October 21, 2015
Written by Meghan Kolf, DI alumna
Standing backstage at the Mayo Clinic Transform Conference, I could not help but feel star struck, like I was about to meet a celebrity or sports star I had admired for years. For the last five and a half years as a graduate student in pharmacy school, I had been using information from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic website to frantically research topics that my professors brought up in classes. Now, the Mayo Clinic was not just a title on my computer screen but a collection of classic, historical hospitals in Rochester, Minnesota brimming with new medical technology and innovative practice models.
As a seasoned Destination Imagination (DI) participant, public speaking does not normally make me nervous. However, speaking in front of incredibly talented and accomplished medical professionals had my stomach in the kind of knots I used to get before a performance at the Destination Imagination Affiliate Tournament. Based on my adrenaline, which I could slowly feel increasing as I waited for my turn to go onstage, I knew that giving the DI update at this conference would be both an exhilarating and humbling experience. When I started Destination Imagination in fifth grade, I never would have dreamed it would lead to an opportunity to be a speaker at the Mayo Clinic. As I listened to other speakers talk about the need for creative thinking and innovation in medicine, I was reminded over and over again of how my time in Destination Imagination prepared me to not only succeed in college and grad school but to translate that out-of-the-box DI training into providing the best possible patient care as a member of the healthcare team.
For a lot of people, it would seem that medicine is a world of black and white with high-stakes decisions that are either right or wrong. However, most of the time as a healthcare provider you are asked to operate in a gray area, combining the knowledge of those around you to come up with an answer when you are not even certain of the question. Listening to experts in various fields of medicine talk about the importance of innovative thinking and how they were able to do this with various patients leading to benefits for everyone involved, made me excited to see that others saw the utility in adding a little creative chaos to the structure of modern medicine.
Creative thinking, teamwork and innovation are essential for the practice of medicine and for me personally, DI was a starting point for my soon-to-be pharmacy doctorate. The incredible thing about DI is that as a fifth grader making a paper mache costume and a backdrop out of old bed sheets, I never would have thought I was preparing for my future career in healthcare, but the parallels between participating in DI and working as a clinical pharmacist are numerous. I deal with patients every day who do not fit within the medical guidelines that are published or have circumstances that prevent them from receiving the usual recommended treatment. At that point, a big part of my job becomes getting creative and thinking of solutions that may not have been tried before. In fact, providing patient care is not that different from solving a DI challenge, there is just a different knowledge base required and your teammates become doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals—although there is typically less glitter glue and spray paint involved. The stakes are much higher, but the skill set of having the courage to voice your ideas and the end goal of using the strengths of all your team members to come up with the best solution is the same.
As I was preparing to speak about how Destination Imagination prepared me for my future career and about the amazing things DIers are already doing to improve healthcare in their communities, I realized that the most remarkable thing about DI is that it prepares participants not only for the medical profession but for any future profession that they choose to pursue. There are certain essential traits that are needed in every line of work, including the ability to work as part of a team, the ability to think on your feet and adapt to changing situations, and most importantly, the ability to learn from your failures and try again with newly gained knowledge. These are all skills that you grow into as a participant in Destination Imagination and can help prepare you for challenges later on in life. Performance is a direct reflection of what is practiced, so people who learn to work as part of a team and look for opportunities for innovation when faced with a difficult task automatically use that way of approaching problems in other professional or personal settings. Destination Imagination is preparing future healthcare professionals, educators, CEOs, scientists, artists and performers who will all be asked to solve their own unique challenges in the future but with the same creative thinking centered mindsets they used when creating a stunning duct tape gown or engineering a structure made out of playing cards.
No matter what profession you enter or problem you are faced with, there is no amount of education or groundwork that can make you feel 100-percent prepared. There will always be curve balls or unforeseen complications. The trick is to approach these obstacles with an open mind and a can-do attitude. Whether you are preparing to go on stage for a DI performance with team members, waiting to speak in front of accomplished professionals at a world-renowned medical institution, or starting a career or college degree, there are certain skills that will set you up for success in all of these situations. Luckily for us DIers, we have already been practicing those skills.
About the Author: Meghan Kolf was a Destination Imagination participant for eight years and began volunteering for the organization after graduating high school. She is a third year pharmacy student at the University of Wyoming School of Pharmacy and will graduate with her Doctorate of Pharmacy in May 2016.
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