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Question about personal statement

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by DisabledDoctor, Aug 7, 2011.

  1. DisabledDoctor

    5+ Year Member

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    I suffer from a chronic neurological condition. It's stable and I am treated about once a year, which leaves me well functioning for about 10 months of the year. When I first got sick about 4 years ago I was bedridden for 13 months and it was a very, very hard diagnosis to make. I saw over 30 doctors, had 10 MRIs, 5 CTs, and tons of other tests that were terrible. I finally found a doctor who diagnosed and treats me and I am doing pretty well.

    Here is my question- do I include this on my personal statement? The current incarnation of my PS has it included, along with a few brief statements about my experience as a patient, insurance problems, knowing what it feels like to be shuffled from one doctor to another and not know what's going on.

    My advisor tells me to keep it in. Some other folks in my life tell me not to. Thoughts?
     
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  3. TheMightySmiter

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    If it's something that influenced your decision to pursue medicine, I would absolutely include it. I think there's little chance that this wasn't an influential experience! Just take care that it doesn't sound like you're looking for pity. Talk about what you learned about medicine from a patient's perspective, and how your illness has changed you for the better. I wouldn't make it the central point of your statement, but I think you should include it somewhere. Feel free to send me your PS to read if you want...I'm not on the reader list cuz I don't want to be inundated, but I have some free time to read a few!
     
  4. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    The issue is that you are not in good shape 2 months out of the year. Will you be able to meet the technical requirements of the medical school during those 2 months? Will your condition progress or get worse over time? Are you likely to become disabled to the point of being unable to work at a (relatively) young age?

    Why raise all these questions in the mind of an adcom. I hope that you do not want to be a doctor to treat yourself. So, you want to be a doctor for reasons unrelated to your own health status and that (your reasons for wishing to have a career in medicine) should be the focus of your application.

    IF you did poorly in school because of an undiagnosed condition, you might mention that in a single paragraph at the end of your PS and set of by a short line like this: ====

    In the addendum, you can say that you developed puzzling symptoms in xxxx and after many consultations were diagnosed with a chronic neurologic condition that is well controlled today. You can add that you have done well in school since the condition was stablized in xxxx.

    I am always apprehensive about having pre-meds name their illness. The problem is that university medical centers tend to be referral centers for the worst cases and those refractory to treatment. So, if an adcom is familiar with the condition it is likely that he or she has seen the most serious cases and not the entire spectrum of the disorder. This tends to skew one's viewpoint of the condition and could introduce bias into a consideration of your suitability for a career medicine.
     
  5. DisabledDoctor

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    You ask good questions. With treatment I am nearly symptom free 10 months of the year. The symptoms begin to return, gradually at first and then worsening if left untreated. Thus, I return to my IR doc about once a year and only have about 2-4 weeks or true down time, making me "normal" about 11 months of the year. I think that will enable me to practice medicine and study at just about the same pace as everyone else.

    I did fine in my pre-med. Mostly As, a few Bs. Also did several biology grad level classes, getting all As. Have a full GPA around 3.8.

    Of course I am not becoming a doctor in order to treat myself. I have long wanted to be a doctor, years before I ever had the smallest headache. I want to treat patients, not myself. The focus of my personal statement is my very extensive and unusual volunteer work in medical clinics in disaster zones and work as an EMT. I only have a few lines about my neurological condition.
     
  6. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    I can't see admitting an applicant with a chronic medical condition over one who has a similar application but no medical condtion. In other words, it will not give you an advantage. It could be a disadvantage particularly if you are labeled, "the applicant with xyz" and considered a risky choice.


    It sounds like you have had excellent experiences and a good academic record. It would be a shame to be denied admission because you plant an idea in the adcom's mind that you are "high risk" for not finishing med school or for being unemployable due to a disabilty.

    Bottom line: leave it out. You can always disclose it to the dean of students or an advisor once you are in school but it makes no sense to mention it now anymore than you'd mention it to a potential employer when you went looking for a job.
     
  7. DisabledDoctor

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    Interesting that the adcom would discriminate against me based upon a stable and controlled medical issue. Do they feel the same about type 1 diabetics?

    I think I'll keep it in. It has undeniably changed who I am. I know the hell that patients go through in an attempt to find out what's wrong, get treatment and try to return to a life of being 'normal'. I also know the hell of fighting with HMOs, PPOs and pre-authorization.
     
  8. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    Bias is a funny thing.... it won't be overt, but it can be a subconscious thing. Type 1 diabetic? at risk of blindness :eek: amputations :eek: kidney failure :eek: An adcom might not say "he's diabetic, let's skip him." but might latch onto some other negative in the application or interview and amplify that issue. This isn't to say that people with chronic illnesses never get admitted but I'd bet they have a slightly more difficult time of it.

    Why make things more difficult on yourself. On the other hand, if you think you are defined by your illness, go ahead and give it a mention.

    Keep in mind that many schools can interview only 10-15% of applicants and admit 50% or less of those interviewed.... there are too many places where the adcom is trying to cull the herd.
     

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