It is hard to find a cause that one will believe in with a passion that will encompass the actions of that individual beyond the formative years of childhood and early adolescence. With a world that is seemingly bereft of any cause that will instill that kind of passion in one person, if a person is fortunate enough to discover that passion, he/she will pursue it. That pursuit will entail efforts to perfect that craft in his choice of lifestyle, educational background, even in aspects that will merit some sacrifices on the part of the individual.
For me, it was not a book, event, nor incident, but the life and death of a person that I hold dear to my heart that gave me the reason to pursue this field of becoming a physician assistant. As I believe that there are various fields of medicine that can be pursued, I chose this field, given the many opportunities and experiences that I have gained through the years, and to help in that effort I will consider as an extreme privilege.
My family history has proven to be the best training grounds for my pursuit of a career in the field of medicine. In my growing years, one of my role models was my aunt Judy, who had a considerable influence on my youth and in my pursuit of a medical career. My aunt was also in pursuit of a career in medicine, having been enrolled in medical school, and would always tell stories of her experiences in her daily life as a medical student.
In the course of her studies in medical school, I began to observe her commitment and dedication to her chosen field of expertise, traits she would always tell us that are basic and essential for those that have chosen the field of medicine. But my interest in the field of medicine began to take shape as I discovered the significant and crucial role that a physician’s assistant takes on, the various responsibilities and duties, the myriad of activities that one must undertake in this field, and continued in that pursuit upon enrolling at the University of California at Bakersfield.
Taking up Kinesiology as my major in my academic stay at the University, I learned about the various intricacies of the human body, its anatomy, physiology and the mechanics that govern the movement of the human body. In the fours years that I had the privilege to stay at Bakersfield, I wanted to endeavor deeper into the education of the science of exercise and to continue my education that would be more inclined on diagnostic medical angle. But not all of my stay was dedicated to the academic requirements in the university.
In my years at the University, I also played Division 1 softball and in my senior year, was voted to be captain of the team. It was in my years as an athlete that I learned the skills to persevere in my field, self motivation in accomplishing all the tasks that lay before me in spite of obstacles, and go through a frenzied academic schedule that has taught me to utilize rigorous time management skills, and the use of prioritizing acumen in juggling all the requirements of my chosen academic course, all with successful results.
But one of my most memorable experiences in my stay at the University was the opportunity to be a mentor to at risk youth at the Youth Foster Group Homes. Here, tutoring twice a week, I would help the youth in the homes for academic subjects that they might have difficulty with, or for youths just trying to keep up with the academic requirements, and plan activities for them to achieve the goals we together have set for themselves. It is in this activities where I impart my belief that no goal is unattainable.
This chapter in my life taught me that I wanted to expand the parameters of my chosen field, that in my area of expertise, not only did I want to help people with their medical needs, but in a more real sense, I wanted to endeavor on the area that would help rebuild the lives of the poverty stricken individuals and families by becoming not only the best medical practitioner that I can possibly be, but one that not only excels in the field of medicine, but by building bonds of trust and confidence, they can be more at ease and comfortable in their act of trusting me with their medical as well as personal needs.
To further hone my medical knowledge and to gain more knowledge about my chosen field, I devoted much of my spare time to volunteer work at the Kern County Hospital, at the facility’s Emergency Department, and at the Simi Valley Free Clinic facility. In my stay at the facilities, I had the privilege to interact with the many patients at the clinic and the emergency department, and an added privilege was to share with the veteran physician assistants, who shared their insights to me on the rigors and responsibilities of their positions.
One of the assistants, Leslie Pascoe, I had the privilege of following around in the course of her tour at the facility. During my tenure at the facility, I was exposed to many medical cases, both inflicted and afflictions: staphylococcal infections, stabbing wounds, cases of hypertensions, vehicular accident victims, those with cold symptoms, bone fractures, pneumonia and various other health cases.
Apart from the actions of interacting with other staff and the patients at both facilities, I discovered the inherent value of each of the members of the medical team, as with the conduct of routine emergency room tasks, inclusive of taking vital signs, testing and evaluating blood sugar levels of diabetic patients, and recording the patient history with Harrier Catagay, another of the physician assistants at the facility.
It is here where I relished the times of discussion of the scientific aspects of the field of medicine, developing skills of critical thinking to address and determine solutions with my fellow peers at the medical facility, and to interact with many patients, teaching them on the importance of practices that will mitigate the incidents that the patients might contract disease. Apart from the experience of working at the facilities, gaining much knowledge from my peers and superiors, being employed as a caregiver has given me the opportunity to develop certain skills that can aid me also in the field of medicine.
In one example, I helped a 90 year old female diabetic who had gone blind due to her illness. In one instance, due to her dropping levels of glucose, she had lost consciousness; fortunately, the training I had received as an Emergency Medical Technician gave me the knowledge to administer pre hospitalization care, checking on her blood sugar levels, checking her vital signs, administer the needed glucose, and finally contact emergency services.
Again, I have to reiterate the important role that my aunt Judy played in my passion for medicine. She instilled in me the love for the medical field, and two nephews in the process. Aunt Judy finished her medical schooling, but soon after, my beloved aunt was diagnosed with cancer. When she was diagnosed with the disease that ultimately claimed her life, she was still pregnant with my twin nephews.
As her battle with melanoma continued, I saw that the cancer was winning the battle with each passing day, and one day the war was ultimately consummated in favor of the cancer. But though she was taken in such a short time, the time that she was given was enough to instill that passion to help people with their medical issues. The loss of my aunt Judy, though tragic at passing at such a young stage, and robbed of becoming the doctor I know that she can attain, inspired me to excel in the fight against illnesses.
Though I am aware that medical professionals have to undergo many an arduous time in achieving their goals and effectively practice their careers, I do not look at it as a mere career; it is a passion that I wish to pursue. It is in this regard that I wish for your favorable consideration of my application to your prestigious program. With the knowledge and tutelage I hope to gain in your program, I hope to continue in the pursuit of my passion to be a exceptional practitioner in the medical field.
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Note: The below essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.
Theme 1: Why I Want to Be a Doctor
Many people look back in time to find the moment of their initial inspiration. Some people have wanted to be a doctor so long they do not even know what originally inspired them. To incorporate this theme, look back to the material you gathered in the last chapter, specifically in response to “The Chronological Method,” “Note Major Influences,” and “Identify Your Goals.” Ask yourself these questions: How old was I when I first wanted to become a doctor? Was there a defining moment? Was there ever any ambivalence? Was I inspired by a specific person? What kind of doctor do I want to be and how does that tie into my motivation?
Here are a few of the common ways that students incorporate this theme:
“I’ve Always Wanted to Be a Doctor”
AKA: “I’ve Wanted to Be a Doctor Since I Was…” and “Everyone Has Always Said I’d Be a Doctor”
This is perhaps the most common approach of all. The secret to doing it well is to show, not just tell, why you want to be a doctor. You cannot just say it and expect it to stand on its own. Take the advice of one admissions officer:
“The “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor” essay has been done to death. I think candidates need to be careful to show that their decision was not only a pre-adolescent one and has been tested over the years and approached in a mature manner.”
Supply believable details from your life to make your desire real to the reader. One secret to avoiding the “here we go again” reaction is to be particularly careful with your first line. Starting with “I’ve wanted to be a doctor since…” makes the reader cringe. It’s an easy line to fall back on, but admissions officers have read this sentence more times than they care to count; don’t add to the statistic.
“My Parents are Doctors”
This approach to the “why I want to be a doctor” theme is dangerous for a different reason. Says one officer:
“It’s a prejudice of mine, but the legacy essay, the one that reads, “My dad and my grandpa and my great-grandpa were all doctors so I should be too,” makes me suspect immaturity. I envision young people who can’t think for themselves or make up their own minds.”
This is not the opinion of every officer, though. The point is not to avoid admitting that your parent is an M.D., it is to avoid depending on that as the sole reason for you wanting to go to medical school. If a parent truly was your inspiration, then describe exactly why you were inspired.
“My Doctor Changed My Life!”
AKA: “Being a Patient Made Me Want to Become a Doctor”
Some people claim to be motivated to become doctors because they have had personal experience of illness or disability. Notes an admissions officer:
“I had a student who grew up with a chronic illness. She spent much time with physicians and other health care providers throughout her young life. In her essay she wrote about this continuing experience and how the medical professionals treated her. She wrote of her admiration of them as well as her understanding that they couldn’t yet cure her. Her essay literally jumped off the page as being unique to her and a compelling understanding of and testament to her desire to join the people who had been so important to her life.”
If your personal experience with the medical profession sincerely is your motivation for attending medical school, then do write about it. The problem is that many students fall back on this topic even when it does not particularly hold true for them. We cannot stress enough that you do not have to have a life-defining ability or a dramatic experience to have an exciting statement. Admissions committees receive piles of accident- and illness-related essays and the ones that seem insincere stick out like sore thumbs (pun intended!) and do not reflect well on you as a candidate. Says another officer:
“My orthodontist changed my life!” “My dentist gave me my smile back!” These types of themes are certainly valid, but go beyond that to what particular aspect of the profession intrigues you. Do you understand how many years of study your orthodontist had to have in order to reach his level of practice? Have you observed your dentist for any significant amount of time? Do you know that the profession now is much different than it was when he or she was starting out? Have you given any thought to the danger of infectious diseases to all health-care professionals? Present a well-organized, complete essay dealing with these points.”
You may just want to mention your own experience only briefly toward the end of the essay. Use it as a confirmation of your decision to be a doctor (instead of as his primary motivation) and demonstrate that because of the experience you will become a better doctor. Try not to dwell on the experience and provide plenty of further evidence of your sincere motivation.
“My Mom Had Cancer”
This theme is really just a variation of “I was a patient myself” and the same advice applies: If a loved one’s battle with illness, trauma, or disability is truly what inspired your wish to become a doctor, then by all means mention it. But don’t dwell on it, don’t overdramatize, and don’t let it stand as your sole motivation-show that you’ve done your research and you understand the life of a doctor and you chose it for a variety of reasons.
The Hard-Luck Tale
Some truly outstanding essays are about strong emotional experiences such as a childhood struggle with disease or the death of a loved one. Some of these are done so effectively that they are held up as role models for all essays. Says one officer:
“I had a student who was considered a weak candidate because of poor grades and low test scores. She was African-American and although she had pursued all the right avenues (classes, MCAT, volunteer experiences) to prepare herself for medical school, she remained undistinguished as a candidate- until, that is, she wrote her essay. The essay revealed her tremendous and sincere drive. She was from a crime-riddled area of New York City and several of her siblings had been violently killed. She wrote about her experience and her desire to practice medicine in the city and improve the neighborhood where she was raised. It was compelling, believable, and truly inspiring.”
While it is true that these poignant tales can provide very strong evidence of motivation for medical school, they are difficult to do well and need to be handled with extreme care and sensitivity. And, as we have said before, do not rely on the tale itself to carry you through; you always need to clearly show your motivation. Notes another admissions officer:
“This is going to sound harsh, but I don’t like the tales of woe such as the ones that begin with the mother’s death from cancer. Frankly, I feel manipulated and I don’t think that the personal statement is the proper mode of expression for that kind of emotion.”
The Medical Dichotomy
One of the major draws of the medical field is its dualistic nature combining hard-core science with the softer side of helping people. This is described by people in many ways; some describe it as a dichotomy of science to art; to others it is intellectualism to humanism, theory to application, research to creativity, or qualitative to social skills. No matter how you choose to phrase it, if you mention the dichotomy, then be sure to touch on your qualifications and experience in both areas.
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Theme 2: Why I Am an Exceptional Person
This theme is often tied in closely with “why I am a qualified person.” Be very clear on the difference, though; the latter focuses specifically on your experience (medical or otherwise) that qualifies you to be a better medical student, while the former focuses strictly on you as a person. Committees are always on the lookout for well-rounded candidates. They want to see that you are interesting, involved, and tied to the community around you.
To help you think about how to support this theme, look at your answers to the exercises from the last chapter and ask yourself: What makes me different? Do I have any special talents or abilities that might make me more interesting? How will my skills and personality traits add diversity to the class? What makes me stand out from the crowd? How will this help me to be a better physician and student?
If you are creative, you’ll be able to take whatever makes you different --even a flaw -- and turn it to your advantage.
“One student wrote about her experience as a childhood “klutz” and how her many accidents kept her continually seeking medical care. The care she received was the impetus to her desire to become a doctor and made her essay entertaining, sincere, and eminently credible.”
Note that the candidate in this example tied her experience to her desire to become a doctor. It is imperative that this be done with practically every point you make in your essay.
The Talented Among Us
If you are one of a lucky few who have an outstanding talent or ability, now is no time to hide it. Whether you are a star athlete, an opera singer, or a violin virtuoso, by all means make it a focus of your essay.
“These people can be some of the strongest of candidates. Assuming, always, that they’ve excelled in the required preparatory coursework, the other strengths can take them over the top. Athletes, musicians, and others can make the compelling case of excellence, achievement, discipline, mastering a subject/talent and leveraging their abilities. Medical schools are full of these types; they thrive by bringing high achievers who possess intellectual ability into their realm.”
If you do plan to focus on a strength outside the field of medicine, your challenge becomes one of how to tie the experience of that ability into your motivation for becoming a doctor.
Students of Diversity
If you are diverse in any sense of the word-an older applicant, a minority, a foreign applicant, or disabled-use it to your advantage by showing what your unique background will bring to the school and to the practice of medicine. Some admissions officers, however, warn against using minority status as a qualification instead of a quality. If you fall into this trap, your diversity will work against you.
“If you are a “student of diversity,” then of course, use it. But don’t harp on it for it’s own sake or think that being diverse by itself is enough to get you in; that will only make us feel manipulated and it will show that you didn’t know how to take advantage of a good opportunity.”
So just be sure you tie it in with either your motivation or your argument for why your diversity makes you a better candidate.
Latecomers and Career Switchers
You need not be a member of a minority, a foreign applicant, disabled, or an athlete or musician to be considered diverse. There are, for example, those who have had experience in or prepared themselves for totally different fields. If you fall into these categories, give succinct reasons for wanting to go into medicine and show evidence of sincere and intensive preparation for your new chosen field.
English Majors and Theater People
Not everyone who is accepted to medical school has a hard-core science background. If you’re one of these applicants, you must turn your potential weaknesses into strengths. Point out that communication is an integral part of being a doctor, and discuss the advantages of your well-rounded backgrounds. Be very careful to demonstrate your motivation and qualifications in detail and with solid evidence to offset worries that your non-science backgrounds may have given you an unrealistic view of a doctor’s life or that you might be unable to cope with the science courses at medical school.
Can I Be Too Well Rounded?
Some people have talents, abilities, or experience in so many different areas that they risk coming across as unfocused or undedicated. When handled deftly, though, your many sides can be brought together, and what could have hurt you becomes instead your greatest vehicle for setting you apart from the crowd.
Taking Advantage of International Experience
Many applicants have international experience. So, while it may not set you apart in a completely unique way, it is always worthwhile to demonstrate your cross-cultural experience and sensitivity. To be successful, you must go beyond simply writing about your experiences to relating them either to your motivation or qualifications. Do not expect the committee to make these leaps for you; you need to put it in your own words and make the connections clear.
Some admissions counselors advise against the mention of religion altogether. Others say that it can be used to applicants’ advantage by setting them apart and by stressing values and commitment. This is a sensitive subject area and is best left to individual choice.
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Theme 3: Why I Am a Qualified Person
The last major theme deals with your experience and qualifications both for attending medical school and for becoming a good doctor. Having direct hospital or research experience is always the best evidence you can give. If you have none, then consider what other experience you have that is related. Have you been a volunteer? Have you tutored English as a Second Language? Were you a teaching assistant? The rule to follow here is: If you have done it, use it.
Direct experience with patients is probably the best kind to have in your essay. But the important thing to remember here is that any type or amount of experience you have had should be mentioned, no matter how insignificant you feel it is.
A word of caution: Do not focus solely on your research topic; your essay will become impersonal at best and positively dull at worst. Watch out for overuse of what non-science types refer to as “medical garble.” If it is necessary for the description of your project, then, of course, you have no choice. But including medical terms in your essay just because you are able to will not impress anyone.
Unusual Medical Experience
Even if you have not volunteered X number of hours a week at a clinic or spent a term on a research project, you might still have medical experience that counts: the time you cared for your sick grandmother or the day you saved the man at the next table from choking in a restaurant. It does not even matter if you were unsuccessful (maybe, despite all your valiant efforts, the man at the next table did not survive), if it was meaningful to you then it is relevant; in fact, these failed efforts might be even more compelling.
Your experience does not even have to be medically related to be relevant. Many successful applicants cite non-medical volunteer experience as evidence of their willingness to help and heal the human race.
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For tips on answering general application questions, click here.
Move on to Lesson Two: Brainstorming a Topic
|From Essays That Will Get You Into College, by Amy Burnham, Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan. Copyright 1998 by Dan Kaufman. Reprinted by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc. and EssayEdge.com|