Prompt: Provide a personal statement describing why you want to be a doctor.
There is a longstanding virtue that calls for duty and respect towards elders. The ancient Romans called it 'pietas', and Catholicism even heralded it as their fifth commandment . I was no stranger to this virtue. My household embodied filial piety, and, as a child, I watched my mother and father tend to their parents with tenderness. I helped too by administering bandages and kisses . While listening to an account of my grandparents' lives and seeing their faded sepia photos in war-torn Burma, I discovered the joy of serving as a caregiver and developing genuine relationships. From this cultural obligation, there blossomed a visceral interest in the lives of my loved ones.
Concurrently, I developed an interest in science. "How did they get to this condition?" To understand the possible answers to this question, I found myself inquiring about the complexity and fragility of the human body. What began as an investigation into family illnesses soon evolved into a scholastic journey into medicine. As a physician, I want to provide meaningful care while considering the unique social, economic, and cultural circumstances of each patient.
In college, I engrossed myself in classes to see how biological functions could betray our body . With each course, I delved deeper into understanding the fundamental basis of disease at the molecular level. My academic career culminated in a human disease class when I learned the molecular basis behind my grandparents' dementia and pancreatic woes . The enthusiasm in solving my age-old questions paralleled feelings of fulfillment in being able to provide my family with answers. Slowly, I transitioned from learning and comprehending information to synthesizing and analyzing data .
In Dr. B's lab, I studied anthrax infection in Drosophila. Despite the disconnect between bacterial infection and my family's hereditary woes , this research allowed for my continued pursuit of understanding the mechanistic, molecular authority behind diseases. Somewhere between making fly food and analyzing the Christmas-colored stains of fluorescing proteins, I realized I was now a part of the efforts towards scientific discovery. I also relived things I read in books. While not as beautiful as snapdragons, there was a systematic beauty in rediscovering Mendelian inheritance within each fly cross. I loved research but realized it was missing the human interaction I grew up cherishing.
At Pomerado Hospital, I worked closely with patients undergoing endoscopy procedures. In between monitoring vitals and polyp removals, I observed doctor-patient interaction. Once, Dr. L. allowed me to explain the intestinal system to his patient; somewhere between mentioning 'duodenum' and 'microvilli', I was greeted with a blank stare. Dr. L. intervened: drawing analogies to a recycling facility, he illustrated a complex concept and salvaged his patient's interests while encouraging further questions. I learned that in order to maintain effective communication, physicians must always be conscientious of how they convey messages to their patients.
From my time with physicians like Dr. L., I saw there was much to learn. The cardiologists taught me how to listen for lung sounds in CHF patients. The gastroenterologists guided me to tenderly palpate the abdomen of a young adult. The geriatricians showed me the resonating effect of soft skills like compassion and conversation, and explained the social and ethical challenges surrounding end-of-life care.
Outside the hospital, I continued to learn about medicine's broad reach. After hearing our aunt had suffered a stroke, my sister and I offered support. It was an easy choice to make, knowing that- without insurance or family, our aunt was facing this ordeal alone. Together, we donned new roles as caregivers. As we toiled through paperwork for insurance, we worked with our aunt to regain control of her limbs. In between stretches and walks, I listened as she shared her life in Burma, her fears, and her aspirations to once again cook. I was overwhelmed, feeling inadequate and uncertain of our routine. Hearing her stories, however, gave me the confidence to set aside my own anxiety and focus my energy on helping her reach each goal.
Receiving Medi-Cal brought immense relief along with new roles. At the neurology clinic, I served as my aunt's advocate, drawing on my academic background to ask pertinent questions. Through our cultural and social bond, I learned to translate, as Dr. L. did, the science-laden messages into something meaningful to her. The stages of her recovery highlighted the medical struggles with which people in culturally diverse and financially compromised positions must contend. Whether I am helping my aunt or mentoring disadvantaged children and families, I recognize the potential and limitations of my role in serving to facilitate access to information and available resources to surrounding communities.
From my time with family, patients, and doctors I have grown to value both the stories told by patients and those told by their bodies. The desire to understand the patient as a whole motivates me to pursue a career as a compassionate, effective physician. As I explore new opportunities, I am confident the lessons I learn will continue to shape me into the kind of advocate I admire.