To Chase a Dream, or Go Back to Camp?

by Jason Scott

“You’re too old to go back to camp.” is usually the response I get when I disclose my summer plans.  I have spent every summer at a “sleepaway” camp since I was 12 years old. Coming up on my 21st birthday and tenth summer back at camp, I think found the balance between advancing myself in my future field of work, and going back to camp.

I have had my heart set on becoming a doctor since I was 15. It was that summer at camp I began to notice and pay attention to all the little details around me, such as where the AED’s are on camp, what supplies were held in the infirmary, and where emergency supplies were kept around camp. This is unconventional thinking for a 15-year-old who should be wondering about what activity his division is going to next, or what outfit he is going to wear to impress the girls that night at canteen. At the end of that summer I went home and joined my town’s first aid department Marlboro First Aid and Rescue Squad. This began my unbelievable journey of becoming an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician).

Becoming an EMT at the age of 16 and gaining experience riding on an ambulance in my hometown, started to give me the realization that I was beginning to chase a dream. As time went on and summer after summer went by, I began to realize there may be a special role for me at my home away from home. It was summer 2015 at the age of 18 when I became the first EMT my camp ever had. My EMT training helped me to notice things that other counselors did not. That summer I able to help with emergency situations where my experience and jump bag” came in handy. That summer I also met a new EM doctor at camp, who would end up being my future mentor.

In the following months, I began my academic journey of becoming a doctor at college. As the summer came upon me, I was faced with the  “what to do” decision again. My friends began to get internships in preparation for future careers in business, finance, and law- and they all stopped attending camp.

But thanks to my camp-doctor-mentor, I was able to figure out a different plan. I decided to go back to camp that summer as an Assistant Group Leader and still held my position as an EMT. I began to take part in operations at our camp waterfront with lifeguard training and partake in small tasks at the wellness center such as checking the oxygen bottles and assisting in emergency preparations and situations. It all started to come together. 

The following summer, I did more of the same, but this time, I offered to help with some “camp health” specific research that my mentor and her new business partner were doing.  This experience turned into a research internship of sorts.Working on tasks such as organizing data to see what are the most common chief complaints by campers, or going through supply lists to see what supplies are needed to adequately staff a wellness center, I found myself getting more experience in the medical field than ever before.

I really thought that last summer would have been my last at camp.  I felt like I had squeezed the last drop out of my camp experience, but that might not be true.  I was offered a larger leadership role at camp, one that excites me and will be challenging. I am also working to formally define my internship experience at this new camp health advisory company.  What’s better than combining my love and experience at camp with my love and experience of emergency medicine and learning from leaders in the field who happen to be doctors at camp.

I am happy to say as I embark on my 10th summer at camp this year, I have had the amazing opportunity to continue doing what I love while still being in the place I love to be. I plan to continue utilizing my skills as an EMT and working closely with the camp physicians to continue learning and growing on my path to becoming a doctor. Like my director always said, everyone at camp is a winner.