Sample Personal Statements
At age ten, I left everything behind in China to start a new life with my parents in United States. It was not long before I realized that I was, in many ways, different from all the other kids in school. Gradually, I became less confident and more isolated. One day in the schoolyard, while I was playing hopscotch alone, a girl named Becca walked up to me and asked if she could join in. Although we had difficulty understanding one another's speech, we had no problem communicating through gestures and expressions. We soon realized that we had different ways of playing hopscotch. I watched her way and she watched mine; presently we came up with a brand new version of the game. Others soon joined us, and I found myself playing and laughing with kids whom I had thought I had nothing in common with. I have learned so much from Becca, but most of all I learned to not be afraid to build relationships with people who differ from me. Over the years, I have tried to live by this rule, and, as a result, have enjoyed many memorable and enriching relationships which have contributed to my desire to work with others in the practice of medicine.
One such relationship is with a woman named Jeanette. Our relationship began when I became Jeanette's reader through the Pittsburgh Vision Center, where I work as a volunteer. Before meeting Jeanette, I had never interacted with a blind person. At our first meeting, she was excited to tell me about the new computer she had just purchased and a movie that she had recently seen, making no reference to her blindness. I soon forgot that she was blind myself. "Did you see that blue jay that just landed on the tree outside?" I blurted. There was a moment of awkwardness, as I tried desperately to come up with a way to explain my thoughtlessness. Jeanette saved me by requesting that I describe the scene to her. As I did so, a smile appeared on her face, and she responded, "I see it now." Later, it occurred to me that just as Jeanette had benefited from my way of perceiving the world, I could benefit form her way of "seeing" as well. For example, I have jogged in the park for years, but until I relied on my other senses, I never realized how many animals were moving about or how many wonderful and horrible smelling plants there were! By looking at things from the other person's perspective, Jeanette and I can not enjoy a more complete picture of the world around us.
My desire to interact with people and understand their experiences and ideas actually stemmed from my early childhood exposures to people in a hospital setting. As I was growing up, my parents, both dedicated physicians, often took me to the hospital with them. Since I spent most of my time tagging along with my parent or the nurses, I had the opportunity to interact with many patients. All the different kinds of people fascinated me and I was curious to know who the patients were, what was wrong with them, and how they were being treated and cured. I always had a million questions to ask, and this desire to learn more about people and medicine has only increased over the years.
As a young adult, I was once again back at the hospital, shadowing medical professionals and asking questions. Through these visits, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of a career in medicine. I learned that a physician participates in many different relationships: with patients, with other physicians, with nurses, social workers, and other care-givers, as well as with hospital administrators and insurance carriers. Often, these relationships can be difficult to balance and sometimes it is even necessary to weigh one relationship against another. I came to this painful realization when I observed the treatment of a sick baby girl. The child desperately needed a heart transplant, and I was hopeful when the hospital found a match for her. Just a few days before her surgery, however, she contracted an intestinal infection. The little girl's physician decided that she was not strong enough to undergo surgery and felt that the valuable heart should be given to someone with a better change of survival. I stood by the baby girl's crib for a long time thinking, "I can't believe this is happening. How can he let her just die?" The unfairness of the doctor's decision stayed with me for along time, but I came to realize that he had to weigh his relationship with an individual patient against his duties to patients collectively and to society. Although it broke my heart to see that child lose her battle that day, I know that her doctor had probably saved another person's life. Unlike the relationships I have enjoyed with people like Jeanette, a physician's relationships are not always personally satisfying. However, these observations have not diminished my desire to become a physician. Rather, I've been encouraged to learn more about and better prepare myself for the different relationships involved in the health professions.
The ability to communicate clearly and concisely is the key to the success of a doctor's relationship with his/her patients. I am working on improving my communication skills through being a supplementary instructor (SI) and tutor. Tutoring introductory courses has sharpened my ability to present information effectively since I must reorganize and reword complex concepts into terms that beginning students can understand. As an SI, I also gained valuable communication skills through holding weekly summary sessions. My job as a tutor for international students has taught me important skills in communicating with non-native speakers.
As managed care plays a greater role in our health care system, the relationship between a physician and administrators is becoming increasingly complex. I am currently minoring in health care policy and management so that I will be able to make decisions that will optimize the benefits to the patients. I have also taken Health Psychology and Medicine and Society. These classes have helped me to better understand the relationships between mental health and physical health as well as social condition and the health care system.
Through my undergraduate research projects, I have also explored the relationship between biomedical research and patient care. My curiosity with how cells function combined with my desire to be academically challenged have led me to devote a notable amount of my college career to research. Since my freshmen year, I have conducted two independent research projects, which I had the opportunity to present at two school symposiums as well as a national meeting. One of my research projects looked at defects in the iron uptake process of Belgrade rats. Pinpointing the cause of these defects will increase the possibility of manufacturing drugs that will eventually help humans with iron deficiency diseases. In the long run, I hope to take advantage of my research background to conduct research projects that would have practical applications in patient care.
From Becca to Jeanette, my relationships have enriched and educated me, and by observing and exploring the different relationships in health care, I have gained a more comprehensive view of medicine. I believe that what I have learned from the many people and experiences over the years will help me to become a successful physician - sensitive to my patients needs and aware of my responsibilities to science, society, and the health care system.
My home has been a place of healing for many broken hearts, both literally and figuratively. My younger sister had two open heart operations before the age of two. I was three years old, and I tried to be the best big sister in the world. I thought that if I loved her enough, her heart would heal itself. My brother was three and thirteen when he had his heart surgeries. This time, I was older and much more fearful, but my brother is the proud new owner of Vinny the Pulmonary Valve. Thus, two hearts have healed quite literally in my home.
The figurative healing in my home sets it apart from many others. I have learned the importance of love and support in the face of trouble by watching my mother, the backbone of a local parent support group. Families need to know they are not alone, that I, too, was scared to see my brother gasp for breath after running up a flight of stairs.
I have seen more aspects of the personal side of medicine than many people my age. I understand first hand the comforting effect a friendly smile and reassuring confidence from a doctor has on both patients and families. My family history is what sparked my interest in medicine, but my own experience has held my attention in recent years.
Eager to gain hands on experience after high school, I volunteered at Strong Memorial Hospital conducting a clinical study of patient referral patterns and shadowing a pediatric cardiologist. I watched a child's fearful face turn to an expression of amazement as he listened to the sound of his own heart. The little boy was so fascinated that he hardly noticed as Dr. Harris completed the check-up, expertly assessing reflexes, color, peripheral pulses, and responsiveness in the moments before the novelty of the sound wore off. Stethoscope in hand, I searched gingerly for the sound of the boy's leaking valve but was not in time. The smile faded, and I lost my chance. I felt an immediate sense of awe at Dr. Harris's swiftness, skill, and compassion toward the fearful little boy.
The following summer I was a University of Rochester Summer Research Program scholar, doing my first laboratory research. I studied surface deformations of the chick embryo myocardium during normal and experimentally altered ventricular growth, learning the frustration of research obstacles and working to overcome them. I was rewarded by having my work included in the final report.
The program also gave me the chance to attend rounds, shadow physicians, attend conferences and lectures. The most fascinating afternoon of the summer was an autopsy conference of a still-born baby. The pathologist explained the procedure he went through to determine how they baby died. He worked slowly and meticulously, showing us how he pieced together the puzzle that lay before him. As I watched, I realized that the problem solving and analytical thinking skills I have learned as a physics major will help me greatly in future medical work.
I have spent a lot of time working with and learning to communicate with young kids because of my interest in a career with children. For two full summers, I worked as a camp counselor at an overnight camp for ages 7-15. In the two-week sessions I became their surrogate mother guiding, teaching, and enjoying the spirit of my campers. Throughout high school, I worked with children as a dance teacher at a local ballet school.
My love of dance led me to compete in collegiate level ballroom dancing starting in the fall of my freshmen year at Carnegie Mellon University. Ballroom dancing is one of the few areas of dance in which partnership and working together are keys to success. Though I have become very good at following the lead of my dance partner, I sharpened my own leadership skills while serving as vice-president of the Carnegie Mellon Ballroom Dance Club.
In college, my desire for a career in medicine has grown stronger. The fear I felt just two days before my brother's surgery, taught me to be strong. I was miles away from my family, yet I had one last exam before I could join them. When I was finally by their side, it was three hours into his surgery, and all we could do was share our feeling of helplessness. Now, when I lean my ear against my brother's chest, the 'lupp-swish' of Vinny the Valve reminds me of the fear I felt that day, but the fear is far from over; Vinny will need replacement within the next ten years.
Medicine has always been a part of my life, and I am exhilarated that the chance for it to play a new role has finally arrived. In the seventeen years since my sister's first surgery, I have learned that love alone is not enough to heal a heart, and I am eagerly awaiting the chance to learn the rest.