SUNY UPSTATE MEDICAL UNIVERSITY - sample personal statement

A part of me has always been drawn to children. Perhaps it is due to my elder sister
mentality that I feel compelled to nurture those around me. Despite my wonderful experiences
working with children in the past, for some reason, pediatrics was not a specialty that I had been
considering upon entering medical school. I did not expect that pediatrics would combine my
passion for medicine and my love for children in a satisfying way. During my first year of medical
school, I was fortunate to involve myself in the lives of some very special people. They made me
realize that a career in pediatrics was in my future all along.
I was lucky enough to be a part of the Miracle Continuity Elective, which paired up students
with women during a high-risk pregnancy. The elective was designed so that we could follow the
mother through term and through her child's first year of life. In return for welcoming us into their
lives, our role as students was to inform these women about proper prenatal and infant care. S.P.
was a single mother working as a home health aid. She lived in a small apartment with her 2 sons,
whose father was incarcerated. I was concerned given her busy lifestyle and many hardships, that
she would have difficulty providing an adequate home for her two sons, and expected baby. As I
developed my relationship with this family, I began to see that although this family was seemingly
dysfunctional to many, S.P.'s sons were well cared for and loved by their mother, grandmother, and
friends. She was also very excited about the baby on the way, and welcomed me into their lives to
enjoy this happy time. Baby A.R. was born in the spring of my first year, and that day will stay with
me forever. I continued to visit the family and observed the love that filled the household. To these
three boys, their hearts belonged to their home, as mine did to my home. The lives of these
children were filled with a nurturing mother and loving family and friends.
My experiences in my pediatric rotation allowed me to see how necessary it is for a child to
be surrounded by love; whether it is from one parent or two, and whether it is in a big city or a small
suburb. Neglected children are in desperate need of proper care. One of my goals as a future
pediatrician is to make sure that whatever place a child calls their home, that it holds a special
place in that child's heart. I am determined to enter pediatrics and to help children and families
grow together and help steer parents in the right direction.
As a pediatric resident, my goals will be to learn and master the diseases and treatments of
pediatric medicine, and furthermore to observe and understand the various child-parent
interactions and family values. It is important we do not place judgment on parents; however, it is
even more important to help those that need some guidance find their way. I am a firm believer in
patient education and advocacy, and when it comes to children, the caretaker becomes my patient
as well. During my residency I look forward to doing electives in child advocacy and child abuse in
order to strengthen my knowledge and gain experience in dealing with these tragic cases. I believe
it is important to incorporate these into the residency since books cannot come close to teaching
what these types of experiences offer.
I now realize that pediatrics has always been in my heart; it merely took me some time to
realize the truth and to follow my instincts. I look forward to entering a profession that can truly
make a difference in the hearts of all children.
“The desire to care for others from the dawn to the twilight of life…” How could my great career dilemma
be resolved by such a simple phrase that sounds more like the words of a poet than that of a soon-to-be
doctor? Yet this phrase perfectly reflects my motivation for choosing a combined residency in Internal
Medicine and Pediatrics.
The quandary began in the middle of my third year of medical school. I had always envisioned myself as a
Pediatrician, and right from the start of my medical education I worked on the children’s ward, eventually
becoming the director of the Pediatric volunteer program. My vocation in Pediatrics was confirmed. My
career interest in Internal Medicine, on the other hand, came as a complete surprise.
The timing could not have been worse. Just a few days before I began the lengthy Medicine clerkship, my
father became critically ill after a severe anaphylactic reaction. With family concerns at the forefront of my
mind, I wondered if I would be able to immerse myself in the Medicine clerkship. As the weeks went by
however, apprehension turned to deep interest. I was intrigued by the stimulating knowledge base, the
complexity of the patients’ medical issues, and the problem-solving nature of the field. Unexpectedly, I
found myself “at home” in the realm of Internal Medicine, despite the fact that it was a long way from the
niche I found in Pediatrics.
For those who know me well, my career dilemma is consistent with my personality. I have always been
multifaceted with diverse interests. Growing up I excelled in both science and dance. People wondered
which field I would pursue, affectionately referring to me as “the dancing doctor.” Although it might seem
incongruous to combine an interest in medicine with the art of dancing, many of the qualities necessary to
succeed in dance parallel those needed in medicine. Both as a dancer and a future physician, I must be
disciplined and dedicated to long hours of work, serve as a flexible team member, and communicate
effectively with many different audiences. As a choreographer I need to envision the overall presentation,
integrating individual steps to create a complete dance. Similarly, as a physician, I must keep in mind the
whole person, while choreographing a comprehensive care plan from individual pieces of information.
In my search for unique learning opportunities I pursued a nine-month elective in the Rural Medicine
Program (RMED), where a student integrates into a family practice office and associated inpatient setting.
My goals in choosing RMED, in place of multiple short-term electives, were to simultaneously learn more
about adult and pediatric medicine, further develop independent learning skills, gain confidence in my
decision-making abilities, and mature in self-assessment. Through this program I gained an understanding of
the importance of continuity of care, the administrative workings of a hospital, and the role of community
resources for patient services. My progression in this elective finds me working as an acting intern on a daily
basis, expanding my ability to function efficiently and effectively as a future Med-Peds physician.
Ultimately, I would like to incorporate my love of learning and a desire to help others into a future career in
academic medicine.
Observers often comment on my strong enthusiasm for life and learning. This innate aspect of my
personality has proven helpful during the most challenging of days. I believe that this characteristic, along
with my self-motivation, tenacity, and intuitive skills will serve me well during the demands of residency
training. After much introspection, I find I continue to be drawn equally to Pediatrics and Internal Medicine.
In essence, to choose one field over the other would be to abandon the dual passions of my life – to work
with both young and old alike ... “from the dawn to the twilight of life.”
Internal Medicine
When I began my third year of medical school, I was unsure what field of medicine I would eventually pursue. I
found each of my clinical clerkships intriguing and unique, but none of them truly sparked my interest. But then, when I
began my internal medicine clerkship, my desire to become a physician was rejuvenated. I remember coming home with
excitement the first day of the clerkship. I had been exposed to patients diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, shigellosis,
angina, and systemic lupus erythematosus. I had seen so many fascinating patients that I could not decide which disease to
read about first. There was not enough time in the day to quench my thirst for knowledge. After seeing the diversity of
problems that an internist deals with, I knew that internal medicine was going to be my chosen profession.
Internal medicine entitles one the opportunity to develop enduring doctor-patient relationships. As a result, a
physician’s advice can make an enormous impact on a patient’s life. During my clerkship, I was assigned to follow an
obese, diabetic patient who presented with hyperglycemia. I helped her realize the importance of keeping her diabetes
under control as well as quitting smoking in order to improve her health and be able to watch her granddaughter grow up.
Thus, I have witnessed the trustful partnership that can develop between a patient and physician. I know that I can make a
difference in people’s lives in internal medicine.
Internal medicine requires its practitioners to be proficient in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients
and their illnesses. It compels a physician to master problem solving since one must apply a vast amount of knowledge to
make an accurate diagnosis. While this can be challenging, it is also fulfilling and rewarding. Because of research, the
ever-changing field of medicine always provides something innovative and appealing to learn. A career in academic
medicine can allow one to work alongside researchers to help uncover the biochemical basis for disease. In addition, the
global scope of internal medicine allows for many opportunities for specialized training in the future, if I choose to do so.
Teaching is an integral part of the medical field. I have had several experiences teaching others. In high school, I
tutored elementary school children and in my senior year of college, I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for an
introductory biology class. During my first two years of medical school, I taught elementary school children about the
hazards of cigarette smoking. As a fourth year medical student, I have taught third year medical students. Whether it is
teaching them how to write a note or how to do a physical exam, I have found these experiences very rewarding. As a
resident, I will be able to continue to teach medical students. The importance of patient education must not be ignored.
Educating patients about healthy lifestyles and about their medical conditions can make a significant difference in their
lives. Thus, in the future, I plan on pursuing a career in academic medicine in order to be able to educate students,
residents, and patients.
Physicians must treat their patients compassionately, listen to their concerns, and act with a good bedside manner.
To be a proficient doctor, one must also be a good communicator and treat his or her patients in an empathetic manner. An
internist must be able to assume the role of a leader when coordinating and implementing the care of a patient. In addition,
through volunteer service, a physician can help improve the health of the community as a whole. Throughout my life, I
have been involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, which exemplify my desire to assist people. I have helped to
lead student panels for both medical school applicants as well as current medical students. I have served as a representative
on many committees in order to improve our medical school curriculum. Additionally, my role as the elected student
representative to the President’s Council has allowed me to better understand and contribute to the administrative, political,
and economic aspects of academic medicine. These experiences illustrate my potential to be a compassionate physician, an
advocate for my patients, and an effective leader. Therefore, by pursuing a career in internal medicine, I believe that I can
help improve the lives of the sick as well as make a difference for mankind.
Growing up in Uzbekistan, a relatively poor republic of the former Soviet Union, I had
never imagined becoming a physician. Such opportunities did not exist for people of our social
and economic background. But like many before him, my father desired a better life for his
children. In the United States, the land of opportunities, for my sister and me that dream became
a reality and a foundation for a successful future was laid. We have brought to this country
ambition, love of freedom, and a hope for a better life. We have also brought our family value
system of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Equipped with a strong moral framework
and having endured life’s challenges, I was able to successfully complete undergraduate training.
As my medical school journey comes to a conclusion, I am ready to enter a residency program
that would lead to a career in neurological surgery.
During the first two years of medical school, I developed special interests in Anatomy and
Neuroscience. But it was not until the middle of the third year that I discovered neurological
surgery. This relatively new specialty offers something unique in medicine - a surgical approach
to neurological problems, the two subjects that grabbed my interest earlier in medical school.
The intellectual and technical challenges of dealing with the central nervous system, the
complexity of the disease processes, and my fascination with being in the operating room have
all contributed to my interest in the field. Whether in a clinic, emergency department, or
operating room, treating a wide range of patients with a broad spectrum of diseases makes
neurological surgery an exciting career choice. Most of all, although at times physically and
emotionally demanding, I found neurological surgery experience at SUNY Upstate Medical
University to be the most invigorating and rewarding of all my medical school experiences.
I consider a career in neurological surgery to be a lifelong commitment to service,
education, and research. Providing state of the art neurosurgical service to patients and
participating in the training of a younger generation of neurosurgeons are my professional goals.
I value the encouragement and support that various neurosurgical societies provide to young
neurosurgeons in their research endeavors and I hope to someday contribute to the field.
Over the past three years I have experienced tremendous personal growth. Medicine was
most certainly an excellent career choice and I feel the same way about neurological surgery. In
addition to my solid medical preparation, as a resident I will also contribute to the program my
enthusiasm, dedication, diligence, and reliability. I anticipate a vigorous training and a
challenging environment in a program where I can acquire knowledge and technical skills to
become a neurosurgeon.
Toward the end of my first two years of medical school, I began to think about which aspects of
a medical specialty would be important to me. I was fascinated by the complexity of human anatomy,
and I enjoyed learning about the pathophysiology of diseases. It was my hope to find a specialty in
which I could apply the intricacies of human anatomy in diagnosing and treating pathology in patients.
I started my clinical years with an open mind, striving to learn as much as possible from each
experience. There were aspects of each clerkship that I found to be attractive, but I was frustrated with
the narrow focus that each presented, concentrating on medical problems, surgical problems, or
specific age groups. My interest was broader in scope; I wanted to find a specialty that spanned all
areas of medicine and surgery.
In the spring of my third year, I spent four weeks completing an elective in Diagnostic Radiology.
After a couple of weeks, I realized that I had found my niche. Radiology is a broad specialty that deals
with both medical and surgical issues in patients of all age groups. I find this comprehensive nature of
the field to be both challenging and intellectually stimulating. As the month progressed, my feeling
that radiology was the right specialty for me grew stronger. I developed an appreciation for the
radiologist's ability to view the body's intricate internal structures using methods that have little or no
invasiveness. These minimally invasive methods continue to evolve as radiology leads the medical
field in the development of new technology to diagnose and treat patients. With a passion for science
and having grown up during the computer age, I am eager to be part of a field that is a pioneer in
One particular experience during my radiology rotation played a pivotal role in my decision to pursue a
career in radiology. The patient was a 29 year-old female who was having flank pain for which an
abdominal CT scan was obtained to evaluate for renal stones. While a moderately sized renal stone
was indeed discovered, there was also an incidental finding of a pancreatic pseudocyst that had begun
to erode into her spleen. The patient apparently had sub-clinical or mild pancreatitis in the past, after
which the pseudocyst developed. This case was an excellent learning experience for me because it
demonstrated how the radiologist's ability to examine the patient's internal anatomy can help make
diagnoses that influence patient care and improve outcomes. The case also reaffirmed my admiration
of the breadth of radiology. The patient was being evaluated for a urological problem, but issues
pertaining to general surgery and internal medicine were discovered and needed urgent attention.
Physicians have many practice opportunities from which to choose. While there are advantages to
practicing in a private setting, I feel that I would get more fulfillment from practicing in an academic
setting. Academic medicine allows physicians to care for patients in an environment that is stimulating
and rewarding. I find it intriguing to be in an academic setting where others are learning and new ideas
are being developed through research. As an undergraduate teaching assistant in Nutritional
Biochemistry, I enjoyed teaching students while having the opportunity to solidify my knowledge of
the subject. It would be rewarding for me to have the opportunity to teach and learn from colleagues,
residents, and students.
I have a strong passion for becoming a radiologist, and I am excited to take the next step in my medical
career. SUNY Upstate Medical University is a superior academic institution where I would obtain
excellent training as a radiology resident. I look forward to meeting with you and discussing the
contribution that I would like to make as a member of the SUNY Upstate Medical University radiology
I was about thirteen when I first realized I had a secret. I was, and am, ignorant of the secret's origin and
final outcome. Nevertheless, even as a proud thirteen-year-old owner I could tell even then that it was something
spectacular. My secret is not tangible. You can neither hold it in your hands nor examine it with your eyes.
However, you can, or at least I can, feel it with the heart. To grab hold and take advantage of my secret's wonders
all that is needed is the key to unlock its splendor. Therein laid the problem. As a thirteen-year-old child, I neither
possessed the key nor knew where to find it. With a curiosity to the secret's contents, I tucked the secret away in a
corner of my heart for safekeeping and began the search.
The first big hint as to the key's location came about two years later. It had been a particularly rough summer
for my grandmother and her heart pains. I had taken her to the hospital's emergency room too much, and in this
instance, too long. She was having difficulties breathing, nothing new, but this visit was different. The doctors
were trying a new medication on my grandmother and the side effects had increased in number and intensity. I
remember her lying perfectly still staring at my mother's face asking God to please take away some of the hurt. At
this moment, my grandmother's pain rubbed off on me.
I was a child who could not imagine it ever hurting that much; a child wondering how to fight something he
could not see nor understand. I was also a child who saw his mother cry in front of him for the first time. As I
watched tears flow from her eyes I was overcome with feelings that by all logic should have been new and
unexplored; yet, they were both warm and familiar. Confused, I looked deep into my mother's eyes searching for an
explanation. What I saw was a glimpse of my secret.
In that brief moment I learned a great deal about life, and something that connected to my secret. I learned to
understand pain and the complex mixture of sorrow and release it brings. I realized how the people around me were
trying each in their own way to help me. Even more importantly, I learned what their efforts, successful or not,
meant. The efforts made by the doctors, nurses, and my family formed a connection between the world around me
and myself. This connection seemed to tug on my heart as if to imply that this is where it belonged. I squeezed my
mother's hand and looked into her eyes to let her know I understood. In so doing, I experienced the satisfying warm
feeling that I am sure those helping me enjoyed. The feeling was incredible, addictive and again familiar. There
was no doubt this was part of my secret.
With each passing year I glimpsed at my secret more frequently. Each time learning, or more appropriately,
becoming conscious of something that it seemed some part of me already knew. For instance, my interest in the eye
began in my second year of medical school during the ophthalmology section of the pathology course. I found the
intricacy and vastly varied pathology of the visual system to be fascinating. This interest led me to pursue
ophthalmology through various electives in the field. Upon completion of these electives, my initial interest in the
eye blossomed into an exciting conviction of the type of physician I wanted to become.
Ophthalmology contains all of what I love about the medical profession: medicine, surgery, treatment of the
old and the young, primary care, and specialized procedures. The chance to combine extensive patient contact in a
clinical setting with the need for surgical precision, attention to minute detail, and aptitude in the most advanced
technology medicine has to offer is a compelling attraction of the specialty. Ophthalmology is also a dynamic field,
with frequent new advances in preserving or improving people's vision. I will enjoy the challenge of keeping up
with new developments and will take satisfaction in contributing to that growth.
It shocked me the first time I came to this realization at how comfortable it felt. There was no hesitation,
simply affirmation that yes, this is who you are. I found my secret's key, or rather, the key found me. As it turns
out, the key was in my heart all along. My mistake was looking with my eyes when I should have been looking with
my heart. My secret is a secret no longer. I have found ophthalmology and ophthalmology has found me.
Orthopedic Surgery
My first exposure to orthopedic surgery occurred during college when my mother
underwent a total hip arthroplasty. She had nearly complete pain resolution and went from
limited to full activity in a short time. Later, in my clinical years of medical school, I realized
these clinical outcomes are usually the exception, not the rule in most fields of medicine. For
these reasons, orthopedics has always appealed to me as specialty where one can actually "fix"
people, the primary reason I want to become a physician. I also had the fortunate opportunity
during college to observe several total hip arthroplasty's while shadowing an orthopedic surgeon.
I was impressed with the tools and the work this surgeon performed. I have always enjoyed
working with my hands, whether fixing up my old fishing boat, working in the yard, or playing
sports. As I watched these surgeries, I thought I would like to do this type of work someday.
Since my childhood, I have had a fascination with how things work. This first revealed
itself with my constant disassembly of every toy I owned, and later with my interests in physics
and biology. I majored in biochemistry at Cornell, and through an introductory course in protein
structural biology taught in an entirely three dimensional environment, I became fascinated with
structure-function relationships. Many aspects of orthopedics such as biomechanics and fracture
patterns are intimately tied to structure-function relationships, and I continually find them
intellectually stimulating. This interest led me to do research in structural biology at Cornell and
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center during college.
After graduation, I accepted a research assistant position with the department of orthopedic
surgery at SUNY Upstate Medical University where I was involved in developing a model to
study steroid induced osteonecrosis. Part of this study included collecting bone marrow samples
from patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty. I enjoyed both the research and the operating
room environment, and this experience furthered my interest in orthopedics.
During my pre-clinical years of medical school, I enjoyed anatomical dissection and
pathology, both of which require understanding through anatomical relationships - a way of
thinking which comes naturally to me. I continued to pursue my interest in orthopedics during
my second year by working on a clinical research project studying palliative therapy of renal cell
metastases to bone, a project I am still working on. As I began my clinical years, I tried to keep
an open mind to each field I was exposed, but none have yielded the same intellectual, physical,
and emotional satisfaction as orthopedics. This was confirmed during my acting internship
where each day I looked forward to spending time in resident teaching conferences, orthopedic
clinics, and the operating room.
I enjoy the academic environment and plan to pursue a career in academic medicine as an
orthopedic surgeon where I can continue to practice medicine through surgery, research, and
teaching. For these reasons, I am seeking a residency program which provides both excellent
instruction and surgical variety so I can become the best orthopedic surgeon that my abilities
allow. Finally, I am seeking a residency program that emphasizes resident teamwork and
teaching, and also has opportunities available to become involved in research, both clinical and
orthopedic-based basic science.
Radiation Oncology
My goal is to pursue a career in radiation oncology at an academic institution where I can treat a diverse patient
base. I was introduced to the field during a research project after my first year of medical school. In addition to
learning about radiation oncology, I learned valuable skills on how to conduct research; skills I want to share with
other medical students. However, my decision to pursue radiation oncology is not solely academic. I have found
caring for cancer patients, those seeking either curative or palliative therapy, the most rewarding experiences of
my clinical rotations.
As an undergraduate, I enjoyed the challenge of optimizing DNA delivery into cells using varying forms of
polymers and silica nanoparticles. I found basic science experiments rewarding, and after my first year of
medical school I pursued clinical research in orthopedic oncology. It was during this experience that I had my first
exposure to radiation oncology. While investigating the effects of various cancer therapies on bone mineral
density, I learned how whole body and cranial irradiation had the potential to cause osteoporosis. At the same
time, I was impressed by the variety of solid pediatric tumors treated for a cure with radiation, a therapy
previously unfamiliar to me. The balance between therapeutic benefit and toxicity was intriguing, and I began to
realize the depth of this field. In addition to learning about radiation oncology, I honed my research skills by
retrospectively evaluating a synthetic bone graft used in the treatment of benign bone lesions. By critically
reviewing the literature, I was able to formulate a hypothesis and develop specific radiographic criteria to
evaluate the time course of bone graft healing. Through the process of getting this study accepted for
publication, I have learned how to conduct research meaningful to patient care.
Realizing what I have gained from my own experiences, I believe that other medical students can benefit from
becoming more involved in the research process. I proposed and developed a research symposium for medical
students through AOA. Currently, I am applying my experience in podium and poster presentations to teach
medical students methods to present their own work. Working with these students has solidified what I felt in
college when I was a biomedical engineering teaching assistant. I enjoy the teaching process and helping others
learn. I have attained other teaching opportunities as well, as I have been selected to help teach courses in
anatomy, physical examination skills, and neuroscience during my fourth year.
Although I enjoy research and teaching, the reason I choose to pursue medicine was a drive to personally
administer therapies to patients, not just be a biomedical engineer who develops them. I explored my clinical
interests immediately upon arriving at medical school by volunteering at a clinic downtown for the local uninsured
population. These clinical interests became focused on cancer after my second year of medical school, when my
aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through our frequent conversations I learned more about the patient
care aspects of radiation oncology, thus expanding my previous interest that began during my research. I was
impressed with how close she became with her radiation oncologist, and was thus exposed to the larger picture
of the personal interactions between radiation oncologists and their patients.
I have since sought the opportunity to treat cancer patients on various clinical services to learn how they benefit
from radiation therapy. While on the medical service, I assumed responsibility for the care of Mr. D, a patient
recently afflicted with severe hip pain. During his diagnostic work-up, we determined his discomfort was due to a
bony metastasis from a primary lung tumor. I was the one responsible for giving him the news of his diagnosis
and prognosis. Although challenging, I strove to break bad news with the goal of preserving hope, be it for cure
or symptomatic relief. I followed his evaluation by radiation oncology, and soon after his treatments started he
gratefully told me he could walk without pain once again. Rather than dwelling on his overall prognosis, he
instead focused on the benefits of his functional recovery. During my radiation oncology electives, I have been
impressed with the quality of life improvements radiation can offer, whether they are through palliative or curative
therapy. Regarding the treatments themselves, the technological aspects of radiation oncology have stood out
above all medical fields in appealing to my interests in physical sciences. I have found that radiation oncology
offers all I am looking for in a career: patient care, exciting new technology, and extensive research
opportunities. This fall I will conduct research to retrospectively study patients treated for Pancoast tumors, which
will compare the survival, local control, and side effects between those treated with surgery alone versus those
given chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed by surgery.
I intend to pursue a radiation oncology residency at an academic institution where I will have the opportunity to
treat a broad patient population. There I plan to continue my involvement in teaching, as well as participate in
basic science and clinical research that contributes to the knowledge base of the field. I find cancer patients'
often positive outlook and drive to fight their disease inspiring, and I am looking forward to a career dedicated to
their care.