The Production of Passionate and Committed Alumni

Born in Kansas City, Kansas, my HOSA story began at the start of my very first year of high school.  Sitting in my Introduction to Medical Science class at Vines High School in Plano, Texas, our teacher introduced us to (what was then called) Health Occupations Students of America.  The passion Mrs. Shovlin (now Chair of the HOSA Board of Directors) displayed for HOSA at that time immediately set the same spark burning within my heart.  Thus ignited, the flame propelled me to active participation in the organisation, and, with each passing conference and competitive event, grew stronger and brighter still.  When I moved to Plano Senior High School for the last two years of secondary education (Plano separates 9th and 10th and 11th and 12th grades into “high schools” and “senior high schools”, respectively) I was fortunate to find myself within a HOSA chapter in which my new advisors were nearly as passionate about HOSA as Mrs. Shovlin had been.  (Anyone who knows Mrs. Shovlin realises that to even approach her level of enthusiasm and energy for HOSA is no small feat). 
In the summer of 2005, I entered Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.  At that time, no HOSA chapter existed at the school, nor had a state association been established.  In this veritable HOSA-desert I drew on the stored energy reaped from four superb years of Secondary HOSA membership and founded Brandeis University HOSA the fall of my freshman year (affiliated as an at-large chapter of New Hampshire HOSA).  In the summer before my Junior year, I initiated the process to create a Massachusetts HOSA state association, which I led until my senior spring, when we acquired a state advisor.  I then served on the planning advisory committee for Massachusetts HOSA over the next several months, helping to establish for it a solid foundation and framework and ensure the flourishing of this invaluable organisation well into the future.  Entering its sixth year this fall, Massachusetts HOSA provides students in the state—many of whom are socioeconomically-disadvantaged—with the same opportunities to develop into compassionate and competent healthcare professionals which I was privileged to receive during my high school career.
My last HOSA NLC as an active student member (June, 2009) was bittersweet.  On one hand, this would be the last time I could participate in the competitive events program.  On the other hand, Closing Ceremonies marked the beginning of the next chapter of my HOSA story.  Now I would be able to return to serve HOSA and current students as an alumni member, repaying the organisation for the unique experiences and opportunities HOSA membership had afforded me over the past eight years.  The following year, I presented for the first time a workshop at the NLC entitled, “How to Start A Post-Secondary/Collegiate HOSA Chapter”, and have continued to present this workshop every year since.  In it, I provide graduating high school seniors with the personal advice gleaned from my experience starting Brandeis University HOSA as well as materials and tools I developed for the process, to enable them to successfully create their own college-level chapters as efficiently as possible.  As part of the effort to increase the number of Post-Secondary/Collegiate level chapters nationwide, I co-wrote the Post-Secondary/Collegiate Chapter Start-Up manual with then-Post-Secondary/Collegiate Board Representative, Warché Downing.
After two years of performing basic laboratory research following graduation from Brandeis, I entered Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire.  Mrs. Hargreaves, the former New Hampshire HOSA state advisor, wrote one of my letters of recommendation, which I credit with a significant role in my acceptance.  Through long days and weary nights working toward physicianhood, I have never lost my passion for HOSA, but instead perceive its blossoming further, as I reflect on the integral part HOSA has played in the realisation of my professional dream.  This past summer, I assumed the position of New Hampshire state alumni co-ordinator and recently accepted a place on the New Hampshire HOSA Board of Directors.  I have also laboured intensely alongside our state advisor, Mrs. Young, securing sponsorship for the State Leadership Conference from Dartmouth Medical School and planning and organising the SLC which was held to great success at Dartmouth College this past March.  At Opening Ceremonies, I spoke to the assembled students about the invaluable role which they, as future alumni members, can play in sustaining and improving HOSA for generations of students yet to come.  As impactful as I hope my words were, my intent (and desire) is to lead by example, inspiring members to continue and deepen their active involvement with HOSA throughout their personal and professional lives. 
My HOSA story has proven deeply rewarding—however, it was never a pre-determined fact, as passion for HOSA is not automatic.  While a few students may develop a love for HOSA through self-discovery of the myriad opportunities HOSA has to offer, such happy happenstance is the exception, not the rule.  For the latter, the kindling, fuel, and initial flame must be provided from without, the nascent fire carefully stoked by those who guide and instruct them.  Members' passion for HOSA is directly and strongly correlated with the level of excitement they witness from their role models and guides in the organisation, and the number of such people they meet displaying such positive emotions.  Clearly then, while one or two extremely enthusiastic advisors can work wonders, how much more so these, plus countless numbers of passionate and involved HOSA alumni.  Can a more profound means exist to inspire current HOSA members than to see those who have tread the HOSA path, and, because of the opportunities HOSA provided, are finally realising their health career goals?  Can a more effective means be found to convince these same members also to return and serve the organisation which has given them so much?  HOSA is only as strong as those who support it and, if we lead well, we will unlock profound loyalty and near limitless strength in the ranks of our alumni. 
William-Bernard Reid-Varley
(603) 820-1937
Dartmouth Medical School, Class of 2015
New Hampshire State Alumni Co-ordinator