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Crohns and Medical School Admissions

ewelling

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I am applying to medical school in June and am starting to write my personal statement. I have finally gone into remission after a year of struggling to find a diagnosis and dealing with my Crohns. Although I always wanted to go to medical school, this experience over the past year really inspired me to finally do it. I would love to speak to my journey with Crohns in my personal statement but am not sure if its too risky. Does anyone have any positive or negative experience with speaking to a chronic illness in their admissions essay?
 

Erakis

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I have had UC for ten years, and am finishing up treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the near future. I talked about it in PS and during interviews. It is all about how you tell the story and about how it will make you a better doctor. Make sure you show how you have overcome and that it will not be a limitation during medical training and avoid going on rants about "bad doctors".
 

JoshuaGuit

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Fellow Crohnie checking in as well! I think you'll find that a lot of people do go into medicine because of a past history with illness that inspire them to want to help people as they were when they were sick.

Personally I have been healthy since my surgery so I was not afraid to mention the disease. If you are still having flareups I would honestly put off medical school until you can get it under control... As someone who had constant flareups for 7 years through school, I can vouch that unfortunately it does limit your ability to do top notch work/studying. If you are only having occasional problems due to adjusting, I would try to emphasize what you've learned from having Crohn's and downplay any flareups you may have had recently/not mention them.
 
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BlackNOrange

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I have UC and wrote about it in my personal statement. It even landed me in the hospital while I was studying for the MCAT, so I talked about being a patient and how that guided my path toward medicine. I had a great talk with one of my interviewers about it!
 

ewelling

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That's great news! I have my Crohns well under control, my symptoms were more systemic than "flare-ups". I am not really worried about flare ups during school. I just would like to relate my story to why I want to be a doctor, but at the same time I don't want to risk it looking like a weakness. Thanks so much for all your comments and suggestions!
 

MusicJunkie

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Crohnie here too! Been diagnosed for 10 years. Wrote about it in my personal statement, some of my secondaries, etc.

It's a HUGE part of the reason I was drawn to medicine. I am completely honored and humbled to say that I received 10 interview invites.

If it's a huge part of your story, then I say write about it. But keep it positive. Focus on how it got you where you are today and what you learned. I also don't think the majority of your personal essay should be based on your Crohn's history. I think I mentioned it as what got me initally interested and moved on. Focus on what you've done since then and how you've fostered that interest in medicine and why you feel like medicine is the right choice for you.

Good luck!
 
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DrChels

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I would love to speak to my journey with Crohns in my personal statement but am not sure if its too risky. Does anyone have any positive or negative experience with speaking to a chronic illness in their admissions essay?

Eek, I'm kind of in the same boat. I don't have Crohns, but I was diagnosed with a temporal lobe tumor after I started having partial seizures about 2 years back. Then I had a horrible car accident last year when my medication failed, and had to take a hardship withdrawal for the semester. REEEEALLY would love to be able to explain little gap on my transcript, but i'm afraid i'll be thought of as a horrible candidate for a future doctor. I'm applying this summer as well and I'm still undecided on what I should do. :confused:
 

ace425x

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I know this is a little off topic, but I remember when I took microbial physiology that we discussed a research paper in which a group of (I think French?) researchers essentially cured Crohns disease in several patients by using high dose antibiotics to wipe out their intestinal flora, and then transplanted fecal transplants from healthy family members to establish a different intestinal flora. Interestingly enough, after multiple treatments, this seemed to cure all signs of Crohns disease that the patients were suffering from. I'll see if I can find the research paper and post it on here if anyone is interested.
 

Geebeejay

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I know this is a little off topic, but I remember when I took microbial physiology that we discussed a research paper in which a group of (I think French?) researchers essentially cured Crohns disease in several patients by using high dose antibiotics to wipe out their intestinal flora, and then transplanted fecal transplants from healthy family members to establish a different intestinal flora. Interestingly enough, after multiple treatments, this seemed to cure all signs of Crohns disease that the patients were suffering from. I'll see if I can find the research paper and post it on here if anyone is interested.

Fecal transplants? Sounds gross! :) Pretty cool stuff though.

You should be fine mentioning crohns, just don't mention anything about the disease limiting you in any way. Sounds like a good PS in the making :)
 

TangoDown

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I'm curious; how many of you guys are Jewish? I hear Crohns is quite common with Ashkenazi Jews when compared to other sects of the population. For the record, I'm Jewish (though I don't have UC or Crohns, thank the spaghetti monster in the sky), and know a few people with Crohns, including an ex. Maybe it's more common with eastern Europeans and those of eastern European descent, as a whole...dunno.
 

MusicJunkie

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I'm curious; how many of you guys are Jewish? I hear Crohns is quite common with Ashkenazi Jews when compared to other sects of the population. For the record, I'm Jewish (though I don't have UC or Crohns, thank the spaghetti monster in the sky), and know a few people with Crohns, including an ex. Maybe it's more common with eastern Europeans and those of eastern European descent, as a whole...dunno.

I'm African American.
 
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JoshuaGuit

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I'm curious; how many of you guys are Jewish? I hear Crohns is quite common with Ashkenazi Jews when compared to other sects of the population. For the record, I'm Jewish (though I don't have UC or Crohns, thank the spaghetti monster in the sky), and know a few people with Crohns, including an ex. Maybe it's more common with eastern Europeans and those of eastern European descent, as a whole...dunno.

Also Jewish
 

Erakis

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There is also a prevalence up north. My family is originally from Minnesota and I have several family members with UC. I think Canada has a fairly high number of cases. I read one theory (all these theories are suspect in one way or another) that northerners spend less time in the dirt as kids and don't have a strong probiotic load.
 

NickNaylor

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There is also a prevalence up north. My family is originally from Minnesota and I have several family members with UC. I think Canada has a fairly high number of cases. I read one theory (all these theories are suspect in one way or another) that northerners spend less time in the dirt as kids and don't have a strong probiotic load.

I don't think this is too far out. One of the leading theories describing the development of Crohn's/UC is that the sterility of our food supply has deranged the body's normal response to immunogenic stuff (eg, bacteria) so that the body's response is disproportionate when those antigens are finally encountered. Definitely fits with the epidemiology of the diseases and the theory that they are immune-mediated but not autoimmune.

(sent from my phone)
 

OwlPower22

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I don't think this is too far out. One of the leading theories describing the development of Crohn's/UC is that the sterility of our food supply has deranged the body's normal response to immunogenic stuff (eg, bacteria) so that the body's response is disproportionate when those antigens are finally encountered. Definitely fits with the epidemiology of the diseases and the theory that they are immune-mediated but not autoimmune.

(sent from my phone)

Interesting theory, but I think the American diet exacerbates Crohn's, with the high intake of corn and processed foods. Japan has one of the lowest Crohn's/UC rates in the world, possibly because of their low consumption of meat and dairy. My boss's patients are put on a no-corn, no-processed foods diet with nutraceuticals and regular exercise and they get well fairly quickly.
 

NickNaylor

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Interesting theory, but I think the American diet exacerbates Crohn's, with the high intake of corn and processed foods. Japan has one of the lowest Crohn's/UC rates in the world, possibly because of their low consumption of meat and dairy. Mt boss's patients are put on a no-corn, no-processed foods diet with nutraceuticals and they get well fairly quickly.

Our two explanations aren't exclusive; in fact they fit each other pretty well. Foods become hypersterile exactly because they are processed.
 

Maxine450

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Canadian-American here, not Jewish, but you're correct. In CA we have a Crohns camp and I'd say 70% are Jewish. Anyways, I don't believe that it's caused by diet. I never ate processed foods as a child and I got the disease. For me, it was triggered after a family member death. Diet can alleviate symptoms though. I tend to avoid oily, greasy food.
 

MusicJunkie

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Canadian-American here, not Jewish, but you're correct. In CA we have a Crohns camp and I'd say 70% are Jewish. Anyways, I don't believe that it's caused by diet. I never ate processed foods as a child and I got the disease. For me, it was triggered after a family member death. Diet can alleviate symptoms though. I tend to avoid oily, greasy food.

I think you might be an exception, not the rule. Diet has been implicated in numerous studies when it comes to Crohn's. Although you may not have ate processed foods, you may have family members who had Crohn's and it might be a genetics issue. Stress, while a trigger, is not believed to be a cause of the disease.

I agree with the importance of diet/nutrition in Crohn's patients. "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet" has been a wonderful beacon of success for many patients suffering from Crohn's, UC, and other digestive disorders. It stipulates that there is an imbalance of good/bad intestinal flora, and to reestablish balance, one must starve out the bad bacteria by only eating simple carbohydrates (which are better digested).

I also find NickNaylor's comments on the sterility of food intriguing. This is something I have not yet heard about.
 

ewelling

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I believe mine was genetic since some relatives have IBS, but who knows. i was a vegetarian fir a long time so I thought my fibrous diet was what was making my stomach hurt all the time. Most of my initial symptoms for a year were systemic (chronic uveitis, abscesses, fistulas etc.) I've lost a lot of my vision because they didn't catch it earlier (basically they didn't look at my chart very thoroughly and overlooked the obvious). I hope if I get into med school I can help diagnosis diseases like this before there are irreversible complications :) !!
 
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Bangersandmash

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I come from a Jewish family. One of my uncle's has UC, one has been tested for Crohn's (negative, but still has stomach problems) and my dad has had to change his diet dramatically to fix his bathroom issues (he went 5+ times a day).

Can't wait to find out I have an issue too!
 

MusicJunkie

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it is thought that Alfred the Great of England had Crohn's. he united the kingdoms in the 9th century and defeated the invading Danish Vikings. If he and nfl players can do it, you can too! good luck op!

It's funny - all of the Crohn's patients I have met have been quite extraordinary. Definitely a lot of resilience among our bunch. :p
 

MusicJunkie

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I think to a degree that you are essentially forced to take on that attitude. If not, your only option is to stay in bed for the rest of your life.

I agree that you either "get with it or get left behind," but you still have to choose your perspective either way. I think it's phenomenal that so many of the patients I know have chosen to be so positive and proactive, especially when times can get pretty tough.
 

Bangersandmash

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It's funny - all of the Crohn's patients I have met have been quite extraordinary. Definitely a lot of resilience among our bunch. :p

Let's be honest, the condition begs to be treated with a ton of jokes and humorous stories. The best times I've had with my dad's side of the family usually involve sharing bathroom stories, no matter where we are and what we are doing.
 

MusicJunkie

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Let's be honest, the condition begs to be treated with a ton of jokes and humorous stories. The best times I've had with my dad's side of the family usually involve sharing bathroom stories, no matter where we are and what we are doing.

I'm not really sure how this relates to my post. I'm sticking with my statement: the Crohn's patients I've met have been pretty resilient. I do agree that some of the symptoms can be embarrassing and funny - and I definitely have done my share of toilet humor jokes with my fellow Crohnies and such. I'm one of the happiest and good-natured IBD patients out there (I come from a family of optimists and comedians :p). But there is also the fact that many Crohn's patient suffer from pain, joint issues, fatigue, undergo multiple surgeries, experience flare ups frequently, etc. It's a funny condition because of some of the symptoms, but at the same time, it can be extremely hard to deal with on a day-to-day basis. That's just the reality, unfortunately.
 
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Jas1360

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I think you might be an exception, not the rule. Diet has been implicated in numerous studies when it comes to Crohn's. Although you may not have ate processed foods, you may have family members who had Crohn's and it might be a genetics issue. Stress, while a trigger, is not believed to be a cause of the disease.

I agree with the importance of diet/nutrition in Crohn's patients. "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet" has been a wonderful beacon of success for many patients suffering from Crohn's, UC, and other digestive disorders. It stipulates that there is an imbalance of good/bad intestinal flora, and to reestablish balance, one must starve out the bad bacteria by only eating simple carbohydrates (which are better digested).

I also find NickNaylor's comments on the sterility of food intriguing. This is something I have not yet heard about.

I need to read more about this simple carbohydrate diet.

I am not officially diagnosed. I was diagnosed when I was undergoing a colonoscopy, put on medication, and then two weeks later when the biopsy results came back, he said the results showed a resolving infection. But I am under 30 and have already had two colonoscopies for these recurring problems, so...I would not be surprised if I continue to have problems.

It's very surprising the number of those on here with UC and Chron's. There are enough people on here to start a support group, :)
 
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MusicJunkie

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I need to read more about this simple carbohydrate diet.

I am not officially diagnosed. I was diagnosed when I was undergoing a colonoscopy, put on medication, and then two weeks later when the biopsy results came back, he said the results showed a resolving infection. But I am under 30 and have already had two colonoscopies for these recurring problems, so...I would not be surprised if I continue to have problems.

It's very surprising the number of those on here with UC and Chron's. There are enough people on here to start a support group, :)

There are definitely enough people here to start a support group!

I hope you start to feel better soon Jas! :)


Also, shout out to all you other Crohnies here. Didn't realize there were so many of you. Patients like you are the ones who inspired me to go into this field. :thumbup:

:)

Nice to meet another Crohnie!
 

Jas1360

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There are definitely enough people here to start a support group!

I hope you start to feel better soon Jas! :)

On a side note, my last flare up got me sent to the hospital and ended with the aforementioned colonoscopy. It happened one week before my first med school interview. I am kinda glad I didn't mention the recent diagnosis. It would have sucked to call the school back and say, oh actually I might not have Crohns. :)
 

MusicJunkie

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On a side note, my last flare up got me sent to the hospital and ended with the aforementioned colonoscopy. It happened one week before my first med school interview. I am kinda glad I didn't mention the recent diagnosis. It would have sucked to call the school back and say, oh actually I might not have Crohns. :)

Haha, I understand completely!

I was flying all over the country for med school interviews, working part-time, in school full-time, and volunteering in my free time. And I remember getting a stomach ache on a plane to one of my interviews and thinking, "Please, please, PLEASE do not let this be a flare up!" But I just ate to fast. :laugh:
 

Jas1360

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Haha, I understand completely!

I was flying all over the country for med school interviews, working part-time, in school full-time, and volunteering in my free time. And I remember getting a stomach ache on a plane to one of my interviews and thinking, "Please, please, PLEASE do not let this be a flare up!" But I just ate to fast. :laugh:

Good thing it was just your over zealous appetite. :)
 

Maxine450

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I think you might be an exception, not the rule. Diet has been implicated in numerous studies when it comes to Crohn's. Although you may not have ate processed foods, you may have family members who had Crohn's and it might be a genetics issue. Stress, while a trigger, is not believed to be a cause of the disease.

I agree with the importance of diet/nutrition in Crohn's patients. "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet" has been a wonderful beacon of success for many patients suffering from Crohn's, UC, and other digestive disorders. It stipulates that there is an imbalance of good/bad intestinal flora, and to reestablish balance, one must starve out the bad bacteria by only eating simple carbohydrates (which are better digested).

I also find NickNaylor's comments on the sterility of food intriguing. This is something I have not yet heard about.

Every single GI I've talked to dismisses the role of diet in Crohn's. For the record, I do think that it can alleviate symptoms but it's not the cause. I've tried the SCD for a few days and it does work, but you also feel starved the entire time. After two days of only eating yogurt, nuts, meat, vegetables, and no sugar except honey I was dying of hunger. You can only eat so many fruits before you get sick of them. Gotta have my bread and pasta.
 

MusicJunkie

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Every single GI I've talked to dismisses the role of diet in Crohn's. For the record, I do think that it can alleviate symptoms but it's not the cause. I've tried the SCD for a few days and it does work, but you also feel starved the entire time. After two days of only eating yogurt, nuts, meat, vegetables, and no sugar except honey I was dying of hunger. You can only eat so many fruits before you get sick of them. Gotta have my bread and pasta.

I never stated one's diet was a cause for Crohn's. When I say that diet has been implicated, I mean that what you eat CAN affect symptoms and disease progression. I, like you, believe that a good diet can help alleviate symptoms that plague, and can be debilitating, to some Crohn's patients. In truth, I believe that our diet actually plays a greater role in Crohn's disease than we realize at this point in time. But that's a personal opinion.

I have been on the SCD as well and it is a rigorous diet that requires "fanatical adherence." You do feel starved at times, but Ms. Gotschall says on her website (in the Q&A) that you must up your portions as well. Even though it is difficult to follow, even you yourself say that you experienced an alleviation of symptoms. That is my exact point.
 

ewelling

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That would be so great to start a crohnie med school support group! If I get into med school, I know my biggest concern will be the fatigue and strict diet, I guess I'll have to pack my lunch everyday.

Anyone else here on Humira? I've been on it for about 8 months. I'm in remission and its great, except it makes me very tired and hard to focus, I tend to feel "loopy" a lot. I had chronic bilateral anterior uveitis with the crohns and lost a lot of my vision, they were nervous I could lose my vision permanently, but it hasn't come back once while on the Humira! I hope to be off of all meds before possibly going to med school, but idk what the doc will think about that :/. Hope a lot of you guys are in or are almost in remission!!

My GI who I shadow actually encouraged me to mention my crohns in my PS and said the admissions committee should not see it as a weakness, as he used to sit on the board at any ivy league medschool, and he is confident that my crohns will not inhibit my ability to be a physician. That's encouraging!
 

Erakis

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Let's be honest, the condition begs to be treated with a ton of jokes and humorous stories. The best times I've had with my dad's side of the family usually involve sharing bathroom stories, no matter where we are and what we are doing.

I have UC, and deployed to Iraq three times with it. I was in a horrible flare up when we got into a firefight one night on a raid in 2005:

Me, while laying down fire from behind the Humvee engine: "I just **** my pants."

The gunner of the truck: "Too bad bro, that's gonna itch when it dries!"

Six hours later we made it back to our little compound and I rushed into the shower.
 

JoshuaGuit

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That would be so great to start a crohnie med school support group! If I get into med school, I know my biggest concern will be the fatigue and strict diet, I guess I'll have to pack my lunch everyday.

Anyone else here on Humira? I've been on it for about 8 months. I'm in remission and its great, except it makes me very tired and hard to focus, I tend to feel "loopy" a lot. I had chronic bilateral anterior uveitis with the crohns and lost a lot of my vision, they were nervous I could lose my vision permanently, but it hasn't come back once while on the Humira! I hope to be off of all meds before possibly going to med school, but idk what the doc will think about that :/. Hope a lot of you guys are in or are almost in remission!!

My GI who I shadow actually encouraged me to mention my crohns in my PS and said the admissions committee should not see it as a weakness, as he used to sit on the board at any ivy league medschool, and he is confident that my crohns will not inhibit my ability to be a physician. That's encouraging!

I went for remicade infusions from when I was 11 to when I was 16. When it stopped being effective, I tried Humira for a month and it didn't work. I didn't get any specific negatives from it, it just didn't make me healthy. It's different for everyone though, hope your symptoms from it go away soon :(.

If it's any kind of success story to you, I've had an ileostomy for almost four years now I think and I am completely healthy. Feel free to ask any questions either in this thread or pm me if you aren't comfortable asking in public.


side note: At one interview I was talking about how I love to do charity walks to raise awareness for IBD. The physician interviewing me asked why I felt the public had a need to know about it. Kind of a weird/awkward question to ask.
 

Procyon

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I have UC, and deployed to Iraq three times with it. I was in a horrible flare up when we got into a firefight one night on a raid in 2005:

Me, while laying down fire from behind the Humvee engine: "I just **** my pants."

The gunner of the truck: "Too bad bro, that's gonna itch when it dries!"

Six hours later we made it back to our little compound and I rushed into the shower.

I'm surprised you made it into the military. I was thinking of joining the army at one point, but a recruiter told me that Crohn's was a disqualifying condition. :confused:
 

Erakis

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I was already in when I was diagnosed. I downplayed the symptoms to stay in, but you cannot join if you have it. It did make me ineligible for HPSP when I got accepted to school.
 
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