Yusef Lateef, Class of 2024 Elmont Memorial High School valedictorian, recently added the publication of a new book to his long list of impressive accomplishments.
In August, Lateef self-published “Medical Mayhem: Stories from the Medical Field,” which is available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents.
“I was kind of thinking, ‘What’s something good that I could do for my own self to get more exposure to fields of medicine?’” Lateef said. “Because, I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was a kid — but, you know, sometimes you question it.”
He asked himself this question throughout middle school and early in high school. Around the ninth grade, he came up with the idea about retelling interesting stories from the medical field.
He then worked on his book over the course of the next four years, collecting 125 stories from doctors’ offices. He also searched online public forums to find stories from students, medical professionals and patients to gain a better understanding of their experiences. The research spanned the globe, with experiences from all 50 states, as well as from 33 countries. Before each story, Lateef wrote briefly to explain the country from which each story was derived.
“I made sure to space it out,” Lateef said. “But along the way, I was like, ‘Maybe this isn’t worth it,’ and I had some teachers who gave me the motivation.”
Since he was 2, Lateef visited a doctor’s office after being exposed to lead at a construction site near his house, and he would visit the doctor twice a month to have his blood tested.
“For the whole early part of my life, I was exposed to medicine, but as a patient,” Lateef said. “And my own pediatrician, he was very inspirational in making me want to be a doctor.”
When he was 11 years old, the lead levels in Lateef’s blood returned to normal, he said.
“He has significantly impacted the Elmont community, through his initiatives and leadership positions,” Marya Baker, his high school principal, said.
Lateef is deeply involved with several organizations at his high school, including as president of the Key Club, Science National Honor Society, and the Science and Technology Entry Program. He also is the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, treasurer of Future Business Leaders of America and the secretary for Business Honor Society.
“Yusef has taken initiative in his school, education and community,” Baker said. “He started an organization in the community called Living Green, which focuses on the environment and sustainability.”
Lateef has taken 13 AP courses and amassed a weighted grade point average of 103.38 to earn him valedictorian status.
“AP biology was the most formative, because that’s the one that really — after I took it, after I finished — that made me excited for medicine,” he said.
But the two courses that he has taken in international relations at Georgetown University have made Lateef reevaluate what specific paths he would like to pursue in the medical field. He is now contemplating tying global health into his collegiate endeavors.
Outside of school, he conducted research this summer with Dr. Alicia Melendez at Queens College in Flushing and studied the organism c. elegans and grasped a better understanding of biochemistry. Melendez continues to use his work in further research projects, in which Lateef has been listed as a contributor.
He also interned at a doctor’s office, where he took patients’ blood pressure, height and weight prior to the doctor’s examination. He also did clerical work at the front desk of the doctor’s office throughout the internship.
Lateef has been listed as a finalist for the QuestBridge scholarship, which awards a student with a full four-year scholarship worth more than $200,000. He was also listed as a semi-finalist for the Coca Cola Scholars Program, which awards a $20,000 college scholarship to recipients.
As for college, Lateef has yet to commit to a school.
“I’m looking more into four-year colleges, and just getting my degree in biomedical science,” he said, “maybe double majoring in international relations or minoring. I’m not sure yet.”