Monday, April 18, 2005

A little thing called a personal statement

I don't feel like writing anything new or readable tonight, so I'll once again pull from some obscure folder on my computer's desktop a sample of writing from ages past...

Oh, this will serve the purpose. When we apply to residency, we must submit as part of our application the quintessence of self-aggrandizement known as the Personal Statement. I, of course, wrote mine about neurosurgery. So here, for your mirthful perusal, is the personal statement I submitted to 30 residency programs across this great nation of ours. If you read it, WOW! If not, I don't blame you. At least I can cheaply subvert the otherwise ineluctable advance of blogger's guilt this way -- no complicity required on your part.

NS Personal Statement

Unbeknownst to me at the time, when as a teenager I first raced around a track, I began to lay the foundation that would ultimately prepare me for a career in Neurological Surgery. Throughout high school and college, competitive distance running remained an essential component of my life. And though my running career was far from illustrious, marred by injuries and studded by failures, I learned a great deal about myself and gained an uncommon level of perseverance. When I began running I was not especially talented, but over time I developed my endurance by running at times over 90 miles per week. Eventually, I successfully walked on to a top collegiate track and cross country team, in the process learning well that that I could not dictate the innate capacity of my heart to pump or my legs to move, but that I could devote myself wholly to my training, and then run with such abandon as to extract every trace of potential from my genetics. This diligence and dauntlessness has come to characterize my approach to all the endeavors in my life, and will serve as an important asset for embarking upon a career in neurosurgery.

Another lesson I learned from running that prepared me to enter the field of neurosurgery is the importance of teamwork. The runners on a cross country team run for an individual place, and the sum total of their places becomes the team’s overall score; thus each member must perform his absolute best in order that the team as a whole may succeed. Additionally, racing and training have their own team tactics, the most important of which involve simply encouraging and supporting each other in a difficult endeavor. By becoming a dependable team member and supporting my teammates as we all strove for a shared goal, I feel that I learned many skills that will make me a valuable neurosurgery resident.

Thus I feel that my running helped to develop my incipient potential to become a neurosurgeon. Since then, I have honed that potential by becoming a leader in my medical school community, serving as the president of my class for all four years. In this capacity I have often gathered my colleagues together into a cohesive unit to accomplish a shared vision. Perhaps my most successful – and enjoyable – leadership endeavor has been to rally my classmates together to create and perform two “class shows” that gained renown within the medical school. With these activities and others, I believe I have developed leadership skills that will make me a successful neurosurgery resident, and ultimately a contributor to the advancement of the field.

While these past experiences will serve as a foundation for neurosurgery training, the strong interest I possess in the field will serve as my continuing motivation for success. Nothing else in medicine strikes me as more compelling; perhaps that is because, among all the systems of the body, only the nervous system serves as a springboard for philosophy, and contains those essential elements which make us human. Further, the fact that the brain is insuperable from an individual’s personhood makes caring for patients with neurological problems a tremendous responsibility, towards which I feel an innate attraction.

During my 4th year sub-internship on Neurosurgery, I had a particular patient encounter that illustrates my attraction to the gravity of neurosurgery. He was a very young gentleman – in his early 30’s – whose career as a professional athlete had been hampered of late by pronounced headaches affecting him daily. As the days passed the headaches grew worse, so he finally sought care; the MRI that followed from his workup revealed a large right frontal ring-enhancing lesion. After he came to our service and had his lesion resected, the pathology report confirmed what we all feared: he suffered from a glioblastoma. In some people’s eyes, this young man’s example could illustrate the futility of some cases in neurosurgery – performing an operation that at this stage remains essentially palliative in nature, and, as one of my classmates so unceremoniously put it, akin to “polishing the brass on the Titanic.” I, however, look at it differently. This was a man in the prime of his life, who suddenly saw his entire world abolished in a matter of days – and who, were it not for his surgery, would likely have died within weeks. The resection of his tumor clearly did not cure him, but it undoubtedly extended his life by several months, likely even a year or more. Related to this point, Wilder Penfield once explained in a letter to Harvey Cushing, at a time when his sister was dying from an oligodendroglioma he had previously resected, “Simply to postpone death is very much worthwhile, for life when we measure it by weeks and months becomes a very precious thing” (J Neurosurg 95:148-61, 2001). The surgery on this unfortunate young gentleman had similarly given him and his family the gift of precious weeks and months to reconcile his previous worldview with his new reality. Perhaps we were just “polishing the brass” with that operation – but I recognize the nobility of the polishing, the beauty of the shine, and the great privilege associated with maintaining the luster to the very end. Clearly this man had a worse prognosis than many patients treated by a neurosurgeon, but the fact remains that neurosurgeons treat some of the sickest and most vulnerable patients, and thus they participate in not only some of the most painful defeats, but also the most uplifting successes in all of medicine. To help patients at their time of greatest need seems to me to epitomize what it means to be a surgeon, and it remains my primary reason for entering neurosurgery.

10 Comments:

At 7:07 PM, Blogger L said...

wow -- very cool

although just trying to pronounce "oligodendroglioma" would probably kill me...

 
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At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did a very good job on your statement. Just curious...how many programs did you match?

 
At 4:36 AM, Blogger Linda jack said...

Thanks for the helpful information.

 
At 1:53 AM, Blogger john alrebt said...

I have visited so many blogs for finding content to write a personal statement residency, NotRocketScience enlightens personal statement accurately.

 
At 5:04 AM, Blogger Rafael Benitez said...

The important thing to remember is that the residency personal statement is one of the most important parts of your application. Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog Maria Ian.

 
At 2:24 AM, Blogger rolve bhatia said...

Informative blog post on neurosurgery personal statement. I Appreciate your post, you wrote very well.

 
At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Click here said...

This was of the male gender with the major in his particular everyday life, just who immediately witnessed his particular planet canceled within time – and even just who, was the application not even designed for his particular medical operation, should contain kicked the bucket after only one month.

 
At 2:16 AM, Blogger Rafiqul Islam said...

Every day we face some problem.We need much application. So we should know fellowship application help article. I am waiting for your next post.

 

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