Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Personal Statement

So, as mentioned, here is my personal statement. I'm sure it will be revised and revisited multiple times over the next few months, but here is the first draft, and I think it sums up my story as concisely as possible. Italics mark my personal comments on some of these experiences for this page only.

What it means to me to be a doctor started with a seed planted when I was eight years old. I found myself unable to see the board in school, and my mother took me to the eye doctor because she and my teacher thought I might need glasses. My mother bypassed the optometrist as my family has a host of eye problems, and instead took me to our family’s ophthalmologist. I went into the appointment very unsure of what was going to happen (I had never seen most of his instruments), and upset with the prospect of having to wear glasses because I was afraid I was going to be made fun of by my peers (a concern long since abandoned). Dr. Eyeball assuaged my concerns. He told me that there was nothing wrong with me that I wasn’t any different than anybody else just because I might need glasses. In the end I did need glasses, but I was no longer concerned after Dr. Eyeball examined my eyes and put to rest any concerns I may have had, and answered what must have been dozens of questions, many of them unrelated to me and my eyes.  I realized then that being a doctor meant more than poking frightened, screaming kids with needles and drawing smiley faces on their arms with a PPD test to follow (my pediatrician's staff called it the Bunny Nose, how morbid). I couldn’t articulate my thoughts at the time, but I was fascinated and relieved to know that there was someone out there who could make me feel better, just by talking to me, answering my questions, and doing his job.

Fast-forward through the years, and the seed that had been planted kept growing. Encouraged by my family to explore my options and know what I was getting into, and know that I could actually do the job, I spoke with doctors, and I wasn’t intimidated by what they told me about the hard work. I delved into the sciences in school, and found that I enjoyed them, even though they required more work, more effort, and more time. I found work that rewarded me with a sense of fulfillment and completion. I shadowed and interred with the same doctor who inspired me many years earlier, Dr. Eyeball. In college, I spent several hours every weekend in the emergency room and outpatient surgery rooms. I was given many tasks that brought me close to the patients and many of them told me their stories. Many of them just wanted somebody to listen to them. I learned from many of these patients that I liked work with them; that I liked listening to them; that I wanted to make a difference.

I was placed on a wait-list the first year I applied to medical school. I found work as a chemist (my initial training). I was good at it, but I wasn’t challenged. I wasn’t engaged. My work didn’t seem to fulfill any purpose. The desire and drive to go to medical school did not go away, despite a lot of free time, a steady pay cheque, and a relatively stress-free lifestyle (I had a great deal of fun, but found that much of it was "fun" for the sake of doing something because I had little else to do. Living in a relatively remote area did not help my spirits most nights of the week, and I found myself quite unhappy). I found I wanted to be busy. I wanted to be pushed. I wanted more responsibility. I wanted to interact with people and patients, not an endless line of graduated cylinders and Erlenmeyer flasks. I still wanted to be a doctor, to make a difference in that person’s life who is unsure of themselves; who is unsure of what may be happening to them; who needs to know that somebody wants to help.

With this in mind and in heart, I applied again, and found myself on a journey I never could have imagined. I worked harder than I thought possible, and came through the experience with confidence and self-respect that had been sorely lacking before. I was taken to two countries, several states, and made countless new friends, acquaintances, and memories. I learned that my colleagues’, my patients’, and my friends’ experiences were different, but no less valid than my own (that really was a huge lesson for me to learn, and I did not learn it at home). Learning this lesson, I feel is the biggest step to becoming an effective physician: to listen, to accept that what may not be mine, but is still real, is still true, and that my patients are real people that I can learn from while at the same time helping them. I find that being with patients every day makes a world of difference for me. I enjoy getting up early and going to the hospital, simply to do my job. I found that I want to do it every day and have it be my job. I want to be that person. 

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