Categories
Application Process Medical School Medicine

My Personal Statement

Caution: Post with heavy reading!
Since I have a lot of friends that just finished their junior year and are applying to medical school, I thought I would share my personal statement. If you’ve been applying then you already know the basic guidelines they give you and some of the more google-able tips you can find on what to put in it- and what not to.
For example:
About a page in length.
Highlight your good qualities. Duh.
Say what makes you unique.
Things like that.
But, the thing is. In all my searching, people rarely share them. I mean yeah, you can find a couple of examples, but I’m pretty sure they’re professionally written so as to be unrealistically bad, or “ideal scenario” good. Is mine perfect?  No. Is it real? Yes.
So here it is. The personal statement of a real, imperfect student that really really really wants to be a doctor. I didn’t have all the right connections, I didn’t have the perfect grades, I didn’t have a stellar internship working for the dean of the medical school. I’m an average student that worked my butt off, and never felt like I was going to get in. And now I did.
I wrote it myself, but like I said here, many many people proofread it for me. Just to have people read it and tell you different points of view on how it comes across is valuable, I think. You should see how many drafts of it that I have on my computer. It’s a little ridiculous.
 

“Dear Admissions Committee,

As I begin medical school, below is a letter I envision sharing with my patients when I begin my career.
 

To My Patients:

 

Thank you so much for trusting me as your physician. I want you to know the doctor who will be giving you excellent care for a number of years, I thought I would begin our relationship by giving you a brief look at how I ended up as your doctor.
You are an amazing being. It is almost hard to comprehend how many things had to go right for you to be conceived, born, and here in front of me today. My love of medicine began when my older sister became pregnant; I was just thirteen. I read all the pregnancy books, went to ultrasound appointments, and listened intently at her prenatal visits. Not only did I enjoy the learning aspect, I loved taking care of her while her husband was at work and she was on bed rest. We grew closer as a result of the caretaker role I filled. I shaved her legs, made sure she was consuming enough calories and gave her the medications she needed to avoid preterm labor.
Ever since I could write, I have kept a journal. If you were to read my journal, you would see my gratitude for sharing life with people and hearing their stories. I believe everyone has a story to tell. This, and the fact that I was raised to respect and help others, fits seamlessly with my interest in medicine, being that a doctor connects the story of a life in need with the hope of healing.
While on a mission trip to Mexico during two of my Spring Breaks, I helped build new houses in a small village. Our team gave the people there more suitable housing and spent time playing games with their children at a nightly carnival we hosted. Here, I learned how helping a community changes the lives of both those served and those serving. My lifelong commitments to learning, listening, and serving in the world around me have taught me how valuable people are, no matter their background, economic status, or level of education.
Firm in my resolve to become a doctor, I began volunteering at a free clinic in Tulsa sponsored by OU Medical School serving those with no health insurance. One of the clinic’s goals is to improve the health status of a part of the city that has relatively poor health and low income. I love seeing the patients at Bedlam Clinic- learning from the medical students, and getting to experience different procedures and tests each time. The exposure alone is an invaluable experience I will carry with me throughout my education and practice. Each day, I leave Bedlam with a smile on my face that does not go away for hours afterward. The thought of a future continuing to see and help patients, is a true delight for me. I cannot think of anything I would rather do than be your doctor.
As a biology student, a devoted aunt of five young girls, a runner, a research lab intern, a church member, an avid reader, and a volunteer, I am used to working hard. I enjoy being busy, and maintaining a rigorous but fun routine. I thrive on learning and working with my hands, body, and mind alongside all kinds of people. Best of all, I love this journey I am on. Trials and errors, ups and downs, knee injuries and finish lines- I have learned that I am capable of more than I thought possible. In running, as in life, I have learned that going the distance leads to a better, stronger me. Taking the hard way has never led me to failure, so I will continue to live and care for patients this way.
I offer my heartfelt sympathies regarding whatever ailment is bringing you in today. I promise you my best to assist you in getting well. From my shadowing experiences, I built bonds with great doctors who, in turn, allowed me to see their bonds with their patients at a family clinic. It touched me to be privileged enough to enter these rooms. Since patients seek their doctors when something is wrong, illnesses and problems become very personal in nature. I think just being examined by a doctor makes you vulnerable. Mothers, you might bring your kids in to see me, putting their care in my hands. Sons, you might bring your beloved elderly parent in about a concern you have. The responsibility of taking on this role for you and your loved ones is something I do not take lightly.
In my pursuit of loving people, positively impacting the world around me, and eagerly seeking to grow in medical knowledge, I am privileged to call myself the physician to the best patients in the world- you.”

 
You may notice I picked a slightly different approach. I was told by a couple people mentoring me, could be pretty risky. Instead of addressing it to the admissions committee, I addressed it like a letter to my future patients. I did this because I knew it would be easier to write to “them”- my patients- about why it is I became their doctor than it would be to convince an admission committee or interviewer of all the “great” things I had done to become the best student for their medical school. It isn’t about being a medical student after all- its about the doctor you become.
In the end, to make it stand alone, I told the reader (my interviewers) that I was writing it unconventionally and explained my intended audience.
I do think that the whole thing was a risk. But the risk paid off. Plus, I’m really proud of it because I’ve never seen one like it out there.
The doctors I shadowed all said they loved it and gave excellent criticisms that I took into account and changed a few things. But what I really like about it is that I ignored some of the advice I was given and left it the way I made it so that it stayed “me”. So feel free to ignore this post if it takes the “you” out of your personal statement.
I also gave it to my mom’s coworkers (public school administrators), my professors, an OU resident I met through an OU information session that became a mentor, as well as all of my letter writers for their opinions. Some liked it, some didn’t. The best compliment I ever got was someone telling me that they wanted me to be their doctor after reading it.
This was me.
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Source
Both interviewers at OSU complimented me on it, but the young resident told me that he received my file the night before and read through it. (OSU told me that this is the ideal to have their interviewers read over your file the night before they interview you, which I thought was really nice). He said he read it twice and then he read it to his wife and they both loved it. He said that if every doctor felt that way about their patients, it would change the health of the world.
I encourage you all to do something creative with it! As creative as one page with all your attitudes, accomplishments, and activities can get! Who knows, it may pay off!
 

Categories
Application Process Family Friends Health Life Medical School

Kids, Sickness, Hangouts, and Medical School News!

Nothing keeps me busier than when these four kiddos come to visit! The highlights of their days include Magic School Bus, fish sticks, swimming pools, playing the floor is lava, and anytime a slushy is involved. The highlight of my day is “quiet rest time” when they don’t have to nap but they have to sit still. They do funny things to get around it, like crawling very very slowly, playing “very still” tag- which turns out to be not very still at all, and repeating everything one of them says until that one person is crying. I also like helping them with their summer math and reading practice more than all of them like school combined.

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Summertime and the livin’ is easy

I was always much more into school than they are. Maybe because having three other siblings that close in age is more fun than anything school has to offer. I’d probably be the same way if I had had several roommates to play with. It’s a good thing that they are staying juvenile as long as possible. When I was the twins’ age, (8) I feel like I was pretty self-sufficient. I could make my favorite meal by myself, stay home by myself, and bathe myself. I want them to stay young as long as possible. Though, I do admit being an adult is a lot better. Being as independent as I was, I got frustrated a lot when I got to preteens and teen years and people were still telling me when to go to bed, and how much I could eat. With these kids though, they would eat nachos til they puke, not bathe for 6 weeks and watch TV until their eyes bleed, so I’m glad they still depend on us to take care of them.
With the kids come new germs my body is unfamiliar with so I have the beginnings of an upper respiratory infection. It always comes on the same. I wake up with a sore neck in the back, sore lymph nodes beneath my jaw and a painful throat with no cough. The second day I get an even worse sore throat, a puffy face, and a nice stream of mucus down the back of my throat that makes me not hungry and feel like I could gag at any minute.
I usually nurse one dose of Dayquil liquid for about ten minutes every 8 hours. It tastes terrible but its good at coating my throat.
Despite the oncoming full-blown infection, I went out last night to meet some future medical schools classmates. We were going to go to a minor league baseball game, but it got rained out. Instead, we watched the Thunder game at a sports bar called Leon’s. It was super loud whenever Thunder swished it, which I thought was cool. I went even though I didn’t know anyone else there. Everyone was super chill, friendly, and funny. Several guys brought their wives or girlfriends, which I thought was cool. You get to know more about people on a deeper level that way.
We met up through a Facebook group, so the joke of the evening centered around a guy on Facebook who couldn’t find where we were sitting. One guy went around the bar trying to find “Matt” who none of us knew. He asked a bunch of strangers and people that looked alone or lost. It kept getting funnier because people were walking around and people kept yelling “Are you Matt?” One person held up Matt’s Facebook profile picture and yelled, “If this is your picture, sit down!” I thought it was hilarious.
Some second years asked if I was excited to start with a skeptical look on their face. I told them I knew it was going to get scary really fast but that I really was ready to meet everyone and see what its like. I do still want my FULL summer first, though!
We also talked about where we were when we got “the call”. I think its something that everyone remembers. One guy said he was at work at a clinic and his boss was a doctor so he let him answer let him leave early too. Mine was during class. I stepped out for a minute and called OSU back after I got the missed call. Unable to stop smiling or silently shrieking, I ran back into class and yelled to everyone that I just got into medical school. It was a good moment.
Speaking of getting into medical school. I got an email this morning that I have made it off of the wait list into OU med. It was surprisingly uneventful. Having already made so many plans at OSU, I entertained the idea of actually going to OU for about 3 minutes total, (but man those mods are nice). I’m happy and proud that a great school like that would offer me a spot, but ultimately it came down to a technicality.
Getting an interview somewhere means you are qualified to go to the school. Getting on the wait list means that your arbitrary “score” with the interview considered wasn’t high enough to get an outright offer of admission. Basically it means that you didn’t completely blow your interview, but they aren’t ready to let you in in case they can get someone “better” in their sense of the word.
Getting off the wait list just means that enough of their “preferred” people have accepted offers elsewhere, so they’ll “allow” me in more or less.
It was different for me at OSU. I felt valued as an applicant from the moment I started dealing with OSU. Like they were saying “Thank you for considering us,” to me. And when I was wait listed, I still got a personal phone call and was welcomed to send them updates on what I was doing. Then, I found out that like dating- OSU wanted me to want them too. (My physician mentor that’s an OSU alum looked at my file, saying that I applied to OU. Since they figured I would get in there too and pick there, they didn’t make me an immediate offer.) So I sent in a “letter of intent”, and a week later I got in.
 
It’s a shame that something this important to my life comes down to games like this that both OU and OSU play. But that’s the way it goes.
Maybe I’m too prideful to accept the offer from OU when I seemed to be a second rate choice. Regardless of the reason at the heart of it, I know I’d have a good time suffering for four years at either school. Like so many other things in life, it comes down to it being what you make of it. I’m sticking with OSU, though, because it already feels like home.
 

Categories
Application Process Medical School Medicine

My Second Medical School Interview

I woke up this morning and felt like writing, so I’m going to get this doozy out of the way. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while- since I wrote this post about my first interview back at the beginning of April.
I’m struggling a little bit with how to write this, because I want to be honest. For me, this wasn’t as positive of an interview. I feel like I said the right things, and I didn’t colossally screw up. It was just not a great experience for me. That’s an opinion. It’s how I personally feel about what happened. It is a really great school. It just isn’t the school.
My second and final interview was at OU.
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Source
Again, I went to bed early the night before. Also like the first time I woke up ready to get it over with.
I distinctly remember getting to the medical park- which includes seven post graduate healthcare profession schools, a few hospitals, many research institutes, student unions, etc- and not having a clue where to go. I wandered aimlessly, thinking showing up 15 minutes before required was plenty of time.
Two minutes later, when I found where I was supposed to be, I also found I was the underachiever of the bunch. I was one of the last ones to get my name tag and my packet.
The panic that was assuaged when I got to my first interview and discovered I was one and the same with my fellow interviewees, was exacerbated when I got to this interview  and discovered I was not one of these people.
First of all, there were too many of us to count. Secondly, many of them it seemed were non-traditional students (which can be intimidating on interview day, to a kid that has never had a meaningful job in here life). They had briefcases and stilettos. I had a water bottle and flats.
After letting us mingle in the lobby, they sent us into one of the main lecture halls and told us about the school, the campus, and the selection process. We were divided into groups. Some people went to their interview first, some went on a tour, some went to see the skills lab, and some talked about the online lecture system with the med students. I was in the group that got a tour first and then my interview.
My group’s tour guides were wonderful. They were easy to get along with and answered a ton of questions. That was soothing to me; that when everyone wasn’t in interview clothes and all high-strung and nervous, I felt like I could fit in with the type of students OU has. The children’s hospital is gorgeous and inspiring and it made me want to be a doctor right away. The entire medical campus has like 548960958 places for faculty and patients to eat, which was cool. (I will be eating soft pretzels everyday from Quiktrip a mile down the road from where I am going).
At my interview, I waited outside for the last group to finish for what seemed like forever. Finally the door opened and I was introduced to a female family doc, a fourth year male med student, and an ancient male plastic surgeon. They asked me about myself. I struggled to mention a few adjective that described me and then I decided that saying I was “diligent” meant nothing to them so I went on to say what it is I like to do. When I mentioned that I have five nieces and grabbed my necklace with their initials, the family doc wanted to see the necklace, and she put her hand on my shoulder. Boom, I liked her. We were connected. From then on, she was on my side. The med student and I had a mutual friend. Bam, connection. These two people asked me questions that were easy to answer, fed me prompts so I knew which direction they were looking for, and understood the answers I was going for.
The plastic surgeon, not so much. I had no common ground with him. He asked me odd questions where I wasn’t sure what he was getting at. We started discussing Shawnee. He mentioned the casino there and asked me if I had ever been. I said “No, I have not”. He asked, “Are you against gambling? Do you gamble?”  To me, those are two different questions and both are irrelevant to obtaining a medical education.
I said, “No I do not gamble, not necessarily for any other reason than that I don’t think it sounds fun. Am I against gambling? No, not particularly, though it does cause some difficulties for those that do gamble so its not always wise.” Blah blah blah. I knew I was rambling. I had no direction because I wasn’t sure where to go or what he was wanting.
The other bothersome question he asked me was about medicine at least. He asked if I see a patient- and am completely unable to help them, I just send them home, would I charge them for their visit. I said, “What do you mean, unable to help them?” He said, “You provided no services and no care because you did not know what was wrong.” I said, “I’m not sure that I would see that as an acceptable visit. I would do something else to figure out what was wrong, refer them to someone, do some labs; but, if I really did not do anything for them, no I would not charge them.”
He wrote something down on his paper and I wanted to scream. WHAT WAS HE AFTER? The family doc offered some verbal buffer because she could tell I was confused. I wanted to know what was wrong with the hypothetical patient I couldn’t help and why I was so incompetent to not help them. The plastic surgeon asked the medical student what he would say. The med student said he would charge for it. The plastic surgeon said “You see, when medical students come in their first and second years, over half usually say that they wouldn’t charge them. But third and fourth year students and practicing physicians learn that a doctor’s time is worth a great deal more than you’d think even if a service isn’t provided. At my practice- just making someone an appointment when they show up and sit it my waiting room, it costs me $257 in overhead. So when a woman comes in and asks me if I mole is cancerous and I look at it and say no and send her on her way, I charge her for it.”
Ahhhh. I see now. Relief. He didn’t care what I said. I thought to myself.
I was a part of his own personal survey project of testing-the-naive-little-pre-doctor-on-her-lack-of-jadedness-and-isn’t-she-so-cute-with-her-ignorance.
I called him on it. I told him that the mole scenario was a different story than the situation he gave me. If the woman made an appointment to see if her mole was harmful, she was paying for a professional opinion, even if it just meant she was getting peace of mind. In that case, yes, I would charge her. I also stuck to my guns and said that in the first situation he gave me, where I was literally unable to do anything for a patient, I do not see it as correct to charge her if I just send her home.
OU has a partial blind interview. Halfway through, after they “get to know you” (in fifteen minutes), you step out and they look at your numbers- MCAT and GPA.
I stepped out and my medical student tour guide talked to me about how it was going, assured me that I had a right to be here and to be proud of my grades and MCAT- after all, I was here. She said that they have already determined my grades to be good enough to go here, that they just want to hear my side. With a little bit of comfort, I went back in.
MCAT first. Plastic surgeon said, “If you had taken your MCAT again do you think you could have done better?” “Yes.”
“It says Physics is your lowest subscore and you also have a poorer grade in physics on your transcript.”
“Yeah, Physics is definitely not my strong suit. But, I did improve my Physics subscore and brought up my physics grade by a letter grade in between physics 1 and physics 2. I just had to buckle down and learn how to study.”
“You won’t be able to go into orthopedics or plastic surgery without an understanding of physics. Those specialties require an understanding of structures and straight lines and connections.”
Me, not too heartbroken or swayed by one man’s opinion of the medical importance of physics, “Ok, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Med student pipes up. “Do you feel like you did your best?”
“Um, that’s difficult question. At the time I felt like I was giving it my all. Looking back though, I can always see ways in which I could have done things differently to improve.”
Plastic surgeon “Your GPA is a little low, would you be worried coming in to OU that you would fall behind?”
“Not at all. My ‘low’ GPA is due to a couple of classes that are required for medical school to show you can do the work. If you look at the semester where I took 4 biologically relevant LAB science classes all at once and got straight A’s, you will see that Anatomy, M&C, Physiology, Genetics, etc do not deter me. PILE THEM ON, I LOVE THOSE COURSES.
Yes, I said “pile them on”. And my biggest fans smiled. Plastic surgeon did not. Plastic surgeon thinks Physics is of paramount importance because he got an A in it in 1842 when he took it and there was only one chapter.
Other questions:
What has been your most meaningful volunteer experience and why?
In your shadowing, have you ever seen a patient that stuck with you emotionally, why?
Where else did you apply?
After my interview, we had lunch and did the rest of the touring/rotations. They had baked cod, salad, and mashed sweet potatoes, which I though was weird. All I ate were rolls and cookies.
I was emotionally drained by the end of the day. And starving. I felt proud that I had answered the “grades” questions with conviction and told plastic surgeon off, sort of.
But, I didn’t like that I had a naysayer. Nobody likes a naysayer. I didn’t like the huge impersonal environment, where I would get lost. I was upset. At the time I was still on the wait list at OSU and so much was unknown. I was afraid that if I didn’t get in to OSU and did get into OU (unlikely) that I would have to go to OU and wouldn’t like it.
Thankfully, it all worked out in the end, as it always does.