Complete Mentioning my double mastectomy in my ERAS personal statement?


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Oct 14, 2011
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When I mentioned bringing up my story to my advisor recently she told me in no uncertain terms that she didn't recommend it, and while I respect and value her advice, I am interested in getting some additional thoughts on the matter.

I am BRCA1+ and I had a prophylactic mastectomy the summer between M1 and M2. My reconstruction process continued through my M2 year (I didn't take any time off, so my final surgery happened over winter break). This has been the most challenging thing I have ever done - bar none. I think the fact that I have been scoring around the 75th percentile of my class this year while I've been going through all this is straight-up impressive and I think it speaks to something larger about my resilience, persistence and dedication. I want to go into surgery, and having these huge surgeries myself has completely changed how I view the relationship between surgeons and patients and really shaped in my mind the kind of surgeon that I want to be. I could go on and on, but the summary is that I feel that my experience with these surgeries is worth mentioning both because it demonstrates qualities that can't be shown elsewhere in the application, and also because it has played a big role in my wanting to pursue surgery as a specialty.

I am also quite insecure about the fact that I didn't do any research between my M1 and M2 years - I like to joke that I was getting first-hand experience (raise your hand if you've gotten to pull out your own JP drains!), but in all seriousness I absolutely would have been doing research if I hadn't had this surgery. A small part of me wants to be able to explain that my summer "off" was definitely not just me doing nothing.

My advisor's concern is that I am BRCA1+ and disclosing that in my application (because that is why I had surgery) would leave me open to possibly some discrimination. "What if she's sick" "what if she needs another surgery" etc.... I would hope that the doctors reading this would know enough to realize that this is not a condition that would ever impact my ability to practice surgery or be a good resident.

I want to know if it would be inappropriate/too much of a risk to mention this experience on my ERAS personal statement.

[As a disclaimer, I am not interested in any feedback or advice on my medical choices, just on mentioning those choices in my application.]

Thank you in advance for any advice you have for me!
I'll agree with your advisor. I don't think you need to go into any detail about your illness. What value does this information add to questions about your preparation for residency?

You really need to work with your advisor closely, especially if the advisor will contribute to your dean's letter which will be read by residency directors.
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