Lofty Ambitions



January 1, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Bethannie Yarnell’s mother recalled her daughter’s conversation with the family doctor.

Enamored with the world of medicine, Bethannie explained her desire to become a doctor.

She was 3.

And so it began, the eldest of Timothy and Jo Yarnell’s three children, setting out her goals at an early age.

At 5, she declared her desire to travel the world.

“I didn’t really start thinking of colleges, until I was 10 or 12,” Bethannie said.

Now 16, Bethannie’s world continues to expand.

The Iola High School sophomore has been selected to attend the 2018 Congress of Future Medical Leaders in June in Lowell, Mass.

The three-day event is geared for high school honor students who want to become physicians or  go into related medical research fields.

“I didn’t even know about this until I got something in the mail, and it said, ‘Hey, you won something,” she said.

Bethannie gave the notice barely more than a passing thought — at first.

“I didn’t think it was that big a deal,” she confessed. “I figured it was something where they’d have 50 people from each county.”

A closer look at the fine print shows just how wrong her assumption was.

Among the presenters during the Congress are multiple Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science winners. Medical school deans from several Ivy League institutions will speak about what to expect in medical school, and patients considered “living medical miracles” will talk about their experiences.

“This is a crucial time in America when we need more doctors and medical scientists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially,” Richard Rossi, NAFPMS executive director, said in a press release. “Focused, bright and determined students like Bethannie Yarnell are our future and she deserves all the mentoring and guidance we can give her.”

The activities also will include witnessing a live surgery, during which Bethannie and others will be able to ask the surgeons questions in real time.

Such an opportunity is right in Bethannie’s wheelhouse.

She has her sights set on A) Becoming a pediatric surgeon; and  B) Attending an Ivy League school if possible.

“If I don’t make it to an Ivy League school, it’s not the end of the world, but it is a goal,” she said.


BETHANNIE’S passion for medicine comes from her family’s experience with myriad diseases, including cerebral palsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism.

“The best time I’ve ever had was helping with therapy with my aunt, who has cerebral palsy,” she said.

Eventually, Bethannie hopes to fulfill her third dream — traveling abroad — by joining Doctors Without Borders, an international organization that serves patients primarily in war-torn countries.


CLASSROOM success is a standard in the Yarnell household.

“We’ve always stressed academics,” Jo noted.

But that only tells half the story, she continued.

All three children have a personal drive.

Bethannie, for example, approached her algebra II instructor  two weeks into the school year asking if she could instead enroll in a college-level class. “I already knew the material,” for the high school level, she said.

In short order she tested, passed, and was signed up for college algebra. She’ll take college-level trigonometry in the spring.