In Fords in Four, we ask an alumnus four questions; he shares insights and stories. In this blog post, Andrew Helber '12 reflects on how his passion for medicine was begun in science classes at Haverford, and shares how he tries to be a coach and colleague to the water polo and swimming student-athletes.
Which faculty member had a profound influence on you?
There were so many influential coaches, teachers, and mentors at Haverford, that a list would surely leave out many. However, one member of the Haverford community who does not get enough credit is Brendan Jones. After working his full-time job, Brendan comes to Haverford to coach the swimming and water polo teams, and has done so for almost 15 years. He also opens up the pool twice a week at 5 a.m. to run morning swims for students as well as faculty and the surrounding community. I have never met someone with such a love for and intense knowledge of the sport of swimming. To see someone dedicate so much of his life to a school and a team is remarkable. I, and many other athletes, have been tremendously impacted by Brendan, both in the pool and out, and we would not be where we are today without him, as athletes or as people. He, Sean Hansen, and Kevin Van Such make a great coaching team and all are a crucial part of the recent success of the aquatics programs at Haverford.
What lessons did you learn at Haverford that you carry with you, still?
Without Haverford, I would not have been able to pursue all of my passions to the highest degree I could, both in college and beyond. While I learned so much through extracurriculars and outside of the classroom, the two courses that impacted me most were the English and science curricula. When I arrived at college, I was surprised to see how effortlessly I could write a five-paragraph essay in comparison to my classmates, simply because it was so engrained into the teaching at Haverford. Now, having begun to write science manuscripts, my writing skills are even more concretely valuable.
The science curriculum at Haverford superbly prepared me for both my studies in college and in medical school. From sitting in the planetarium in Lower School to completing chemistry problem sets and looking under the electron microscope in Upper School, I fell in love with science at Haverford. I can undoubtedly attribute my Haverford education, especially in the sciences, to fueling my passion to become a doctor. I was also extremely influenced by my family physician, Dr. Gregory Narzikul, whose son graduated from Haverford in 2016, and I thank him for exposing me to medicine at a young age and allowing me to shadow him as part of my senior project.
I believe it is important for students to take part in what they excel at as well as what puts them outside of their comfort zone, because it is the memories made through these experiences that one will look back on with fond memories. Throughout one's time at Haverford, though, it is of utmost importance to reflect upon how lucky we are as a community to have these opportunities.
What motivated you to volunteer with the water polo and swimming teams at Haverford?
I absolutely love helping coach the water polo and swimming teams now that I have graduated and cannot thank Sean, Brendan, and Kevin enough for welcoming me back. It has been a privilege getting to know the student-athletes and to see how Haverford has changed in the short six years since my graduation. It has been pretty cool to watch the success of these teams over the last few years. Water polo just won its first outright Inter-Ac Championship in over a decade. The swimming team has won the Inter-Ac the last two seasons and last year won Easterns - a feat that still amazes me and my classmates, as this is something we only could have dreamed of 10 years ago. To see how far both of these programs have come is pretty awe-inspiring, and I am very proud to have helped pave the way in the pool for the current student-athletes. I know that Connor O'Prey '12, who coached the teams as well, feels the same way.
Having been through what the current students are going through only a few years prior, I believe I have some insight into some strategies to help them succeed, as well as advice on any pitfalls to try to avoid. I hope by being able to act as somewhat of a mix between a coach and a colleague to the athletes, I can enrich their time at Haverford.
How do you think current students can make the most of their Haverford education?
Haverford is a place that allows you to explore your passions extremely deeply and broadly. The sheer number of opportunities Haverford has to offer now is truly amazing, from the robotics club, to summer research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania, to the Notables, one of the premiere high school a capella groups in the country. These opportunities simply aren't available at other schools. I believe it is important for students to take part in what they excel at as well as what puts them outside of their comfort zone, because it is the memories made through these experiences that one will look back on with fond memories. Throughout one's time at Haverford, though, it is of utmost importance to reflect upon how lucky we are as a community to have these opportunities, as so many other high schoolers could only dream of the resources Haverford makes available to its students. For many of us, we have our parents and grandparents to thank for making Haverford a possibility for us and must show our gratitude for that constantly.
Andrew Helber '12 was a Lifer at Haverford and his brother, Nicholas Helber '14, was a Super Lifer. On campus, Andrew was on the swim team, water polo team, and frisbee team, sang with the Notables and Glee Club, and performed in the musicals. After graduation, Andrew matriculated to Princeton University where he received a degree in musicology while he swam on the varsity swimming team and sang with the Princeton Nassoons and Princeton Glee Club. Andrew is currently a second-year medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he plans to specialize in pediatrics.