Why is the AMCAS Personal Statement Important?
Every year, thousands of graduates apply to medical school. Some of them have fantastic GPAs and MCAT scores, others have astounding extracurriculars, shadowing, and volunteering experience, and yet others have both. Yet many of these stellar students who have spent hours doing all this don’t make the cut. Most medical school applicants go through at least 2 or 3 years of applications before getting an acceptance offer from a medical school. Some others do not get accepted even after a couple of rounds and give up their medical school dreams.
What are we missing? How can we tilt this equation and increase the odds of getting in? What are some winning strategies?
Let us put ourselves in the shoes of the people making the decisions and handing out acceptance, rejection, and waitlist letters.
The critical thing to remember is that the admissions committee reviews every candidate qualitatively. This is because while numbers speak for past achievement, the committee is most concerned about future potential: something that may or may not be reflected in those fabulous GPA and MCAT numbers. There are several questions that the committee seeks to find answers to, and one central question is how well a student will fare in their program and beyond.
That brings us to the unknown future. Let us look at some known facts: Even highly successful students will have to give everything they have to thrive in a new environment—one that is much more fast-paced, with varying and several demands, complex challenges, and possible twists and turns that no one can anticipate. At the end of the day, candidates are people. Between fitting the scores and the extracurriculars on the one hand, and the values, perspectives, habits, and attitude of applicants on the other, medical school admissions committees have their work cut out for them.
So they turn to the personal statement. The AMCAS personal statement is one of the tools through which the qualitative review takes place. In a limited personal statement of not more than 5300 characters, including spaces, you get the chance to tell a story that reveals the person you are. It is the only way to tell the admissions committee that you have the conviction, dedication, work ethic, tenacity, and motivation to succeed in medical school and beyond. The AMCAS personal statement provides a window into the unique past of every applicant to showcase future potential.
What do I talk about in the AMCAS Personal Statement?
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 1
Just as every person is unique, each applicant’s personal statement is unique. There is no preferred topic or experience. While the personal statement is anchored around 2 to 3 incidents or life experiences that are personal, the real interest lies in why those incidents are important to the applicant. Let us take an example from an applicant’s AMCAS personal statement:
I grew up in a family where autoimmune diseases were almost synonymous with existence. I watched my diabetic uncle taking two insulin shots each day, avoiding pastries and cakes, and maintaining a stringent routine. I was told that diabetes had afflicted my grandfather as well. At the tender age of 9, when the whole world seemed to be bubbling with opportunities, growth, and promise, I was used to seeing the deterioration in the quality of life that disease can cause.
The strength of this opening statement is that it is deeply personal and suggests that the applicant’s interest in medicine has strong personal roots. Note that it is not necessary to start with clinical or shadowing experience. In some ways, the AMCAS personal statement is a story about your personal quest or self-discovery. Since you are likely to have started your clinical and shadowing work after discovering your career, it is a good idea to start from an earlier point in your life. Even if you start with a clinical experience, tracing back your career interest to an earlier moment is almost a must to give the committee a sense of your journey.
You will also notice that the student continuously connects disease with quality of life (a top concern for patients and doctors alike). Thirdly, the opening remark shows the writer’s concern and empathy which are essential qualities in a doctor.
Let us look at what makes a good personal statement. Like every piece of writing, the AMCAS personal statement has its set of essential ingredients and optional elements. Combined, the two parts should result in a compelling narrative that convinces the school about the applicant’s candidature.
The Essential Components:
Show a key trait or value that is critical to the field: this could be people-centric values such as empathy or helpfulness; it could be more general such as curiosity about life systems, drive to make a difference.
The connection between personal experiences and professional aspirations: The personal statement is a personal account. It seeks to provide personal reasons for pursuing medicine. This indicates that no incident is trivial or significant in and of itself. In AMCAS the personal statement, an event takes on significance in so far as it reveals how it shaped the applicant’s personal journey. Examples of such events could be mundane ones such as:
- Driving through underserved neighborhoods and noticing the lack of health facilities
- Doctor’s visits and becoming curious
- Sitting in a Biology course and being excited about the subject
- Pondering over the effect of sleep on our health and reflecting on daily habits and health
None of these incidents is out of the ordinary. Yet, in the personal statement, they can make a compelling case if presented in the right way. Let us see how the AMCAS personal statement we started with makes such a case:
When I was a freshman in college, I witnessed what hypothyroidism can do to a person. My cousin, who had read so many storybooks to me when I was a kid, loaning her books generously when I became an independent reader myself, was diagnosed with the condition and was severely depressed. Her unaccountable weight gain was baffling, and I sensed she suffered a lot. I was very close to her, and to watch her, after seeing what my uncle had to go through, was to have a déjà vu of how disease can alter a person’s entire lifestyle.
The trait of concern for others’ well-being, which was outlined in the first paragraph, takes center stage here. Also, note the little details about the applicant’s reading interest and the more subtle indication of the writer’s gratitude when she mentions that her cousin had read books to her. The theme of concern for the quality of life is seen again at the end of this paragraph.
So my interest in medicine began when I started to take her little gifts and to spend time chatting with her. Wanting to do more, I started volunteering at the St. Martin Hospital. At first, I helped answer calls. Soon I was allowed to check on supplies and even carry food to patients. Feeling the need to bring a strong scientific perspective to all that I did at the hospital, I selected Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in my sophomore year. I joined with an undeclared major, which gave me the flexibility to explore premed opportunities on campus. As my interest in the health sciences grew, I divided my evenings between volunteering and shadowing doctors.
This paragraph shows a progressive development in the applicant’s interest and the steps she took to address those interests. The key phrase is “a strong scientific perspective” which indicates the applicant’s ability to analyze and identify the most important element in patient care: the science.
The different responsibilities I handled when volunteering and when shadowing showed me the two distinct but complementary sides of medical practice: as a volunteer, I learned to be proactive, to anticipate the needs of patients, nurses, and the administrative staff. Timely help, attention to detail, and working in different departments taught me to be flexible and always alert. I learned that minor tasks were critically important to ensure effective care. As I checked the nutritionist’s instructions on the food tray or ordered a wheelchair for patients, I learned that patient care is at its heart selflessness. Concern for another person’s well-being comes before anything else. The few moments that I had to spare were spent with patients as I chatted with them, talking about their interests, families, the news, or anything else that caught their fancy.
When I shadowed, however, I entered the high realm of diagnostics and treatment. I learned, paying attention to the nuances of the doctor’s analysis of symptoms in the context of family histories, socioeconomic factors, and lifestyle. On the one hand, I learned to see every new case as the latest exemplar that would add to the collective knowledge of doctors. On the other, I realized that medicine called for the ability to creatively connect existing parameters of a known condition with its unique representation in each patient. The dynamic interplay of knowledge, practice, and care enthralled me in the patient rooms every day. Most of the time I was a silent spectator. But occasionally, I would be asked a question to test my knowledge and understanding, and I waited for those moments to learn and to grow.
Once, we were attending a patient who had had angioplasty a few days before and suffered from prolonged discomfort after being discharged. The doctor and nurses were discussing the fluoroscopy footage and possible stent failure. I had been shadowing for over six months by then and the doctor, whom I had shadowed several times, looked at me over the patient’s bed and asked,” Greta, what do you think?” I was stunned and quickly thought of earlier cases of angioplasty that I had seen. Most of the procedures had been successful, and we only saw the patients for routine follow-up. But I knew that tissue scarring was a risk and spluttered, “is it scarring in the stent?” The patient was sent for reassessment and had to go through another angioplasty before we discharged him. Still, I realized that medical decisions call for an incredible amount of attention to detail, knowledge of an arsenal of known causes and treatments, and the ability to determine the exact cause in each case after weighing in patient histories, statistical studies, research findings, and clinical experience.
This paragraph is clearly the most dramatic section of the AMCAS personal statement: The contrast between trivial but critical tasks as a volunteer and the more demanding learning when shadowing doctors is brought out effectively, and the applicant makes it a point to state that she enjoyed both. The second most important anecdote is also in this section of the essay and shows the applicant’s ability to grasp the complex nature of treatments and the various skills required. The ability to handle the menial and the more skilled dimensions of the profession is effectively highlighted here.
As I enter the hospital every day, I look forward to the all-hands-on-deck nature of my job and know that though it is the same place, the day will turn out to be different from every other day I have spent at the hospital. The myriad challenges, the several demands made upon the staff, and the ongoing endeavors to deliver the best for each patient never cease to motivate me. As a cog in a giant wheel, I dive in, and give all I have every day. My understanding of the deep structures of patient care increases every day as I work, study, observe and converse at the hospital. The tremendous efforts in patient care that are always underway at the hospital never cease to enthrall me, and I look forward to making my contribution as a doctor.
This wrap-up brings the essay to the present. The applicant’s interest is indicated in statements such as “the day will turn out to be different from every other day.” The sense of being part of a much larger healthcare system is effectively brought out through the tone of humility as the applicant makes a case for being admitted to medical school.
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 2
The narrative of self-discovery through a personal journey is just one of several approaches to the AMCAS personal statement. Another popular theme is a description of a trait that is at the core of the health sciences. The sample below illustrates the applicant’s sociability—a general trait that is very useful in medicine.
Even as a child, I liked to be among people. My mother tells me that I did not cry when she left me in playschool at age two though she had hoped I would. I did sulk however, when I was left out of group activities in middle school, I exalted in the company of classmates when we did projects in high school, and I became an unofficial, self-appointed mentor for new students in college. Through all these enjoyable choices, I have become a person who seeks to make the right decisions by speaking with others and who seeks to correct wrong decisions, again by speaking with others.
The opening paragraph immediately tells the reader the kind of person the applicant is. Touches of humor (my mother hoped I would cry) and modesty (‘unofficial self-appointed mentor’) make the writer likable ( a trait that is usually found in sociable people and which would be very helpful in a doctor).
Though I have made straight As in college, the path forward was never clear to me. My counselor told me that the common path after a Chemistry major was a career in pharmaceuticals or manufacturing. An emerging field was computational Chemistry which would leverage my proficiency in math as well, she enthused. As I read about these fields, each of them as exciting as the other, I started to have some doubts. The idea of spending 40 years in a lab, on a factory floor, or in front of a computer was none too appealing and I had serious questions, bordering on existential angst, about what I would do with my major.
The light vein continues into the second paragraph as the writer talks about his dilemma (“what I would do with my major) even as he deftly rules out options that show clearly that he has gone through some reflection before choosing medicine. The oblique philosophical touch in ‘existential angst’ is also lighthearted though it also captures the student’s dilemma.
It took me some time to realize why I did not warm up to the options the excellent career counselor laid forth for me. I would miss people. I could not work with machines and chemicals in a way that would erode human contact. I would miss the fun people have when thrown together.
The case for medicine is made through the writer’s people-centric world. That he has fun with people shows his aptitude for a highly interactive profession like medicine.
And so it was that one day in my third year, resume in hand, I found myself signing up for shadowing at Elliot Hospital near home. On the first day, I expected the staff to show me the pharmacy; I expected questions about why I did not pursue biology if I wanted to be a doctor. I had prepared myself with several friendly and polite rebuttals: I liked biochemistry a lot but did not like research labs or detergent companies. Armed with that and a fervent prayer, I approached the front desk. Strangely, not a single question was asked about how I fitted, nor was I shown the way to the medicine cabinets. Nurses ushered me into the emergency room, gave me a quick rundown on systolic and diastolic and CPR, and had me help out in bandaging and talking to patients. Every day I would be absorbed into the day’s most urgent tasks. Those were also the days when I spent the most time speaking with patients. I remember Jake, a 50-year-old patient whose appendicitis was causing him a lot of pain. His surgery was scheduled that week, and he had to go through several pre-op tests. As I helped him, I could sense his nervousness which he tried her best to hide. Distracting him while at the same time making sure he completed all the tests showed me the importance of sensitivity and multitasking in patient care. Most of my conversations with patients were about neutral things like news or the neighborhood. I found that intelligent conversations about normal things always made patients feel normal as well. On less busy days, I went around the hospital, looking at the several departments, patient rooms, nurse stations, and doctors’ offices.
After two weeks, encouraged by the staff’s ready acceptance, I ventured into the pharmacy during lunch break. I was thrilled when I found that I understood prescriptions and labels on IV due to my foundational Chemistry courses.
This paragraph emphasizes the writer’s sense of being at home in a hospital—a key detail that will show the admissions committee that he enjoys being in the hospital. His curiosity is also seen in phrases like ‘went around the hospital’. His sensitivity to people’s fears is also captured effectively. Notice also the connections made between a major in Chemistry and medicine. The following paragraph reinforces this further.
When I returned for the next weekend, I felt as if medicine was a common path for Chemistry majors. How else could I explain my ability to understand lab reports so quickly and understand exactly why the doctor was prescribing the medicine that she was? I shadowed every weekend for the rest of the year, got to know most of the staff, was invited when some of them went out, learned about their personal lives and their passion for medicine.
It is not obvious, but this paragraph resolves the central dilemma of what the student wants to do with his major by emphatically stating that medicine is a common path for Chemistry majors. A sense of belonging is effectively built here as the student talks about spending time outside work with the staff.
The time with them taught me that medical professionals love what they do for the same reasons I want to love what I do: being with and helping people. For the hospital staff, work and life were not separate things, and this was not because there was no work-life balance, but rather because their social community was their professional community and because they all shared a common feeling that they could not do enough to help patients. I realized that it did not matter what role you played. In medicine, the most trivial task is as important as the most important one. A simple and small oversight can have drastic consequences that can have a cascading effect. As a result, everyone depended on each other, and this led to the very high level of trust that I experienced myself on my first day.
The applicant addresses a key presupposition about the medical field: the lack of a work-life balance and argues that through shared interests, the boundaries between work and life fade for medical professionals. The applicant also brings up the central element of trust amongst the hospital staff, a point that is all the more authentic because he himself was entrusted with tasks on his very first day.
Luckily, I have found the pathway to professional and personal happiness in medicine. I hope to help patients discover similar pathways to health through medical treatment, trust and communication, paths made possible only when people are thrown together and make decisions by pooling in their collective expertise and skills.
The importance of collective efforts in medical treatment is matched with the writer’s skills with working with people to construct an image of medicine and of medical practitioners through the high level of social interaction that takes place in healthcare.
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 3
An equally popular theme for the AMCAS personal statement is the applicant’s personal experience as a patient. The example below uses the applicant’s experience on the patient’s side of healthcare to show how his interest in medicine developed.
When I was assessed as being overweight, I started to run a little daily to slim down. I hated having to do what was a meaningless, monotonous chore, especially since I did not see my friends having to undergo similar tribulations. The doctor’s diagnosis was clear: There was no underlying condition, so it was just genetic. That was both bad and good, medically and socially. It meant that I was born with it, and so, no matter what I did to stay slim, I could always go back to being fat. But it also meant that through a prescribed routine, I could fight obesity to be socially accepted.
The basic understanding of genetics and physiology is established here through a highly personal narrative.
Social acceptance was important to me. I led a community band whose highly popular performances meant that every member was a part of an informal fan club. The popularity of our performance made us conscious of our physical appearance, which mattered to our fans. Though I had been gaining some inches for a few months, people had started noticing it lately. Since the prospect of being seen as ‘obese’ hung over me like Damocles’ sword, running had become mandatory.
This paragraph and the next establish the writer’s interest in books. One example alludes to a myth, and the other alludes to a modern novel.
The first week was bad enough. I ran all of 10 minutes every day on the same route from my dorm to the library. Rather like Papillon, I knew by heart every stone, every pillar that I crossed daily. It dawned on me that I would indeed start numbering and naming those new landmarks and so I changed my route. The fresh path brought fresh vigor despite being longer and I started running for 15 minutes, without really minding it. In a few months, I had become a familiar figure on campus, jogging shoes and headphones, a slightly slimmer body and a higher self-esteem in between. I was clocking one hour daily after six months.
The subtle connection between health and self-esteem is made here and will be developed further in the later part of the essay.
Social acceptance and medical treatment are so frequently linked yet so rarely talked about. Only in extreme cases, such as when a patient has to be hospitalized, do we think of social life as something that is affected by the need for medical care. As I jogged daily to maintain my weight, I asked do we see patients as people and people as patients? Yet that is what they are. As a person, I wanted social acceptance, and as a ‘patient’, I wanted a cure for what could only be managed. I realized that doctors do much more than just hand out prescriptions. They enable the social acceptance of patients, allowing them to lead normal lives. They prevent any impairment to the dignity of human life whenever they can. It is this central place of medical treatment in everyday social life that draws me to medicine as a profession.
This paragraph is the centerpiece of the essay: it is the writer’s own definition of what it is to be a doctor. It also shows his passion and vision as a future medical practitioner.
The subtle and strong mechanism of ongoing treatment to help people maintain a normal routine drew me to medicine. As a doctor, I hope to touch people’s lives through effective patient care. I realize that this would be the work of a team of experts who would look into mental health, nutrition, environment, and socioeconomic background. Through ongoing treatment and consultation, people’s lives are enhanced in innumerable ways. The right intervention at the right time has the power to transform what a person is capable of.
I discovered this at Radcliffe Hospital where I volunteered when I met Martha, a 70-year-old patient with severe rheumatoid arthritis. Psychotherapeutic treatment and physical exercises were essential for Martha to help her retain her mobility in the range required for everyday activities. Between her cortisone shots to fight the inflammation and repeated anti-CCP tests, and through her exercises and therapeutic sessions, she managed to find the agility and time to take her grandkids to Disney Park, knit sweaters for herself and her husband, and cook almost every day. Though I found that patients like Martha always looked at their visits to the hospitals as necessary but not enjoyable, when they left with the prescription or with the doctor’s reassurance, their smiling faces showed that their confidence was restored. And that they were ready for yet another phase of normal social life. Restoring happiness by restoring normalcy is the magic of healthcare.
The anecdote of Marth’s rheumatoid arthritis underscores the theme of medicine as a tool for having normal lives–a very compelling and unique argument.
I was also aware that there are people who do not have access to these timely interventions. Perhaps the most significant class difference in society is not between the haves and the have-nots, but rather between those who have easy access to healthcare and those who don’t because healthcare increases our chance at a normal life.
The connections between healthcare and demographics is brought out here.
I can cover 7 miles with ease today, and the scales say that my weight is within range. As I continue jogging, I have my eyes set on the half marathon; the 13 odd miles run reserved for the well-initiated. The training is teaching me the art of goal setting, finding the optimal pace, and staying focused. There are other payoffs as well: fitness, alertness, and most important of all, self-esteem. The treatment has become an expedition, a quest that has transformed me. Is it my persistence that is paying off? Or do I owe it to my doctor, whose accurate and timely diagnosis set me on a path to increased social acceptance, human dignity and a normal social life? As a doctor, I hope to achieve similar transformations in my patients: prescribing the right treatment at the right time and working with them to enable long-range health and happiness.
The paragraph rounds off the essay with a strong statement of personal achievement (the half marathon) and the promise of medicine as enabling normality. By indicating his achievements through persistence, the writer is also stating that he will be as persistent and achieve success in medical school.
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 4
The curiosity essay works well for the AMCAS personal statement. The following example combines the writer’s increasing curiosity about life sciences with the need to fight gender stereotypes as a female science student.
In a classic case of reverse psychology, I tended to pursue the hard sciences in high school, an area that I was told would be dominated by men. Somehow, the laws of nature fascinated me, but the stereotype that “normal” girls did not pursue science led to varying reactions amongst my friends, ranging from awkward silence whenever I discussed science to outright avoidance by the all-boys science majors. Yet the mysteries of the universe and the scientific explanations for several of them enthralled me.
In college, I had the opportunity to understand the nature and properties of the things around us: by measuring the heat capacity of water, I understood why the seas don’t heat up as quickly as the sand on the beach; by exploring the ability of light to accelerate certain chemical reactions, I understood the reasoning behind the instructions on pickle bottles that ask us to keep them out of sunlight. The incredible satisfaction I felt when an experiment succeeded fed my fascination. At the same time, the rigor of scientific methods made me realize that it was very important to be thorough and exact in my experiments, observations, and conclusions.
After describing the natural curiosity in detail, the essay shows how that curiosity changed into a sense of urgency which the applicant is alert to when attending to patients. Notice key phrases such as ‘saving lives’ and’ passion’ which indicate this transformation.
That fascination took on a sense of urgency when I witnessed reports from bloodwork for patients at Amity Hospital. As a volunteer, I was not allowed to even touch the hypodermic needles, much less the surgical scalpel that nurses and surgeons wielded with such dexterity. Yet the connections between saving lives and scientific processes showed me my true calling: medicine. As my own interest took shape, I started to actively seek opportunities in the hospital’s small dementia ward. Short-term hospitalizations for dementia were peaking, and there was a need for additional help, so I could find plenty of ways to work in the ward. Simultaneously, I picked advanced electives in neurological science in college, and the shuttling between my academic work and my volunteer work became the perfect way to explore my new passion.
The next paragraph takes up the example of Brad, a dementia patient. The anecdote is told in a way that only a close observer or volunteer can.
But it was not until I helped Brad, a vigorous octogenarian who suffered from dementia that I realized the importance of medicine today. Brad had started misplacing things when going through an emotionally stressful period of his life when his wife had passed away. But the forgetfulness had stayed. Even after a year, he forgot to take the keys out of the front door, left the stove on, and even forgot to walk his dog sometimes. His treatment included a strict diet to reduce his cholesterol and daily exercise–his neighbors were keeping a tab on his activities. We assessed his progress every six weeks, but his sometimes risky behavior was alarming. We also saw symptoms of sundowning as he sometimes wandered off during his visits and had to be brought back.
In the next two paragraphs of the AMCAS personal statement, the importance of hope and ongoing care despite critical gaps and hurdles and even in deteriorating patients brings out the passion for medicine.
I returned to my coursework in Neurology and Cognition every day after watching Brad for over four months, and as I tried to incorporate the demographic elements that require attention in any treatment in my academic work, I realized that with an aging population, neuroscience faces increasing challenges in improving our understanding of memory, recognition, and cognition. Yet, thankfully, age is not the only factor, and there were means to slow down the disease for certain individuals. I hoped that Brad would be in that group.
But there were others who were beyond help and had to be kept from harm. For these inpatients, independent living was rapidly becoming a dream, and they could not even be discharged with some assistive technology to help them remember or do the right things. As we struggled to deliver care, the gaps in the information we needed, in the research that depended on that information, and in the treatment plans were reminders of the limitations we faced. However, we tried our best to do what we could to help patients.
The shift from curiosity to the personalization of treatment is a key shift in this essay’s theme. It is central to the argument that the applicant is convinced that medicine is the best career option for her.
The ability of science and scientific research to improve life draws me to medicine. But it is not just the science, or just the research. The personalization of treatment by knowing patients closely and monitoring their health over time will be the greatest challenge and will bring the greatest reward. That is what fascinates me most about medical practice: the tweaking of an earlier prescription, a change in treatment or even the protocol, the keen interest in patient wellness–these ongoing and tireless efforts by doctors, nurses, and surgeons validate the science. I feel particularly thrilled when the doctor makes a change in the treatment plan because a patient shows signs of improvement. In common approaches to mental health, all we have are signs and symptoms that show us an underlying improvement or deterioration.
As I continue my coursework and volunteering, I have become keenly aware of the need for customized and nuanced treatment plans. Our scientific foundation is one of several elements that impact total patient outcome; the others are ongoing monitoring and understanding each patient’s unique circumstances, lifestyle, and habits. As a future neurologist, I will bring this passion for understanding patients and for personalizing the science to each individual’s needs to my practice.
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 5
The dilemma personal statement is rarer and perhaps harder to pull off. But when done right, it can really make an applicant stand out. The applicant is torn between engineering and medicine in the beginning.
Wheeling patients in and out of their rooms at Dr. Faruk’s clinic did not strike me as an activity that would end in an epiphany, but that is exactly how my daily routine ended one day.
As a high school student, I had gravitated towards the physical and life sciences equally. However, I was in a quandary about which stream within the sciences would be my calling. On the one hand, Physics and Mathematics were compelling examples of the transformative power of engineering. On the other, the personal interest that is involved in patient care drew me to medicine.
The interim compromise through a major in Biotechnology is described next.
To continue to understand my options, I chose Biotechnology as my undergraduate major. For many, the sub-specialties of the field were sufficient pointers to what they wanted to do. For some, research careers in biotech labs were attractive. For others, medical equipment design and manufacturing became the area they sought expertise in. I, however, continued to be divided. After classes in Bioinformatics, Medical Devices, Cell and Molecular Engineering, I spent my evenings volunteering and shadowing at various hospitals, hoping that through these experiences, I would understand what interested me the most.
The quest for the right field shows the applicant as one who perseveres to find what he wants to do.
As I continued to explore options, I realized that what I was looking for were intersections between the several sciences. However, it was as if engineering and medicine were on the opposite sides of my chessboard, with no overlap. My quest for intersections left me without a solid plan for my own future as I vacillated between the choices available to me.
The epiphany that resolves the dilemma mentioned earlier is described next.
Almost as a last resort, I started volunteering at Dr. Faruk’s family medicine practice. Little did I realize that my interactions with patients and with him would help crystallize my aspirations while helping me reflect on my own preferences. Working in the patient transportation department, I accidentally discovered the intersections that I had been looking for. How does mobility–a physical event–improve patient health? This led me to further questions that related to Physics as much as to Biology: what does weight have to do with the prognosis of type 2 diabetes? How much can advances in computer science improve our ability to screen and diagnose medical conditions?
I realized that both computer science and the health sciences advance through synergies, and this made my need to choose a career that much more challenging and interesting. While I was thrilled when I interacted with patients, I was equally astounded by the technological advances that benefit us in so many ways. To gain further insight, I approached Dr. Faruk and asked him for advice. To my surprise, he admitted to having had similar doubts himself. I pressed further, and he explained that he had initially considered a position in engineering. Ultimately, he chose medicine because he was more satisfied when he helped others directly. He urged me to think of my career choice as a deeply personal one not influenced by what others were doing.
The dilemma leads to personal growth as seen below, when the applicant stops seeking answers but rather learns to explore.
What had initially been a feeling of dread at not being able to choose a career changed into an open-minded inquiry into the myriad problems each science seeks to solve. My self-doubts gave way to curiosity–a trait that I had frequently seen in Dr. Faruk himself. While I had previously felt that time was running out and that I had to make a decision quickly, I now took time to reflect and research several areas of science.
The next section answers the key question, “why medicine?” by talking about the personalization of science.
Slowly but surely, I started to spend more time understanding patient conditions, the treatment, the progress and the routine checks. I understood that while the science helped me analyze each patient’s condition, speaking with patients and their families gave deeper insights into how to manage the treatment. I remember in particular Mark, a 40-year-old patient who had to have a kidney stone removed. He was in excruciating pain, and we had to work quickly and refer him to a surgeon. Mark was a security guard at a well-established company that provided comprehensive healthcare to all its employees. As I spoke with him and his wife, I understood the different shifts he worked in, the long commute to work, and his sedentary lifestyle. I understood that patient care has to be holistic and for that, patient communication was vital to understand each patient’s unique situation.
Interestingly, the dilemma is resolved but leads to another smaller dilemma, one that remains unresolved and which shows the applicant’s willingness to continue to explore options.
When I realized that I enjoy interacting with people more than with machines and algorithms, I discovered that my career had to be medicine. To be certain, I tried to imagine the sub-specialty that would sustain my interest for a lifetime–the way family medicine sustained Dr.Faruk. When I asked him how he had made his career decision, I did not realize how powerful his words would be in helping me think through my career. He said, “you’ll just know what feels right, and as time goes on, you may view things differently.”
His words helped me identify my career aspirations and encouraged me to be open-minded to future changes within my career choice. Thanks to Dr. Faruk’s advice, I know that I am making the right choice for the right reasons: I like helping people and making a difference in their lives. What field specifically? I don’t know yet, and I don’t need to know. I’ll view things differently with time, and this will shape my aspirations.
How International Medical Aid Can Help
Providing guides for different aspects of the medical school application process is just one of the many things we do here at IMA. We also offer medical school admissions consulting (including dedicated personal statement reviews) and pre-medicine internships to help you prepare for medical school. Our consulting services mirror that of traditional admissions committees.
Our award-winning Pre-Medicine Internship Programs are like no other, taking you to underserved populations in countries within East Africa, South America and the Caribbean. We are here to help you in any way we can as you progress in your journey to medical school. It’s a long, difficult road, but the passion for medicine makes it all worth it. We’ll be here if you need help on your journey.
While you’re here, check out some of the medical schools we’ve covered here on our blog.
- California University of Science and Medicine
- UC San Diego Medical School
- California Northstate University College of Medicine
- Touro University of California
- CHSU College of Osteopathic Medicine
- UC Davis School of Medicine
- Harvard Medical School
- UC Riverside School of Medicine
- USC Keck School of Medicine
- UT Southwestern Medical School
- Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio
- University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine
- UT Austin’s Dell Medical School
- UTMB School of Medicine
- McGovern Medical School at UT Health
- Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
- McGovern Medical School at UT Health
- The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
- UNT Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine
- University of Houston College of Medicine
- Texas A&M College of Medicine
- Johns Hopkins Medical School
- Baylor College of Medicine
- George Washington University School of Medicine
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
- St. George’s University School of Medicine
- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (in Pennsylvania)
- Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University
- Wake Forest University School of Medicine
- Western University of Health Sciences (in California)
- Drexel University College of Medicine
- Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago
- Georgetown University School of Medicine
- Yale School of Medicine
- Perelman School of Medicine
- UCLA Medical School
- NYU Medical School
- Washington University School of Medicine
- Brown Medical School
Good luck from IMA! We believe in you.