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Personal Statement to advisory committee: Need opinions

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Vanguard23, Apr 23, 2007.

  1. Vanguard23

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    This is about the 3rd revision. There is a limit on the word count and I've taken out a few words to make it less specific. This isn't to med schools, it's to an advisory committee that will write a letter of recommendation.
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    “We need to intubate him, STAT!” Exclaimed a nurse from across the room as she shuffled through the medication cart.
    “Has he received any Amidate?” Inquired the emergency physician.
    “Yes sir. One amp and we’re about to inject another amp of epi.” Responded another R.N. As respiratory therapists and nurses buzzed about the coding patient, I stood to the side, observing the situation.
    The doctor glanced up to read the vital signs on the EKG monitor, squinting through thick rimmed glasses. “Has the family been called?” He asked the same nurse who responded in the affirmative while on the phone with the attending physician. The physician reached into a supply cart and pulled out a laryngoscope. “Alright, I’m going to intubate him, but be ready to defibrillate in case his heart rate drops.” He declared before turning to me. “Thanks for getting that neo-drip up here fast. Do you have any versed?”.
    “Yes, doctor.” I acknowledged and pulled out a small vial of the injectable narcotic from my pocket while still panting from my third hospital-wide dash to the patient’s room. I handed it to a nurse that began mixing it into an IV piggyback.
    As the physician focused his concentration, he began placing the laryngoscope into the coding patient’s mouth. I observed the entire procedure with others in the room.
    This was a typical code of many I had taken part of while working midnights at a hospital as a pharmacy technician and they have provided me a very solid grasp of clinical care. It is my fascination with the medical field that has influenced me to volunteer for these procedures, but there are also other factors that are driving my desire to become a physician.
    So what is it that drives us? What is that force that pushes us to our goals? Are the forces constant or do they alter as time passes? For me, that initial push started with my father. No member of my family has every graduated from college and his support for me to pursue a medical career has been continuous since I was a child. But that propulsion, while ever present, is no longer the primary force pushing me to a medical career. That drive has amended itself over the years to something more personal. It has manifested itself in degrees of compassion, dedication to success, and a natural inclination to improve myself academically and personally.
    While the drive exists as a sublimating factor in my life, it was somewhat mysterious until I had experienced medicine and the care of patients, first hand. Shadowing physicians in a range of specialties enlightened me. I witnessed physicians intubate patients and run lines in them countless times at nearly all hours of the night. I had followed physicians in the neonatal specialty, observed a gastroenterologist remove polyps while performing colonoscopies, and occupational therapists interact with children with autism, muscular dystrophy and other neurological disabilities.
    While my academic and employment tenure has been difficult, the fall of 2005 and the subsequent academic year of 2006 were particularly arduous. Late 2005 saw the landfall of a hurricane to my region. Rather than evacuate north and still receive payment from my employer, I stayed at my hospital and helped to ensure that around a hundred patients still admitted were receiving medical treatment in spite of a skeleton crew in my department. The conditions gradually worsened as electrical power and water systems shut off and the first month of restoration to the region were burdensome.
    In the following academic year, I took a course load of fifteen hours, including Physics 2 and Organic Chemistry 2, while working full time midnights. Both required my absolute full dedication; much sleep deprivation and coffee consumption accompanied a tight schedule of school, work and research. A blight of recurring spells of dizziness and black-outs weighed on me enough to have an MRI performed. Thankfully nothing atypical presented itself as I was diagnosed with a sinus infection. It was difficult, but my hard work in 2006 paid off and I received an award for academic excellence.
    Regarding research, I became an assistant to a doctor, who is investigating clinically obtained statistical cases of cancer in this area. Under his direction, two other students and myself have analyzed breast cancer data in my region to find correlative relationships with various proliferative and benign forms of breast disease. It has also been a rewarding experience watching him prepare histological slides from biopsies as well as analyze similar slides with us under a light microscope.
    Part of my drive has always been my own improvement and how I can best apply this progress. To me, caring for others is merely an expression of this. For example, I have cared for my father, a heart patient, for three years. From Christmas 2003 when he nearly had a heart attack and August 2004 when his wife of four decades left him, I’ve cared for his physical and emotional well being, and continue to do so. Seeing him break physically, emotionally and almost neurologically in a simultaneous fashion pushed my stress levels to bounds I had never fathomed. However, caring for him has given me an emotional gratification that I hope to also receive throughout a medical career.
    In addition to two years of clinical experience, I have expanded my involvement in patient care. To do so I voluntarily went on codes at work. I have assisted in the emergency care of dozens and the deaths of many; sometimes with the presence of loved ones. Witnessing the relatives of patients have those closest to them flat line was heart wrenching, but I maintained my calm and performed my duties as expected. Rushing from one end of the hospital to the other and delivering vital medication was an experience that has revealed the level of dedication and care required in the medical field.
    Whether it is my own kin, a coding patient or a student I am mentoring, I have always responded with the utmost dedication and compassion. I do so because I think anything less precludes my own edification; it is simply in my nature to try harder or at least desire to perform better. For example, I have sought to reinforce the Spanish capabilities I obtained from four high school courses by pursuing a minor in the subject since I believe it will be a valuable asset in the culturally dynamic medical landscape of Texas. It is, again, part of the drive.
    The status of physician, one long heralded with prestige, is a goal I believe fulfills this drive. But that is only the start of my life’s journey. I have to prove to myself that I am worthy of that honorific. When I dedicate myself to school enough to make the grades and sufficiently to my work to make a difference to patients, I hope to have shown some worth. When I have demonstrated the compassion and care enough to a child with autism or muscular dystrophy or a coding patient, I hope to have shown some worth. And when I wake up every morning knowing the previous day had been spent improving the lives of my fellow humans, I hope to have proven myself of some worth.
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  3. Delicate Genius

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    I liked it, but it is very long (~7000 characters). I know you said this is not for med schools, but I still feel you could shorten it ~2000 characters. I think it is good enough for your med school ps, so why not edit it down now and kill two birds with one stone?

    my 2 cents.

    *note: I have no experience with writing or reading personal statements. Thus, I am in no position to say if it is "good" or "bad."
     
  4. Vanguard23

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    Thank you for that reply. There is a 1200 word maximum and I had wanted to put more in there, but it is just a little over that limit.
    I know my grammar and wording may not be the best, but I'm not an English major. I am however going to drop this by the English department for review beforehand.
     
  5. Instatewaiter

    Instatewaiter But... there's a troponin
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    At times it is very awkward. Your word choice in instances is poor and makes the whole piece flow poorly.

    Wow, 15 hours with 2 science courses... take that part out. Just say full course load.

    Everything I bolded needs to be changed because it is poorly worded, awkward or just plain corny.

    Overall I think it was a bit informal, self congratulatory and awkward.

    The last paragraph is bad. This is perhaps the worst part of the piece. It is way too self-congratulatory and works against the entire message of service that you are trying to express.
     
  6. eternalrage

    eternalrage Even Kal has bad days...
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    Can you give us the exact prompt?

    Your statement has some nice ideas, but I think there are problems in how you convey these ideas. Also, you might start to tighten up the statement - not necessarily shortening it, but taking out unnecessary clauses, phrases, changing words to make more efficient (often shortening is a result).

    If you are going to use an anecdote, it is best to use one where you are the main focus - here when I read this and visualize it, I see the doctor, the patients, the nurses, but you're sort of thrust into the background.

    If you have a code where you are a little more involved (I know, probably unlikely if you are just an undergrad volunteer), or a different medical experience that would be better. Also in this following part:

    Seems like this anecdote is stopped short, and it doesn't look like it serves much of a purpose except to provide an example of your volunteering. The advisory committee can somewhat visualize these things off your resume. Anecdotes are the best for showing qualities or realizations that you made in an active manner - using them to reinforce a concept that advisory committees are already aware of (simply, that you do volunteering) may be a waste of space.

    Rhetorical questions are often corny and very hard to pull off. I think you could do without these.

    I just wanted to point out that when you write your actual personal statement for medical schools, to not mention this push from your father. Generally speaking, the "my parents always wanted me to be a doctor" is regarded as a rote banality, and even mentioning it as a preface to how you evolved to want medicine yourself may elicit a scoff from the reader.

    That being said, I think instead of making the majority of this excerpt about what ISN'T your primary driving force, you should whittle it down to the ideas in that last sentence.

    This is all "telling." I actually don't visualize you doing these things yourself. Anecdote might be better off here, to emphasize how shadowing enlightened you and how the care of patients was important to your eventual drive. Those are things that advisory and admission committees will want to know about.

    This is completely random. While it does speak to your character, in doesn't flow well in your statement. It is an important excerpt, but has nothing to do with the paragraph before it or after, better to place it elsewhere. From here, this becomes common in your statement - you have no linking statements from paragraph to paragraph.

    Treat a statment like a roadmap - you are guiding the reader from point to point so that they can weave this big picture in their minds. If they have to stop and be like "where is this coming from", then that makes the formation of the big picture difficult.

    Additionally, the remainder of your statement reads like a resume. You write how you had your coursework. Then research. Then clinical experience. If the advisory committee wants to know what you have done, they will look at your resume. What you want to convey with your statement is usually answers to questions like "Why do I want to be a doctor" and "what skills and qualities do I possess to become a good doctor".

    You started off fine, getting into your drive to become a doctor - I was expecting to read about things you learned about yourself and medicine and how it fueled your desire to become a doctor. More importantly I wanted to SEE you learning these things, to visualize it, to be there with you, instead of having you tell me things. When you start listing things off your resume and writing statements that start off like "This was a rewarding experience" or "it was great because" - this adds to what others posted before me, it sounds a little presumptuous, and really doesn't tell me anything about you.

    This won't sway anyone. Aside from being irrelevant to your introduction and what you set up your statement for, it is nothing that will impress or provoke meaningful conclusions from any committee. Everyone has tough times and hard schedules in school. Everyone gets sick. This doesn't make you special, in fact, this excerpt makes you look like everyone else.

    Too much like a resume. Doesn't really contribute any information to your "primary drive" and you don't expand on why it was rewarding either.

    The idea in this paragraph of you taking care of your father is powerful. I'd suggest rewriting this paragraph to really show what you did and what you learned from it.

    I did this. I did that. Again, too much like a resume, and towards the end of the first paragraph you even start generalizing a little. I think one of the things you can do is compound all the patient care material in your statement into one powerful anecdote, since this seems to be the backbone of your experiences and why you want to go into medicine.

    You don't have to cover all of your resume in your statement. Your paragraph on research and school was very dry, and seemed pretty irrelevant to how you set up your statement in the beginning. When I read the part about your father, and also the different types of patient care you did, I really wanted to know more about it. It tied back to that sentence where you described medicine as mysterious, but how patient care helped you realize your primary drive. That's substance. The why and how. Not the what - they can grab that from your resume.

    That second paragraph is very presumptuous. You could get rid of it totally.

    This conclusion does not tie back to your introduction, but as you revise and rewrite sections of your paper, it will become easier for you to view this roadmap and see where you are leading your reader. Then keep the big picture in mind and revisit it in your conclusion, but don't hammer it in with repetitive statements like you did here.

    ***

    I know this is alot, but you have GREAT experiences to work with here, and I'd hate to see such valuable material not be portrayed efficiently to show what type of person you have grown into.

    Regardless of whether it is for your advisory committee, or for the actual medical schools, you should really get into practice of writing powerful statements that aren't spitbacks of your resume. Again, I really think keeping in line with your original introduction of your evolution of your primary drive is a good basis for a solid statement - the backbone of it being patient care, care of your father or other patients, or even the hospital work you did during the hurricane.

    Write a good one here for your advisory committee and you may not have as much work to do when it comes time for the actual personal statement for AMCAS.
     
  7. gotmeds?

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    I think the last two posters gave some really good advice. It's not bad as a first draft, but it really needs some work. I'd suggest going to your school's writing center and talking to someone there (it did wonders for my PS).

    Couple of quick suggestions:

    Lose the action sequence in the intro. You should start off with something interesting, but for med schools, I think the "action" scene from the hospital has become a cliche. You can work it in later in the essay when you talk about some of the things you've seen that solidified your desire to become a MD.

    Minor nitpick: you don't defibrillate someone with a slow heart rate -- ever! You can defibrillate a very fast heart rate (cardioversion) or a pulseless patient in a shockable rhythm. It's a minor mistake, but it might make a doctor think that you're taking some artistic license with your intro.

    Keep working at it. The ideas are good, but the writiting needs some work.
     
  8. nick_carraway

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    I'm writing my PS for AMCAS right now and I've submitted a first draft to some people who have helped me to see that it's too much like a resume too. It's too dry and it certainly doesn't talk enough about why I want to be a doctor.

    Do you have any tips on how to avoid a bland regurgitation of a resume? Is using more visual description, more anecdotes the way to do it?

    Also, how do you talk about why you want to be a doctor without criticizing the other experiences you've already had? And how do you talk about why you want to be a doctor without sounding pretentious? We really don't know what it's like to be a doctor and the committees know that too.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  9. eternalrage

    eternalrage Even Kal has bad days...
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    One thing to avoid is delusions of grandeur. There are undoubtedly going to be people with out of this world experiences, from fighting AIDS in some African nation, to volunteers treating soldiers in Iraq, to lab junkies with 40 publications and rights to some incredible life saving drug.

    You have to fight the urge to embellish your resume and try to make yourself look special and important, because that's what gets the resume spitting and self glorification juices going. Not everyone is going to be a superstar - adcoms know this. What they don't know is what kind of person you are, how you will contribute to medicine, and how your experiences shaped you to be this person.

    Fight the urge to define yourself by what you have done, because someone out there will have done much more. Define yourself by what you have learned and how you have grown. Look for examples in your experiences that can clearly demonstrate these things without you having to outright say "I learned X and Y personality traits and skills from Z experience." Anecdotes will help you do this, but you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of describing your duties, the task, or doctors and nurses - keep the spotlight on yourself and show yourself. And always keep in mind the big picture - what you are trying to convey to your adcom reader.

    You don't have to criticize to show that you didn't fit in somewhere - ie if you did research but then you felt you were geared more towards people, you don't have to criticize research to make that point. I agree, sometimes it can be like you are walking on ice, just becareful with your diction and ideas.

    The same goes for describing why you want to be a doctor without sounding presumputous. You are right, we don't really know what it is like. Most of us merely got a taste of it through our experiences. Again, it is how you write that makes a difference, underlying tone is very subtle, and you can tweak it so that you show humility instead of arrogance. Avoid things like generalizations and any broad conclusions about the medical industry.

    It is very difficult to show why you want to be a doctor without doing the "I want to be a doctor because..." thing, but a good statement will lead the reader to make the conclusions you want them to without any direct telling.
     
  10. deuist

    deuist Stealthfully Sarcastic
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    Ugggghhhh, I hope you're trying to write another fake personal statement like Panda did. The key phrase is quoted up above. You start off your statement with a clichéd story of things that happen in the ED, then follow it up with, "But I wasn't actually involved." To make matters worse, you claim that you understand how to be a physician based upon working in a pharmacy and watching a code. How about re-doing your essay from scratch? This time you should talk about things that you actually did.

    Also, you need to answer the following questions: (1) Why do you want to be a doctor? (2) What have you done that leads you to that decision? (3) What do you understand about the field? Hint: we're not running from trauma to trauma saving lives. (4) Why do you deserve an acceptance over the 20,000 people that are going to get rejected this year?
     

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