When Francis Kong was five years old, his father sat him down and told him he had two choices in life- he could be a physician or he could be a failure. From that time on, his sole focus was on getting into medical school.
Along the way, he kept meeting people who asked him what he wanted to do with his life. What was his passion? What inspired him? He didn’t know it then, but these people turned out to be his mentors. People who played a key role in him finally finding his true vocation.
Francis ended up going to medical school in Dublin, Ireland because an Irish-American friend of his convinced him that it would give him a great international experience. At the end of his second year at the Royal College of Surgeons, one of his professors told him that he should go and have fun on his spring break because once he was back, it would be heads down with no time off for many years.
So, together with a couple of medical school buddies, he boarded a 747 to Barcelona, Spain for what he hoped would be two weeks of fun in the sun. As they attempted to land at the Barcelona airport, the plane experienced what Francis thought was turbulence – followed by a failed attempt to land. Shortly after that the intercom came on and the pilot made an announcement – but it was in Spanish. The only thing word he could understand was one that was being repeated over and over: “Emergencia, emergencia.”
As he looked around the cabin, he found that his fellow passengers were all either crying or praying. Something very bad was going on – but he didn’t know exactly what. Finally, a flight attendant answered his call button and told him that the landing gears were stuck and that they were going to attempt an emergency landing. The smoke you see out the window, the attendant told him, is actually fuel – they are emptying the fuel tanks, so we can minimize the explosion when we land.
Explosion? Explosion!!! As they circled around and approached the landing strip again, the horrendous possibility was brought home when Francis looked out the windows and saw fire and rescue trucks lining both sides of the runway as far as he could see.
Medical school was not my dream
He thought, just how is it that I ended up on this plane at this time and in this circumstance? It hit me then that me going to medical school as not my dream–it was someone else’s. At first, he thought, “I was angry with my parents for making me do what they wanted. But then I realized that I was to blame, that I had not had the courage to do what I wanted to do.”
During the final descent, time froze for Francis. The plane was eerily silent because the engines shut off for lack of fuel. People all around him were holding each other and quietly crying or praying or both. No fuel. No landing gears. Fire trucks all around. A crash seemed inevitable. In those last few seconds, Francis saw in his mind’s eye, his mom, his dad, his sisters and the faces of all of his mentors.
“I told them I loved them very, very much. I thanked them for all of the gifts they had given me in my life. And I said, ‘goodbye’ – I am so sorry I had to go now.”
And then, they were on the ground.
Francis survived his near-death experience but life for him would never be the same. When he returned to the states, he made it a point to meet with all of the mentors he had visualized when he thought he was going to die. He told them his story and thanked them for the help they had given him
He eventually returned to medical school and became a pediatrician. But after two years of practice, he hung up his stethoscope permanently. He has learned that what he really loved was innovation, technology and the business side of healthcare.
He formed Edge in College and learned how to mentor young people on a large scale. Then in 2012, he founded Edge Interns to help young people figure out what their dreams are and help them to make them come true as early as possible. There were 5 interns in Edge’s first year, now there are more than 330 from very prestigious institutions round the country.
The interns are invited to participate based on three factors:
- They are highly motivated to do good work
- They are passionate about something – it doesn’t have to be medicine or any other academic field
- They are strong team players
Francis takes a deep interest in the lives of all of his interns, helping them to acquire new skills and hone nascent ones. The majority of his interns are premeds, but he also has students interested in other fields, such as design.
For employers, like me, the Edge Intern experience is virtually risk free. Francis finds you the best match he can from his pool of interns and he works with them (and you) to be sure the experience is beneficial to both parties. If the intern needs guidance or discipline, he will handle it. If the intern needs to be replaced because the fit wasn’t good, he makes it painless. There is a small monthly fee (for 3 months) for having an Edge Intern and you pay a small percentage if you hire one (about 50% of interns end up getting hired).
Although no one would wish such a terrifying near-death experience on anyone ever, I can’t help but think that the world is a better place because Francis experienced and then survived a plane crash.