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Renee Yu is Focused on Achievement in Health Care

Hightower High School senior Renee Yu won the national SkillsUSA medical terminology competition in June.

Hightower High School senior Renee Yu won the national SkillsUSA medical terminology competition in June.

Hightower senior already has acquired considerable experience and a national championship in medical terminology

Text and photo by Mara Soloway

Hightower High School and Medical Academy student Renee Yu is fluent in English, Chinese and medical terminology, a topic that really stirred her interest when she attended her first class in it. She understands it so well that she earned first place in the medical terminology contest at the annual Skills USA National Leadership championship this past June in Louisville, Kentucky. More than 6,000 students from each state and two territories competed in 100 contests. To qualify for the national competition, she won first place in the local and state contests earlier in the year.

Now a 17-year-old senior at Hightower, Renee has been focused on having a career in health care since her parents, Liangyao Yu and Xin Xin Tang, asked if she wanted to be a doctor when she grew up. “There was this part of me that wanted to excel in sports, but when I got to high school I knew my plan and carried through,” she said. Although medical academy students take part in internships at health care facilities in their junior year, Renee took action sooner: in the summer after her freshman year, she independently sought out a surgeon who would let her shadow him in the operating room and during meetings with patients.

“I decided I wanted to have experience in the hospital. I found one general surgeon who said yes. He was kind and let me scrub into the operating room. And I got to talk to patients in the hospital and see how they’re doing and know them as people. That was definitely amazing,” Renee said.

“My experience in the hospital is one of the things that pushed me into medical terminology. I had it as a course and I fell in love with it – it was like learning a completely new language, and when I went to the hospital, it was reinforced. When the surgeon started talking to me I knew what he meant.” She hopes to shadow another surgeon this coming summer.

As smart and focused as Renee is, she is equally modest, citing that her competitors were equally as capable as winning as she was, and grateful to others – family, friends, students in the medical academy and teachers – who studied with her and motivated her with their enthusiasm and confidence.  “I could not have done it without them. Even though I was away from my family at the competition, I had people there supporting me.”

She looks to her parents’ example for how to overcome difficult obstacles. “My parents definitely inspire me. They worked so hard
to immigrate here, studying really hard in school to get scholarships to come here. Every time I think something is really hard, I think about what they accomplished and then I’m ready to put in the work,” Renee said. “Because of them, I’m always trying to become better and better.”

Renee adds that the sponsors who came along to the competition, Hightower teacher Linda Gibbs and Dr. John Ramon, helped the event be fun and successful. “When you have people there who have your back, you can provide your whole effort.”

Renee has words of encouragement for students who might be intimidated by subjects they see as difficult. “I feel a lot of it is choosing to have a positive outlook on what you can do. So instead of seeing something as so much work, think of it as an opportunity for you to learn. At the end of the day even if you don’t get somewhere, you will still learn something that you might need in the future. I try to take baby steps toward something difficult. That way if I might not be great at it at least I’m learning. That encourages me to keep learning rather than stopping.”

Linda Gibbs is a career technical education (CTE) teacher and the Hightower sponsor for SkillsUSA. She is proud that the school’s relatively new SkillsUSA chapter has already had students place in state and regional competitions and now a prestigious first place and a fifth place in the nationals.

Linda knew that Renee was going to place in medical terminology. When the names of the third and second place winners were called, she was elated and encouraged Renee to go to the podium before her name was called. “I said, ‘go, go, go!’ Renee was very calm when they said her name, but the whole Texas presence roared!”

Linda sees beyond Renee’s initial shyness to the spirited person she really is.  “Renee is a great, great student. She likes competition and competes very hard to be successful, and medical terminology allowed her to share her talents and win first place in the nation,” Linda said.

“It was wonderful feeling for her and for Hightower to get that recognition.”

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