Risky personal statement?

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E0001234

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I’m currently working through a draft of my personal statement after a long while of brainstorming. I’m almost done with it, but am realizing that it doesn’t really represent me well. My PS, as it exists right now, is about my past exposure to dementia via a combination of work as an activity aide in a long-term care facility and some extensive clinical research on dementia (quality-of-care stuff). I like that it has a clear and consistent narrative, but the issue is that this isn’t my main motivation for a career in medicine.

For the near-entirety of my time in college, I struggled pretty badly with anorexia. I’ll spare the boring details but it progressed to the point that I was hospitalized for a short time and was forced to step away from my sport (I was on an NCAA team at my university). During my inpatient stay, I really appreciated how my care team tried to make me feel as in-control as possible and emphasized that I was responsible for my own recovery. Wanting to replicate a care experience like my own for other young adults who struggle with eating disorders is absolutely my strongest motivation for medicine. My past with anorexia completely changed the way I see the world, and I can totally see myself working as a psychiatrist and using my lived experience to motivate others towards recovery.

I think I could write a more passionate PS about this, and think my narrative would be a little more unique as well since anorexia isn’t very prevalent among men (I’m a guy) and I’d be able to discuss my participation in college athletics.

Would it be a terrible idea to do this? Would my mental health history scare adcoms away? I like to think that I’m completely recovered, but I’m not sure how to prove that to anyone. Would it be a better idea to go with the safer, but less personal, personal statement?

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I don't think it's a bad idea and if you can draw a through-line to other activities/advocacy you've done. I think you just need to be careful with it...I'd probably run it by your school's advising committee.
 
Advising committees are notoriously bad at giving advice.

@E0001234 , unless you've done some community service, advocacy, or paid work with people with anorexia, you really haven't tested your interest in working with that population. I could say that I received compassionate and empowering care from my OB and her team but that doesn't translate into applying to medical school saying that my career goal is to be an OB based solely on my personal experience of having given birth.

Work experience with people with dementia isn't a common narrative and it is a growing need in our US population. Go with it. No one is going to hold you to it and if you want to pivot to psychiatry for eating disorders on day #1 of med school, no one will stop you.
 
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For AMCAS, you have the Other Impactful Experiences essay to consider.



 
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Advising committees are notoriously bad at giving advice.

@E0001234 , unless you've done some community service, advocacy, or paid work with people with anorexia, you really haven't tested your interest in working with that population. I could say that I received compassionate and empowering care from my OB and her team but that doesn't translate into applying to medical school saying that my career goal is to be an OB based solely on my personal experience of having given birth.

Work experience with people with dementia isn't a common narrative and it is a growing need in our US population. Go with it. No one is going to hold you to it and if you want to pivot to psychiatry for eating disorders on day #1 of med school, no one will stop you.

Thank you for the advice! I agree, one of the other reasons (besides being afraid to discuss mental health) I was hesitant to make my personal statement about my illness is that I haven't been involved in anything related outside of my own care.

Is that part about work with dementia being an uncommon narrative true? I feel like every other WAMC talks about volunteering at a nursing home, which makes me fear that I'll have a boring PS.
 
For AMCAS, you have the Other Impactful Experiences essay to consider.




Do you think it's safe to discuss my illness in that essay you mention? Will it put me under increased scrutiny?
 
Now that I think about it, you could also work it in as a secondary, that way your primary focuses on mission fit and it could work (with careful framing) into some secondary essay about adversity.
 
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Now that I think about it, you could also work it in as a secondary, that way your primary focuses on mission fit and it could work (with careful framing) into some secondary essay about adversity.

I'm now considering this as well, but I'm assuming that I'll need to make it very clear that I won't somehow relapse once I matriculate and I'm not sure how to do that.
 
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Quality of life research in dementia care is exceedingly rare among applicants and will stand out in a positive way, particularly when combined with employment in a dementia care setting.
 
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Quality of life research in dementia care is exceedingly rare among applicants and will stand out in a positive way, particularly when combined with employment in a dementia care setting.

I had no idea, I guess I assumed it was more common since I've been involved with my dementia interests for so long. Thanks!

Looks like I'm sticking with my original PS then, and I'll save the other stuff for an adversity question.
 
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Honestly there's still a lot of stigma in medicine with mental health. Many medical students I meet still think psychiatrists are fake doctors. Imagine how some of the older administrators are....

All those people are idiots, but those idiots can still tank your app. I'd avoid discussing your own mental health issues personally.
 
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Honestly there's still a lot of stigma in medicine with mental health. Many medical students I meet still think psychiatrists are fake doctors. Imagine how some of the older administrators are....

All those people are idiots, but those idiots can still tank your app. I'd avoid discussing your own mental health issues personally.
Thanks for your input. That’s insane to hear considering AN is just as much a physical illness as a mental illness. It sorta sucks that this stuff is still so stigmatized, but I guess that’s just how it is when admissions are so competitive. I think I’ll take your advice and just leave it out completely.
 
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Get it read by our volunteers and your references. You should mind the amount you should say to balance any concerns.
Now that I think about it, I will probably just entirely omit any mention of mental health history. I have other relevant adversity experiences, like frequent injuries in my sport, so I think I’ll discuss those instead.
 
Thanks for your input. That’s insane to hear considering AN is just as much a physical illness as a mental illness. It sorta sucks that this stuff is still so stigmatized, but I guess that’s just how it is when admissions are so competitive. I think I’ll take your advice and just leave it out completely.
I agree with leaving your history of anorexia out of the application. While we have come some ways with regards to recognizing mental health issues, there is still significant stigma associated with anorexia nervosa compared to other conditions like anxiety (in my opinion). It is unfortunate, but I can see it unfairly biasing some reviewers against you.

It seems that the rest of your application is robust, so you have many other experiences to talk about. Once you are a practicing physician, hopefully you will join your school's admission committee and make meaningful differences from within. Best of luck and just my thoughts.
 
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I agree with leaving your history of anorexia out of the application. While we have come some ways with regards to recognizing mental health issues, there is still significant stigma associated with anorexia nervosa compared to other conditions like anxiety (in my opinion). It is unfortunate, but I can see it unfairly biasing some reviewers against you.

It seems that the rest of your application is robust, so you have many other experiences to talk about. Once you are a practicing physician, hopefully you will join your school's admission committee and make meaningful differences from within. Best of luck and just my thoughts.
Do you think this is something I’d have to conceal all the way, even through residency applications and licensing?
 
Do you think this is something I’d have to conceal all the way, even through residency applications and licensing?
If I were in your situation, I would not disclose it for residency applications.

For licensing, only disclose it if you need to. Some states will ask for any history of mental health conditions no matter how well controlled the condition is. For these states, you will need to disclose 'yes'. However, most other states will only ask about current impairment, to which you can safely answer 'no' if your condition remains well controlled. For a list of each, please see: Physician-Friendly States for Mental Health: A Review of Medical Boards .

Just my thoughts.
 
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