If Julia Eberhard decides to go to medical school, she'll be way ahead of the game. After all, she's already comfortable teaching surgery.
When Eberhard, 18, was having trouble getting Mount Sinai High School guidance counselor Audra Falco to visualize the latest operation she underwent related to her Marfan's syndrome, the student Falco describes as a "science fanatic" just punched up a video of the procedure on the computer so they could watch it together.
"I really think it was a necessity that I look at it in a positive way," Eberhard said of the condition. "I feel like it wasn't that hard because it's the only life I have known."
Marfan's is a genetic disorder that affects the body's connective tissue and growth and development. Many of those with the condition have flat feet, really flexible joints, long arms, legs and fingers and are quite tall. Eberhard is 6 feet. According to the Marfan Foundation, the syndrome affects about 1 in 5,000 people, and about 3 out of 4 people who have it inherited it.
The surgery last summer on her left ankle was one of three Eberhard, who lives in Mount Sinai, has undergone after being diagnosed when she was 8. She spent a good portion of her senior year using crutches or a wheelchair.
But Marfan's doesn't affect intelligence or drive, and Eberhard will demonstrate as much when she walks across the stage June 28 as class salutatorian. Afterward, she may celebrate by navigating around on a more enjoyable set of wheels -- her dirt bike, which she got two years ago.
"I've wanted a dirt bike since I was 3 or 4 years old," said Eberhard, who as a little girl enjoyed rides with her dad on his street bike. "It was always on my Christmas list."
Due to Marfan's, she avoids big jumps and limits her bike time to more relaxing trail riding. She remembers her frustration at stalling the bike multiple times in her front yard on Christmas morning and not getting very far.
That didn't last.
"I think knowing that I have overcome calculus and riding a dirt bike, I can stick out anything if I try long enough."
Eberhard is heading to Stanford Univerity and plans to study molecular biology.
"I'm looking forward to being able to study what I want and go more in-depth."
WHAT MAKES YOU EXTRAORDINARY
That I am nervous to go away to college, but I don't let my fear cripple me."