Zach Kam will be attending Michigan State University in the fall as part of the Osteopathic Medical Scholars Program.
When Zach Kam was a junior at Bloomfield Hills High School, he was inspired by a story he heard at an event for UMatter, a program focused on empowering teens to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental health challenges and suicide.
The speaker shared how he was bullied growing up for having a stutter. He talked about the mental toll it took, giving him low self-esteem and a lack of acceptance.
“Something so little can impact someone on such a great level,” said Kam, 18. “It’s real but it’s hard to detect. It’s such an internal conflict. Every small thing has the potential to turn into such a large fear.”
After hearing that story, Kam became more involved with UMatter. He now attends all the large events and some of the smaller discussions. Kam has been volunteering at Friendship Circle since he was 10 years old. When he was a sophomore in high school, he earned a spot on the Boys Presidents Board, a teen board for leaders at Friendship Circle.
“I’ve learned a lot — not just about other people but also about myself,” he added. “That’s all because of witnessing how mental illness can be so damaging. I’ve realized how grateful I am to have a family who loves me for who I am.”
While Kam enjoys his participation in UMatter, he said he feels grateful to have few mental struggles himself other than a general self-consciousness. Like most teens, Kam searched for his own identity. He found he fits into many labels such as athlete, academic, friend and son.
“There’s always moments of questioning,” Kam said. “Every teenager asks, ‘Why can’t I be like everyone else?’ What makes us different really is what empowers us.”
Kam will be attending Michigan State University in the fall as part of the Osteopathic Medical Scholars Program. This program gives MSU undergraduate students the chance to explore health care and osteopathic medicine. If students maintain a 3.5 GPA, they will be able to waive the MCAT when applying to the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Kam has not decided which type of physician he wants to be, but he has an interest in oncology. Kam had the opportunity to be mentored by Dr. Richard Zekman, an oncologist at Beaumont Cancer Center in Farmington Hills.
UMatter gave Kam a different perspective when interacting with cancer patients.
“Having a severe disease, such as cancer, doesn’t just affect the body. It also affects the mind,” Kam said. “They feel set back. They don’t feel like they’re living the life they should.”
Kam plans on carrying the lessons from his mentorship and UMatter for the rest of his life.
“I’m so thankful for all the experiences I’ve been able to receive,” he added. “I don’t think we should just absorb this knowledge and use it for ourselves. I think we need to use it to help other people. If someone is struggling, we need to have the dignity and the confidence to communicate with them and help them through their story.”
This is the final story in a four-part series on teens impacted by UMatter.
Check out more stories part of this series below.