NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A school writing assignment led to a spring break treat for a Central Heights Elementary fifth grader.
Madalyn Fuller wrote a letter to Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital complimenting its services and explaining her desire to one day be a surgeon. She was hoping for a letter back from chief surgeon Dr. Larry Walker. That alone would have completed her school assignment.
The surprise was a VIP tour of the Memorial Hospital Surgery Unit.
"This is our bays where our patients are prepared," said Kristi Gunter, a surgical nurse.
Tagging along is Madalyn's cousin, J.T. Goodrum. He's in medical school, a place that's pretty evenly split between female and male students.
If Madalyn were to become a surgeon today she would be entering a male-dominated profession. According to Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research only 14 percent of women choose to go into surgical specialties, in contrast to 33 percent of men.
Even as early as age 11, career research has its benefits.
"I think it's good to allow them to allow them to see a little firsthand of what goes on the profession they're talking about or thinking about choosing for their career," said Dr. Larry Walker, the chief surgeon at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital.
Madalyn said her older cousin is influencing her medical interest.
"It would make me feel good because you know that you've helped them and made them feel better," Madalyn said. "And then they were in pain, and now they won't be in so much pain."
And then there's something else which impacts Madalyn's current career choice.
"My mom was sick, and she died of cancer," Madalyn said. "I just want to help them, so nobody else gets stuck in the situation, and I guess it's just heartbreaking, so I don't want anybody else to have to go through that."
It's a worthy personal goal. That's why her family describes Madalyn as a child who is wiser than her years.