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Medical Advice on a personal statement that addresses sexual violence

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Jun 11, 2010
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hi all, i'm looking for some unbiased feedback on my personal statement since I do talk about my own experience with sexual violence. the feedback i've gotten from my advisors has been nice, but i know i have close relationships with them and they inherently are biased to me telling my story. i really want to make sure i'm not coming across as a sob story, but instead demonstrating how this personal experience fueled my desire to explore multiple domains of health, showing me exactly how I want to practice medicine, and ultimately resulting in me changing my major and pursuing medicine. let me know if you'd be willing to help :)!
Right here, in your own words, and the strong bones of your essay:

demonstrating how this personal experience fueled my desire to explore multiple domains of health, showing me exactly how I want to practice medicine, and ultimately resulting in me changing my major and pursuing medicine.
 
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lord999

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I am a bit guarded on this as the way you go about this is extremely contextual, so, the advice I always give is that whatever you put on a personal statement, that becomes an open topic for an interview. Personal statements are not considered private and are read by the admissions staff and possibly your interviewers. If you do go this route, and I know of successful applicants that have shared traumatic experiences (whether it be abuse, violence, or other extremely negative life events), that is a consideration that you have to take on. Even if it is the true reason for your passion for medicine, it has to be something that you can feel comfortable talking about. If what you share is something that would trigger traumatic feelings or memories and shutting you down from communicating, I would actually recommend not talking about those areas in your personal statement.

I am not trying to contradict my colleagues, but I do want to raise awareness that by writing this down, you are sharing. Some experiences are very tough to share in a semi-public manner and putting yourself at risk for emotional jeopardy is not a desired outcome for anyone involved, we certainly do not want you to hurt yourself doing so.

The summary is that if you do want to share this, I would say to only share what you are comfortable with sharing, but with the expectation that questions may come, and even though most of us are respectful of boundaries, the questions themselves can be uncomfortable but you do have to accept that discomfort if you are going to use this as your topic.
 
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TheBoneDoctah

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I am a bit guarded on this as the way you go about this is extremely contextual, so, the advice I always give is that whatever you put on a personal statement, that becomes an open topic for an interview. Personal statements are not considered private and are read by the admissions staff and possibly your interviewers. If you do go this route, and I know of successful applicants that have shared traumatic experiences (whether it be abuse, violence, or other extremely negative life events), that is a consideration that you have to take on. Even if it is the true reason for your passion for medicine, it has to be something that you can feel comfortable talking about. If what you share is something that would trigger traumatic feelings or memories and shutting you down from communicating, I would actually recommend not talking about those areas in your personal statement.

I am not trying to contradict my colleagues, but I do want to raise awareness that by writing this down, you are sharing. Some experiences are very tough to share in a semi-public manner and putting yourself at risk for emotional jeopardy is not a desired outcome for anyone involved, we certainly do not want you to hurt yourself doing so.

The summary is that if you do want to share this, I would say to only share what you are comfortable with sharing, but with the expectation that questions may come, and even though most of us are respectful of boundaries, the questions themselves can be uncomfortable but you do have to accept that discomfort if you are going to use this as your topic.

Totally agree with this.

Only way I would use it if it was the absolute reason for why I want to be a doctor. For example, if my drive to be a physician was for reason A, yet I also had a traumatic experience that kinda, sorta strengthened it, I wouldn’t use it.


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Jun 11, 2010
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Somewhere west of St. Louis
  1. Non-Student
I am a bit guarded on this as the way you go about this is extremely contextual, so, the advice I always give is that whatever you put on a personal statement, that becomes an open topic for an interview. Personal statements are not considered private and are read by the admissions staff and possibly your interviewers. If you do go this route, and I know of successful applicants that have shared traumatic experiences (whether it be abuse, violence, or other extremely negative life events), that is a consideration that you have to take on. Even if it is the true reason for your passion for medicine, it has to be something that you can feel comfortable talking about. If what you share is something that would trigger traumatic feelings or memories and shutting you down from communicating, I would actually recommend not talking about those areas in your personal statement.

I am not trying to contradict my colleagues, but I do want to raise awareness that by writing this down, you are sharing. Some experiences are very tough to share in a semi-public manner and putting yourself at risk for emotional jeopardy is not a desired outcome for anyone involved, we certainly do not want you to hurt yourself doing so.

The summary is that if you do want to share this, I would say to only share what you are comfortable with sharing, but with the expectation that questions may come, and even though most of us are respectful of boundaries, the questions themselves can be uncomfortable but you do have to accept that discomfort if you are going to use this as your topic.
Very wise words. I have seen interviewees break down and start to cry even when the question was obliquely related tot he traumatic incident. While we feel 100% sympathetic, indeed, empathetic, in an interview, you have to be professional and maintain composure.
totally agree with this sentiment, I take great pride in my ability to talk about the experience as it has allowed me to serve in support groups and as an advocate for policy reform - I was definitely more scared of facing stigma, I know medicine is still kind of traditional and I didn't want to bring it up if I was going to be looked down on because sexual violence was "too controversial" or made me look "weak"
 
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Suggestions/exercise to add to discussion: focus on how you have helped others in your PS and how you channeled the wisdom of other providers (don't use my phrasing). Leave out any details of your own experience.

Yes! Definitely trying to go down this route, but have kind of been losing my "voice" in the process ... as of now I'm focused on building the narrative with only a sentence or two mentioning my personal experience, just to ground me, so I don't start sounding like I'm writing some grant proposal again
 
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