TAMPA – Kristen Anne Flores never had any inclinations of being a heart doctor. But something that happened in sixth-grade made her change her mind.
Flores was in sixth-grade when she was diagnosed with a “cardiac issue.” She said she was nervous; her mother, Janette said she was “scared to death.”
Today, Flores is a sophomore at Citrus Park Christian School who has earned the prestigious honor of being invited to Washington, D.C., to attend the Congress of Future Medical Leaders of America from Feb. 14-16.
Not just anyone can go. The congress is an honors-only program for high school students who want to become physicians or go into medical research. She was nominated by Dr. Connie Mariano.
Now, some four years after her diagnosis, Flores is fine. She makes great grades in school, but she can’t participate in sports like she did before, often having to sit out early in games. And she’s been advised not to get too excited. Sure, it might be limiting, but Flores said she doesn’t think much about it.
But instead of being scared, she decided to learn more about heart-based medical issues and started studying up on heart disease. Soon, she realized she wanted to dedicate her future career to helping others.
“I want to understand as much as I can about heart problems, not just the heart, but also things like the electrical system in the heart and how it works,” Flores said. “I was always interested in science and I want to know what I can do to find cures for this.”
Flores found out that she was nominated for the Washington trip, but she had no idea if it would work out. She got the letter and started packing.
“It was a big surprise,” Flores said. “I am going up there to learn all I can about all different kinds of medicine. The things I will learn there are much more specific than they are in high school.”
During her trip she will learn from students across the country and hear Nobel laureates and National Medal of Science winners talk about all aspects of the medical field.
She said she hasn’t made her college plans yet but wants to stay close to home. She is used to living with her slight medical condition and knows there’s a good chance that it will always be with her, but she has learned to live with it.
“If I come back with the knowledge to prove that I have learned something about the heart, that will be a great learning experience,” Flores said.