TEDxSoleburySchool 2016: Julia Oppong

The Power of an Open Mind

"My presentation shares the lessons I learned in my own backyard and how they traveled around the world with me to Ghana for a healthcare internship. It will highlight the importance of cultural competency and service, and the open-mindedness and humility necessary to make change. Community service, which we assume is simply meant to help others, should help and change us. I will be sharing medical experiences I witnessed in Ghana, discuss the culture I experienced there, and explain what it meant to be back where I was born, giving back, after 16 years.

I feel compelled to share my ideas on this topic because I am most passionate when my love for health and culture intertwine, and my internship in Ghana did exactly that. We all may not have the same upbringing allowing us to share the same ideas or experiences; however, being scared, sick, and in need of care is one experience we have all faced before. While this may not be the most positive similarity, it serves as a greater reminder to focus on common ground rather than on what separates us. This allows us to empathize with others and actively work towards improvement with the goal of leaving the world a little better than we found it. My passion for health and culture keeps me excited and I am thankful for the lessons about service, appreciation of life, and respect for diversity that I learn while doing what I love — and those to me are ideas worth sharing."

About Julia Oppong '11

Julia Oppong graduated from Solebury School in 2011 and is a University of Richmond alumna who studied Biology as well as Public Health and minored in Spanish. There, she served as a chartering member and the first president of the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS) on campus. As a member of this pipeline organization, she participated in community service, learned about what it takes to eliminate ethnic health disparities, and worked towards addressing the lack of minorities in medicine. Julia also served as the vice president and president of the Rho Mu Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, an organization dedicated to being of service to all mankind. During her tenure, her chapter brought breast cancer awareness to Richmond’s campus and raised over $1,000 for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation by hosting bra-decorating competitions and speaker forums with breast cancer survivor and author Dr. Patricia Gould-Champ. Her continued passion for health and culture led her to an internship under the West African sun, in Ghana, allowing her to visit her motherland after 16 years. In addition to her internship, she volunteered at the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS) Hospital in Pantang, Ghana, alongside a team that currently provides orthopedic care to children from Ghana, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone and is determined to become the premier orthopedic teaching hospital in Africa. Finally, Julia’s internship and experiences in Ghana have awarded her a chance to embrace her roots and explore the importance of cultural competency and service, and the open-mindedness and humility necessary to make service count, not just for those to whom one is being of service, but for oneself.