TERRIBLE LOR from the Dr. I work for - what do i do

ahhhsomanyquestions

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    I am applying this cycle and have been working on getting my LORs together. I haven't asked the physician I have worked as an MA with for 3 years for their letter yet, but I happened upon an old letter they wrote 2 years ago that was submitted for a previous employee and it was TERRIBLE. It looked like an actual middle school student wrote it. Extremely obvious grammatical errors and typos, very short, and insanely unprofessional. I know that the physician really liked this previous employee, so I don't think it was a matter of ill intention. This experience has been my most meaningful pre-med experience, and now I have so many mixed emotions. I'm not sure how to approach asking this physician to write my letter, but I know it is essential to my application and it will look weird if I don't have a letter from them. At the same time, it may look better to have nothing at all than to have what they wrote. Wondering if I should shamelessly write my own and ask them to look over it and submit that or if there is another way to go about it that doesn't result in a terribly written letter being submitted on my behalf.

    Side note: I have a lot of respect for this person as a doctor, and they are very well-respected by ALL of their patients and widely known as a great doctor. However, seeing this poorly written letter really influenced my ability to look up to them/respect their advice. Is that wrong?
     

    Rachapkis

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      What I am about to suggest can be tricky and is dependent on how close your relationship is with the doctor, but here goes: Would it be possible to provide the doctor not only with your application and CV, but also a draft letter that he/she could edit? If providing the actual letter feels like too much, would "talking points" that the doctor could "plug and play" be acceptable? Under the right circumstances, either of these options would save the doctor time and effort, and allow you to have a more substantive and better crafted letter.
       
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      Kumorebi

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        What I am about to suggest can be tricky and is dependent on how close your relationship is with the doctor, but here goes: Would it be possible to provide the doctor not only with your application and CV, but also a draft letter that he/she could edit? If providing the actual letter feels like too much, would "talking points" that the doctor could "plug and play" be acceptable? Under the right circumstances, either of these options would save the doctor time and effort, and allow you to have a more substantive and better crafted letter.
        For anecdotal sake, I didn't ask, but was told by the physician I scribed for to write my own LOR. I was his first scribe, he was my first physician. It was a lot of fun writing it since at one point he was considering replacing me, but I lived up to his expectations and exceeded them. I included this in my LOR (made a story out of it) and he looked over it, said it was well-written, and signed it.
         
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        TehTeddy

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          I concur with the above advice about asking to write a draft. It would save them time, and they could still personalize it before it's finished. I also like the idea about the doctor giving bullet points, and you crafting the letter afterwards. Don't think about contributing to the writing as shameful - they're still endorsing it by signing, in theory.

          This reminds me of my old lab PI, when I asked him to write me a letter for medical school recently. He asked me to write a draft for him first. I'd never done that, and in the interest of making it as authentic as possible, I asked the peace corps (which he wrote me a LOR for previously) to send me his letter from a couple years ago. The idea being that I could "adapt" the letter for a new purpose, while using his own language.

          They sent it back to me, and oh boy was I shocked. Grammatical mistakes everywhere. At several points he referred to me as Ms. Tehteddy rather than Mr. Tehteddy. To make matters worse, he signed off saying he highly recommends me for service in Japan.....
          I wasn't applying for Japan x_x that's not even a country peace corps operates in.

          In hindsight I was surprised that letter didn't sink me - and I assumed he was my strongest writer (did fellowship at Harvard). Point being, he was a brilliant guy and meant well in recommending me, but for whatever reason (maybe short on time) ended up giving me a bad letter. I imagine our cases are similar.
           
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          lanzhou_lamian

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            I had to help write two of my letters. In the first case, the recommender outright asked me to draft some bullet points of what I'd like included in the letter. In the second, the recommender was taking a long time to respond. I knew we had a good relationship and that she was very busy, so I offered to jot down some basic points that I thought could be in the letter.
            Generally, whenever I ask for an LOR, I included my resume and PS so the writer has something to go off of. In your case, I may also include a page document of points relating to your MA work and your relationship with the doctor. Then he can utilize them as he sees fit to inform your letter.
             
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            Catalystik

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              I am applying this cycle and have been working on getting my LORs together. I haven't asked the physician I have worked as an MA with for 3 years for their letter yet, but I happened upon an old letter they wrote 2 years ago that was submitted for a previous employee and it was TERRIBLE. It looked like an actual middle school student wrote it. Extremely obvious grammatical errors and typos, very short, and insanely unprofessional. I know that the physician really liked this previous employee, so I don't think it was a matter of ill intention. This experience has been my most meaningful pre-med experience, and now I have so many mixed emotions. I'm not sure how to approach asking this physician to write my letter, but I know it is essential to my application and it will look weird if I don't have a letter from them. At the same time, it may look better to have nothing at all than to have what they wrote. Wondering if I should shamelessly write my own and ask them to look over it and submit that or if there is another way to go about it that doesn't result in a terribly written letter being submitted on my behalf.

              Side note: I have a lot of respect for this person as a doctor, and they are very well-respected by ALL of their patients and widely known as a great doctor. However, seeing this poorly written letter really influenced my ability to look up to them/respect their advice. Is that wrong?
              -Poor writing mechanics in an LOR are not held against the applicant. It's the content that is important.

              -If you're worried about the content, well only about five MD schools ask for a clinical letter, and not all of those need it to be from a physician. So why are you thinking it's "essential" to your application? Does your school committee letter require it? If not, recall that you get a choice of which schools will receive it.
               
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              ahhhsomanyquestions

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                I concur with the above advice about asking to write a draft. It would save them time, and they could still personalize it before it's finished. I also like the idea about the doctor giving bullet points, and you crafting the letter afterwards. Don't think about contributing to the writing as shameful - they're still endorsing it by signing, in theory.

                This reminds me of my old lab PI, when I asked him to write me a letter for medical school recently. He asked me to write a draft for him first. I'd never done that, and in the interest of making it as authentic as possible, I asked the peace corps (which he wrote me a LOR for previously) to send me his letter from a couple years ago. The idea being that I could "adapt" the letter for a new purpose, while using his own language.

                They sent it back to me, and oh boy was I shocked. Grammatical mistakes everywhere. At several points he referred to me as Ms. Tehteddy rather than Mr. Tehteddy. To make matters worse, he signed off saying he highly recommends me for service in Japan.....
                I wasn't applying for Japan x_x that's not even a country peace corps operates in.

                In hindsight I was surprised that letter didn't sink me - and I assumed he was my strongest writer (did fellowship at Harvard). Point being, he was a brilliant guy and meant well in recommending me, but for whatever reason (maybe short on time) ended up giving me a bad letter. I imagine our cases are similar.
                Thank you so much for this advice and reassurance. I definitely think our cases are very similar. In passing, I mentioned the idea of writing my own letter and they seemed to be okay with it. I think that I will talk to them at the end of this week about getting a list of qualities to go off of. This will help me write the letter anyway, as I am generally not someone who is very good at bragging about myself.
                 

                ahhhsomanyquestions

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                  -Poor writing mechanics in an LOR are not held against the applicant. It's the content that is important.

                  -If you're worried about the content, well only about five MD schools ask for a clinical letter, and not all of those need it to be from a physician. So why are you thinking it's "essential" to your application? Does your school committee letter require it? If not, recall that you get a choice of which schools will receive it.
                  By "essential" I meant more along the lines of not having a letter from this provider may look odd, as this was my most meaningful experience and I have been working closely under this physician for 3 years.
                   
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