16 Under 16 in STEM: California Teen’s Medical Focus Inspires Care For Neighbors

·1 min read

This summer we’ve been celebrating America’s 16 under 16 in STEM — young learners who have already made a meaningful mark in their schools and communities.

Today, we’re casting a spotlight on 16-year-old Sydney Vaughn who we met in San Jose, California this past spring. Vaughn’s life has long been surrounded by medicine — not because it runs in the family, as no one in her immediate or extended family is in the medical field — but because her 15-year-old brother has special needs and has had 20 surgeries since birth.


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For years, Sydney spent nearly every day after school accompanying her brother to appointments, which included cardiology, orthopedics, ophthalmology, dermatology and pulmonology, among others. She did exercises with him during physical therapy, practiced making words with him in speech therapy and watched him sit in the sound booth for hearing tests.

“From a young age, I was blessed to witness countless medical professionals work to help my brother,” Sydney said. “I hope to follow this template by dedicating my life’s work to patients and their families.”

Two years ago, Sydney moved with her family from Texas to San Jose, where the homeless population grew by 11% during the pandemic. During that period, Sydney led a project to study and tackle medical care for the homeless in her new community.

See our full interview — and celebrate our full 2022 class!

—Video edited by James Fields and produced by Emmeline Zhao