One of Elizabeth Ondoma's inspirations is the 2020 Time Kid of the Year, Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old from Colorado who has created an app to help combat cyberbullying and who is working on an easier way to detect bio-contaminants in water.
The Mason City High School freshman is impressive in her own right and that was recognized on Monday by the district's Board of Education. Ondoma represented Iowa at the Congress of Future Medical Leaders that was held virtually (normally it's held at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachussetts) on March 20-21.
Ondoma didn't apply; her nomination was signed by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Mario Capecchi, based on her academic achievements, leadership potential and determination to serve while in the field of medicine.
Ondoma plays clarinet for the Mason City High School Concert Band, and plays both club and high school soccer. She is also a member of the Rozaria Memorial Trust Girls' Group, a non-profit based in Zimbabwe that advocates for gender equality, specifically ending child marriages, and providing better education and health resources to young women and girls in rural areas.
"Not your average, everyday, teenage type of engagement," Mason City High School Principal Dan Long said in introducing Ondoma to the board.
It was at the congress that Ondoma met Rao, a fellow lover of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and helping mankind. The congress is an honors-only program for high school students who want to become physicians or conduct research in the medical field.
Attendees of the two-day event heard from Nobel laureates and National Medal of Science winners, got advice from top medical school deans, listened to the inspiring stories of other teenage science prodigies like Rao, and learned about the latest advances in the future of medicine and medical technology.
"I've always been interested in STEM, it's always kind of flowed in and out of science to medical, science to engineering," Ondoma told the board. "It flowed back into medical around eighth grade or so."