When applying to medical school, whether you’re applying to MD or MD/PhD, you will have to write a personal statement regarding your reasons for pursuing a career in medicine. This statement, with a limit of 5,300 characters, is a great opportunity to let your passion shine through and complement your GPA, MCAT score, and extracurriculars to convince admission committees that you would be an excellent addition to their program. As an example, here’s my MD personal statement:
Lying beneath the linear accelerator, I put myself in a patient’s position. I was eager to understand what it felt like to have cancer, to familiarize myself with the fear, worry, and pain of the life-threatening disease and its dangerous treatment. As I looked up at the machine, I wondered what it would feel like to have radiation directed at my body. Did it hurt? Did it not? Despite these insecurities, I was reassured, had I been a patient, that I would have the doctors’ undivided attention and vast medical knowledge helping me through the therapy. I had seen these doctors in action earlier when I looked in on a patient being prepped for this treatment, and I admired the bond that the doctors had formed with the patient based on trust and understanding to ensure them that they are in good hands. It is experiences like this one in radiation oncology that continue to attract me to becoming a physician.
As a girl who knew little of medical science at the time, I was nonetheless captivated by the complexity of medicine and aspired to be more involved in the healthcare community. I became a volunteer and immersed myself in various areas around the hospital, learning to appreciate all of the workers who make both a direct and indirect impact on patients’ lives. As a volunteer, my favorite phrase to tell patients has been “if you need anything, just let me know.” I pride myself in being able to ensure them that I will do everything I can to help meet their needs though it was not until I met a 97-year-old patient in a nursing unit that I realized the full depth of that phrase. Alone and recovering from surgery, he needed someone to talk to more than anything, and his face lit up as I told him that I would be happy to sit with him. While we talked, I learned that his wife had recently died, that they never had children because they could not afford it, and that he was restricted to living the rest of his life between the nursing home and the hospital. Empathizing with his struggles and his loneliness, I helped him feel connected to another person to reduce these emotional pains. I then understood that the phrase could provide even more comfort to a patient than the physical relief I had initially intended.
Ambitiously, I desire to further serve patients’ needs by using my interest in research to complement my work in the clinic. Being a scientifically curious and innovative individual, I am optimistic about the opportunities for the advancement of knowledge regarding the chemical, biological, and physiological interactions that comprise human life, and I want to be on the cutting edge of such discovery. I have already begun to be involved in such medically relevant research in medicinal chemistry so that I can study how carcinogens chemically react with biological molecules to have a mutagenic effect. As an interdisciplinary scientist, I have learned to combine multiple angles on a situation such as that of a chemist and a biologist to more completely understand it, which can help me translate scientific information to clinically relevant techniques. This is also an ability I hope to emulate as a doctor to recognize and address the intricacies of medical ailments from their scientific basis and systemic effects to their psychological and social impacts on the lives of patients and their families.
As I have explored careers in medicine, pharmacy, and science, I have become passionate about cancer, and I want to combine my intellectual interest, ambition, and compassion to do everything that I can for patients as an oncologist. Other than its challenging conceptual complexity and opportunity for expansion, I am attracted to this specialty because of the longevity of the disease’s effects that enable formation of strong doctor-patient relationships as I have seen in my volunteer work in an oncology intravenous infusion suite. My most touching observation was when I helped a woman on her last day of a round of chemotherapy by taking her picture with various nurses and doctors that were a major part of her treatment. I admire that these medical professionals have made such an influence on her life that she wants to commemorate it in photographic memory. As she left, she did not say goodbye but instead said see you next time; it is determined patients like her who inspire me to be more involved in oncology and its research to see that I do everything that I can to help them win their fight against cancer. Although I desire the lasting connection to patients, I would much rather see them healthy than having to return for multiple rounds of treatment.
Valuing knowledge, I have placed myself in positions to try to better empathize with patients’ experiences and to appreciate the role of doctors and other medical professionals in their care. Through such learning experiences, I have become passionate about understanding and treating cancer, and I am determined to be more involved in the complex health care system by bridging the gap between science and medicine to best serve those afflicted with the disease. I take pride in my ability as an interdisciplinary scientist and I believe that I can use that skill to complement my work as an oncologist so that I can combat cancer as a true physician-scientist.