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Sep 17, 2002
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We've all seen the question that asks you to give an example of a challenge you have dealt with in the past, and how it has prepared you to meet challenges in the future...

The thing is, I want to discuss the hard times I went through when my father was battling cancer, and that the experience was so devastating that I questioned my conviction and preparedness for medicine. Does anybody think that revealing this fact could be detrimental to my application? And has anybody else gone through a similar situation? How have you dealt with it and how has it prepared you for future challenges?


Monkey Wrench
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Jun 9, 2002
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No, I really don't think it will hurt you. If you came out on the other side of it a stronger person, than it would be a good thing to discuss. Just make sure it doesn't sound like you're playing the sympathy card.

I'm a cancer survivor myself, and mentioned it briefly in my personal statement and a couple of secondary essays. It was a big challange and a major motivation for me, so I have no trouble discussing it. However, I do try to keep any discussions from sounding like I'm looking for pity/sympathy. It's a fine line.


Ceder Dog's Daddy
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Sep 23, 2002
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I don't think this will hurt you. I had a similar situation with my 94 year old grandpa. He was diagnosed with colon cancer (and eventual died) but the hospitalization really set him in a tail spin because he was also early Alzheimers but very high functioning ( lived alone with a lot of help of course). When he was out of his routine surroundings this caused rapid deterioration in his mental status and he ended up very violent. We had him at home but it was very hard. I openly discussed this in my personal statement and interview and I think it actually helped because they knew that I was well aware of what taking care of a sick person means and I realize what it's like when it's your family member. I was accepted at my first choice school.


Gargamel always had a thing for blondes.
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15+ Year Member
Jun 6, 2001
  1. Attending Physician
I wrote about my father's death in my personal statement. Often on secondaries and interviews I referred to it. I had one interviewer tell me that my situation was fairly unique; few applicants had experienced the death of a close family member (and rarely at an old enough age to remember). He seemed to be impressed by it. I think it helped in admissions because 1. it was a major event in my life, and to not discuss it would be wrong on many levels--it changes who you are as a person and your perspective, and 2. med schools like "life experience" and unique applicants. It's a rather unfortunate "uniqueness", but one very relevant to being a physician.

Bottom line is, if you want to write about it, do it! It won't imply weakness or negative qualities...it'll demonstrate strength and perspective. Obviously, only write what you are willing to talk about...if something is particularly painful, don't write about it unless you can handle discussing it during the stress of an interview.

Hope this helps!
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