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How honest is too honest for a personal statement?

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deleted1034179

The honest answer to "why medicine?" for me is based around my opioid addiction. It was really rough for a while in high school and early college (I broke my leg and got perscribed some really ludicrously powerful stuff). I've been sober for years now, and have never really felt the need to hide this part of my past. But those of my mentors who know about it have pretty much unanimously told me to never breathe a word of it to any admissions committee for the rest of my life.

Problem is, I have no idea how I'm supposed to write my personal statement without including the main experiences that made me want to pursue medicine.

Do I include it or leave it out?
 
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M&L

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I am just a medical student, so @Goro has more insight from perspective of faculty. But as someone who worked in the field of addiction for years, and have seen a lot of clients experiencing bias because of things like this - i would NOT disclose it. Unfortunately a lot of people are very uncomfortable with this. I wouldnt risk it. Leave it out.
 
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I usually have a simple test for stuff like this:

- Stuff that requires nuance should be kept off personal statements. Personal triumphs may (key word) be perfectly suited for interviews where you can be intimate and vulnerable in a 1 on 1 setting. That being said, if this is going to be the year of virtual interviews, I might shelve this story entirely.

- Stuff which requires little nuance belongs all over personal statements. A veteran writing about the call to service, for example, is almost universally understood.

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Supahchungus

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Just one example of why you should not ever disclose this to med schools, residency directors, future employers, etc:


I’m very proud of you and congrats on your sobriety! While I think going through that will make you an amazing empathetic doctor, do not disclose this.
 
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valkirieas

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I think this is one of those stories u can at least try to spin as "someone close to me experienced this and it influenced me in these ways" - someone correct me if that's not the case.
 
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M&L

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you know, consider doing the following. Just turn on a recorder, set the timer on 2 minutes, and just talk for two minutes freely about why you want to be a doctor. Then listen to it. Next day, do it again, but this time talk about a different reason. The reason i suggest it, is because sometimes it is easier to talk about something vs writing about it, - it is more casual and natural, and it can really get you going. Try it. It worked for me.
 
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OfMiceAndWomen

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The honest answer to "why medicine?" for me is based around my opioid addiction. It was really rough for a while in high school and early college (I broke my leg and got perscribed some really ludicrously powerful stuff). I've been sober for years now, and have never really felt the need to hide this part of my past. But those of my mentors who know about it have pretty much unanimously told me to never breathe a word of it to any admissions committee for the rest of my life.

Problem is, I have no idea how I'm supposed to write my personal statement without including the main experiences that made me want to pursue medicine.

Do I include it or leave it out?

Why/how did this experience make you want to pursue medicine? Not at all trying to accuse you of anything, but just trying to help you brainstorm how you can write a good narrative that is genuine and compelling without throwing yourself under the bus.

What aspects of this experience are important to your motivation in becoming a doctor? Was it because of what you learned as a recovering patient if you sought medical attention?

You could possibly say that you had a chronic medical condition that you have since overcome (and shown that it hasn't impacted your recent academic record or interpersonal experiences), but focus much more on the impact of the condition and what you did to improve, rather than the condition itself. I think this is still somewhat risky, and you have to make sure that the rest of your application back up the fact that you have improved and are ready to become a physician.
 
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Sky138

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I think you could write it, hell I know someone who did and he had what most would consider a very successful cycle. That being said, if you choose to write about it you’re toeing a very very fine line. Do you have any evidence of this being meaningful? Perhaps volunteering at an addiction clinic or something of the like? If not, writing about it will be all risk and no reward
 
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LizzyM

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Use the broken leg.... your recovery was a challenge with numerous setbacks to be overcome. It required an effort you didn't know you had in you and the kindness and expertise of committed health professionals who understood what you were going through and gave you the power to work toward your full recovery. Some people may say, "Jeez, it was only a broken leg", but it will give you a cover for your journey without mentioning opiod or addiction. Remember, it is not about your recovery... it is about wanting to help strangers who are sick or injured and those who want to maintain their health.
 
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elevatormusic

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I think you could write it, hell I know someone who did and he had what most would consider a very successful cycle. That being said, if you choose to write about it you’re toeing a very very fine line. Do you have any evidence of this being meaningful? Perhaps volunteering at an addiction clinic or something of the like? If not, writing about it will be all risk and no reward

Hi everyone, totally digging this up from the graveyard, but I'd love to hear your input on this little side note!

I absolutely see where everyone's coming from, but as someone with a similar experience (different, less stigmatized drug), I'm curious about the merit of the bolded statement above.

I've been clean I shorter period of time than OP, but throughout the past 3 years I've engaged in thorough tobacco cessation research, as well as current investigations into non-invasive treatments for opioid misuse, and marijuana/tobacco co-use; 1 presentation so far, and probably a third author publication in the next 2 years. This fall, I also plan on volunteering at a community-run needle exchange, and helping out with data management at an addiction clinic.

Addiction medicine is something I'm very much interested in long-term, and like OP, see it as pretty integral to my story. Would such experiences outweigh the risks of disclosure?

Thanks! :clap:

@LizzyM @Goro @Med Ed @M&L @OrthoTraumaMD @ofmiceandwomen
 

LunaOri

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you know, consider doing the following. Just turn on a recorder, set the timer on 2 minutes, and just talk for two minutes freely about why you want to be a doctor. Then listen to it. Next day, do it again, but this time talk about a different reason. The reason i suggest it, is because sometimes it is easier to talk about something vs writing about it, - it is more casual and natural, and it can really get you going. Try it. It worked for me.
This is what I recommend to all the students who ask me to read their personal statements! First, listen to yourself. Then, write your PS. Third, read it to a friend or colleague for feedback.
 
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LizzyM

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Hi everyone, totally digging this up from the graveyard, but I'd love to hear your input on this little side note!

I absolutely see where everyone's coming from, but as someone with a similar experience (different, less stigmatized drug), I'm curious about the merit of the bolded statement above.

I've been clean I shorter period of time than OP, but throughout the past 3 years I've engaged in thorough tobacco cessation research, as well as current investigations into non-invasive treatments for opioid misuse, and marijuana/tobacco co-use; 1 presentation so far, and probably a third author publication in the next 2 years. This fall, I also plan on volunteering at a community-run needle exchange, and helping out with data management at an addiction clinic.

Addiction medicine is something I'm very much interested in long-term, and like OP, see it as pretty integral to my story. Would such experiences outweigh the risks of disclosure?

Thanks! :clap:

@LizzyM @Goro @Med Ed @M&L @OrthoTraumaMD @ofmiceandwomen


Here's the conversation in the committee meeting:
Committee Chair: This next one is "elevatormusic". Good metrics, interviewers like 'em.
Member #1: Isn't that the recovering addict?
Member #2: I remember reading that application. Very interested in addiction medicine.
Member #3: Lord knows we need more people in that field. Particularly the way things are going these days.
Member #1: I worry about recidivism. Remember the guy who got all through, went back to visit old friends and died of an overdose.
Member #3: I do remember that. Wasn't it like, 20 years ago?
Member #1: Maybe so but I still worry about it.
Member #2: The personal statement was very touching. Really focused on helping others.
Member #1: but only in recovery for the past three or four years... is that long enough? And med school is so stressful.
Member #4: and drugs are so easy to get hold of during clinical rotations. Particularly in anesthesiology.
Member #5: And what about licensure... what's the State Board doing these days about history of addiction?
Member #3: the interviewers were very impressed, "well spoken, sparkled with curiosity, has a realistic view of medicine as a career"
Member #1: High risk
Member #3: High reward... we need people like this.
Committee Chair: Let's waitlist. Given the temperature of the room, this is not an applicant we can all support but the candidate is acceptable if there was no one else to fill the spot. All in favor....


Now, if you don't disclose, the conversation may only include what you see in bold. In that case, what do you think the motion on the table will be?
 
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DoctorWhere

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Here's the conversation in the committee meeting:
Committee Chair: This next one is "elevatormusic". Good metrics, interviewers like 'em.
Member #1: Isn't that the recovering addict?
Member #2: I remember reading that application. Very interested in addiction medicine.
Member #3: Lord knows we need more people in that field. Particularly the way things are going these days.
Member #1: I worry about recidivism. Remember the guy who got all through, went back to visit old friends and died of an overdose.
Member #3: I do remember that. Wasn't it like, 20 years ago?
Member #1: Maybe so but I still worry about it.
Member #2: The personal statement was very touching. Really focused on helping others.
Member #1: but only in recovery for the past three or four years... is that long enough? And med school is so stressful.
Member #4: and drugs are so easy to get hold of during clinical rotations. Particularly in anesthesiology.
Member #5: And what about licensure... what's the State Board doing these days about history of addiction?
Member #3: the interviewers were very impressed, "well spoken, sparkled with curiosity, has a realistic view of medicine as a career"
Member #1: High risk
Member #3: High reward... we need people like this.
Committee Chair: Let's waitlist. Given the temperature of the room, this is not an applicant we can all support but the candidate is acceptable if there was no one else to fill the spot. All in favor....


Now, if you don't disclose, the conversation may only include what you see in bold. In that case, what do you think the motion on the table will be?
I skipped out on all the names when reading through at first. Thought LizzyM was implying elevator music is playing in the scene... :D
 
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