Friday, July 30, 2004

MEDICAL SCHOOL DRAFT POST #4: Minor alterations after talking to the parents. No, this isn't a cheap attempt to UP~! my POSTRATE~!

My application to medical school requires a bit of explanation, in particular three qualities of mine that could be considered nontraditional. First, medicine was not my first career choice. Coming out of high school, I wanted to be a writer, so I earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing. As it turned out, I am not well-suited to the lifestyle a writer needs to become successful, particularly the isolation required to sit and type and create and recreate. As I have no interest in teaching writing, I needed to find something else. Second, I am a bit older than the average medical school applicant, as a result of having started in a different career path. At 29 I am young in relative terms, but compared to most of my fellow applicants I am positively ancient. Third, I am the son of a physician, my father. I am aware that, as a class of people, the children of physicians who become physicians have a certain set of stereotypes associated with them: that they don't work as hard, that they feel entitled to their positions, that they do not appreciate what they're doing the way physicians from non-medical families do.

These three aspects could be considered deficits in terms of application, but I believe they are all assets in their own right. The ability to write, for example, has wide application within the field of medicine. Physicians write orders, professional correspondence, scientific papers, hospital notes, and so on; the flow of information around the hospital depends on the effective verbal communication of physicians. The ability to write, and write clearly, would be an asset at every level of patient care. In regard to my relative lack of youth, there is something of a tradeoff. My relatively older mind is not quite the pliant vessel its younger version was, ready to be filled with the theory and practice of medicine. But in losing that, I have gained wisdom and experience of a type unavailable to those who have spent most of their lives as students. I have (to put it bluntly) lived in the "real world" and since most patients live there as well, I think I have an edge in terms of how I relate to them. And the fact that my father is a physician suggests that I know exactly what I'm getting into. I know the demands it places on your time. I know about the calls in the middle of the night, the rising early in the morning, the struggles to keep a practice afloat. I think this suggests a certain level of commitment to the profession. You can't say I haven't been warned.

What I want to suggest is that, though I am a nontraditional applicant, the breaks I have made with tradition are ones that make me a good candidate for medical school. I have not always thought this way. It is safe to say I have grown into the idea of being a physician. Medicine has always been a part of my life and not just for the obvious reasons. For most of my adult working life I have been employed in the office building of my local hospital, doing the sort of low-skilled cubicle-based labor a bachelor's degree in creative writing prepares you for. In the process I have been exposed to a number of medical students, residents, and attendings. I have been impressed by their intellects, their devotion to the art of medicine, and their ability to effect real, positive change in the lives of their patients. Working where and with whom I did, the goal of becoming a physician began to seem more tangible to me. Moreover, it seemed the kind of career I could enjoy doing, though what specialty appeals to me most I cannot say.

There just seems to be so much opportunity in medicine, if you're willing to work for it. I find psychiatry inherently interesting, though I am not sure I would enjoy it in practice. Infectious diseases as a specialty sounds fascinating, and seems the closest to the type of theoretical biology I am studying in school right now. I love the idea of the family practitioner, jack of all trades, master of none, working out there on the frontlines of medicine. I'm sure other specialties will appeal to me as I learn more about them. The medical degree opens up so many options for someone willing to be industrious, able to relate to people in need, and committed to the high standards of the profession. It is my belief I can live up to all those qualifications, and I hope my academic record and personal history provide strong evidence that I am a good candidate for the medical degree.

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