What were you doing when you were 12 years old?

Published 8:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2022

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Since so many popular past sitcoms are being brought back for a reboot, may I suggest one, please?


(No, not ‘Coach.’ We tried that and, well, punt!)

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I’m thinking Doogie Howser M.D., but with a twist: How about recasting the character of Doogie as a 13-year-old African-American girl from…how about the deep south? We could name her Alena Wicker. Alena Wicker M.D. has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Even more so as Miss Wicker isn’t fictional, but a breathtakingly incredible brainiac who graduated high school at age 12 and will begin her medical training in 2024, having been accepted to the University of Alabama’s Heersink School of Medicine. 


I think when I was 12 I was still struggling in school to open one of those little lunchroom cartons of milk. I mean, it was impossible to form that stupid, little spout, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it? OK, maybe just me…


Like most kids her age, Alena has an Instagram account and after receiving her acceptance letter from Heersink, she posted her enthusiasm:


“I graduated High School LAST YEAR at 12 years old and here I am one year later. I’ve been accepted into Med School at 13. I’m a Junior in college. Statistics would have said I never would have made it. A little Black girl adopted from Fontana, California. I’ve worked so hard to reach my goals and live my dreams.”


I’m not crying, are you crying? Here, have a hanky, ‘cause there’s more, including this outpouring of love for her mother:


“Mama, I made it. I couldn’t have done it without you. You gave me every opportunity possible to be successful. You cheered me on, wiped my tears, gave me Oreos when I needed comfort, you never allowed me to settle, and disciplined me when I needed it. You are the best mother a kid could ever ask for. MAMA, I MADE IT! You always believed in me.”


And listen, before any potential patients recoil in the fear of having their C-sections performed, or their prostates checked, by a teenager (if all goes to plan, Alena will graduate at 18), have no fear: Alena intends to become a virologist, researching cures for viruses. I might just speak for many when I say, THANK YOU for choosing that specialty. Covid’s been tough enough—now the thought of rampant monkeypox now has me considering living inside a vacuum-sealed pouch through 2025.


In Youtube videos devoted to her amazing journey, Alena says she wants to “leave her mark on the world,” as well as inspire other young women of color to pursue their dreams. There’s no doubt she already has. 


As well as the rest of us.