of what their work is like.”
Ainsley Sullivan, a rising junior at Heritage High School in Leesburg, said the two events she’s been to has her thinking about her future career path, and how to use her talents to make a difference in the world. “Now it’s more reasonable to say you want to be a congresswoman or some other industry leader. That’s encouraging,” she said. The 16-year-old added that her sights are set on working as an anesthesiologist.
The leadership program holds events periodically throughout the summer. Learn more at comstock.house.gov.