The road to obstetrics-gynecology began with my fascination with women's health and has developed through intellectual stimulation, clinical satisfaction, and personal exploration. Prior to medical school, I volunteered and worked in women's health. These experiences led me to medical school, and throughout the classroom years I developed a keen sense that I wanted to further my passion through a career in obstetrics-gynecology. Finally, during clinical rotations I discovered my aptitude for surgery, obstetrics, and preventive medicine.
When I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Molecular and Cell Biology, I found myself with a highly technical degree that prepared me for basic science laboratory work. However, after one summer in an electrophysiology lab, I yearned for human interaction. As a result I took a position with Planned Parenthood to expand clinical and educational services to a clinically underserved area in North Lake Tahoe. Through this experience I created a novel high school family planning curriculum, developed a pregnancy prevention group that focused on the role of young men, and pioneered a mobile women's clinic to deliver health care to underserved women. I thoroughly enjoyed educating women and providing clinical services, but was frustrated by the limitations of my education. The limitations sparked my desire to enter medical school.
During the basic science courses I was naturally drawn towards the pathophysiology of the female reproductive tract. Wishing to apply this knowledge clinically, I became an active member of our school's outreach clinic for women. Once a month, under physician supervision, my colleagues and I provided Pap smears, STI testing, and exams to medically underserved women in the local community. I felt at ease discussing female health and illness with women, and it delighted me to provide services to women who may not otherwise receive medical care. Furthermore, in light of the high rate of cervical cancer in Nevada in comparison to other states I realized the importance of the clinical care we provided. After a few months of offering services, the number of Pap smears escalated and we were informed that the clinic may have to be canceled if we were not able to obtain funding. Based on Nevada's higher than average rate of cervical cancer, my colleague and I wrote and were subsequently rewarded a grant from AOA to secure funding for Pap smears. Obstetrics-gynecology allows me to continue to advocate for women's health and in particular, the underserved.
The summer after my first year of medical school I worked with my obstetrics-gynecology mentor. It was this clerkship that solidified my career choice of obstetrics-gynecology. This experience was my first glimpse into the daily life of a physician in this particular specialty. For one month, I worked along his side and scrubbed into surgeries, awoke in the middle of the night for deliveries, and saw patients in his office. I was constantly stimulated by the diversity of his patients and the variety of venues in which he worked. The opportunity to treat patients throughout their lifespan from adolescence to geriatrics and from puberty to childbirth and through menopause is particularly appealing. His dedication and pure love for women's health was infectious and something I hope to apply to my own practice.
Throughout my clinical rotations my interest in women's health was consistently confirmed. During surgery, I discovered my propensity for skilled procedures and ability for preciseness, but missed the follow-up and personal interactions with my patients. Internal and family medicine interested me intellectually, but I missed the hands-on procedures. During my third year, the obstetrics-gynecology rotation enabled me to combine the technical skills of surgery with the continuity of primary care. It also provided a venue to build trusting, long-term relationships with patients. My long-term dedication to women's health and thoughtful exploration of this career makes me an excellent candidate for residency in obstetrics-gynecology. My energy, leadership, and teamwork capabilities are all assets that I will share as a resident in your program. Thank you for your consideration.
While I can be the queen of procrastination, I feel it is my duty to shake some of you out of denial and into reality: ERAS is coming soon. Very soon. In a few short months you will be applying to residency and the application can be extremely daunting, especially the personal statement. I’m not sure why essays of this nature are so intimidating. Maybe it’s because not all medical students are well versed in language arts, we hate writing, or maybe just the thought of putting ‘who you are’ onto paper brings to the surface formerly suppressed feelings from your dark past (whoa—this just got intense!).
I’m mostly kidding, but to be honest, sometimes when we sit down to write our personal statement we immediately think things like “I’m not that interesting,” or “I haven’t done anything cool in life, I’ve spent most of my time in school thus far.” And that is completely normal. The majority of us haven’t had these pivotal moments in life that shake the ground beneath us and form a new foundation for who we are, and that’s OK! Your personal statement isn’t intended to be a best-selling memoir; it is intended to add another dimension to the otherwise black and white ERAS application full of scores and grades. It is an opportunity to show Program Directors your personality, what motivates you and what you're looking for in a residency program.
While you've probably heard all of this before, you probably have more questions, specific questions, about how to tackle this personal statement (I know I did).
Here are the 7 most important questions answered about your personal statement:
1. How big of deal is my personal statement to program directors?
The 2014 NRMP program director survey revealed that 78% of program directors cite the personal statement as an important factor in deciding which candidates to interview. The average importance was rated 3.6/5. So basically, 78% of program directors think this is important. Now from experience in talking to different program directors and mentors, I have learned that the most important thing is that your personal statement is well organized, well written, with proper grammar, and no red flags…oh… and that it’s ONLY ONE PAGE.
A personal statement typically isn’t the “maker” but it can be a deal “breaker” if it doesn’t have these attributes. That said, if you have a memorable, well written personal statement, program directors WILL mention it, and it will make you stand out as an applicant. If they are on the fence on whether or not to interview you, a personal statement could potentially be the deciding factor. So I guess it is pretty important. Are you surprised?
2. What should I include in my personal statement?
While everyone’s personal statement will be different, all of them should include the following components:
- A catchy introduction to grab the reader
- An overview of your desirable qualities. Word of advice: SHOW, don’t tell. Instead of saying you are compassionate, describe a story from your life that demonstrates your compassion.
- Highlights from your life experience (jobs, extracurricular activities, hobbies) that would help you to be an ideal candidate for <<<whatever>>> residency you are applying to. Pro tip: DON’T REGURGITATE YOUR CV. This is your opportunity to tell people things that aren’t on your CV (do you play chess in the park every Saturday or have you traveled to some amazing places?... Tell us about it!).
- Why you are interested in your specialty. This doesn’t have to be a profound story, but it should be the truth!
- What you are looking for in a residency program. Is a strong procedural curriculum important to you? Is the culture of the program more important?Suggestion: Try to include things you know your programs of choice embody.
- Address any red flags on your application. Did you do poorly on Step 1? Did you take a leave of absence for a long time? Best to just come out and talk about it without being defensive. Show how you have grown from the experience, rather than apologizing for it!
- A cohesive closing statement. Sometimes the first and the last sentence of the statement are the hardest to come up with, but it's worth your time to make it tidy, even if it isn’t profound.
3. What shouldn’t I include?
Avoid any topic that is controversial. Stay away from extreme religious or political statements. It doesn’t mean you can’t say you are an active member of church, but don’t use this as an opportunity to discuss whether or not you are pro-choice. You never know who is going to be reading this, and anything too polarizing can be off-putting for some readers.
Additionally, as stated before, don’t just list your accomplishments straight from your CV. Anything that you include should be in a bigger context (otherwise how is it any different than your CV?).
Lastly, leave out any traces of bitterness, defensiveness or anger about anything that has happened in your life. Everything MUST have a positive spin.
4. How can I make my statement unique?
As evidenced by The Voice and American Idol, it is everyone’s impulse to divulge their “sob story” to help them stand out and garner sympathy with the audience. While it is important to include stories that helped shape you as a person, it is very transparent and cliché to talk about that person you know who died, and how ever since you vowed to ‘save people.’
The best way to make your statement unique is to allow your personality to shine through. Use your words, your humor, and your depth to tell your story. Find a way to show yourself to your reader, and if you do this, your paper will be unique. Start brainstorming ideas as they come to you.
5. Should I have more than one to upload?
In short: absolutely. Especially if you are applying to more than one specialty, it's essential that you have several versions of your personal statement. That doesn’t mean you have to write a whole new one; you just have to tailor it to fit that specialty. If you're applying for a preliminary year, tailor your personal statement to explain how important you feel a solid foundation in medicine is for Dermatology (or whatever) and what you're looking for in a preliminary year.
Furthermore, I found that for the programs I REALLY wanted to interview with, I would upload a tailored personal statement for that program saying something like “I am seeking a Family Medicine Residency position with ABC University program because of their dedication to XYZ.” Just name-dropping their institution demonstrates your attention to detail and interest in THEIR institution. Even if you are an amazing applicant, if a program doesn’t feel you are interested in their specific program, they won’t interview you. It's best to make sure you give those out of state programs some extra attention so they know you are willing to relocate for them!
Lastly, you should know that you can upload as many versions of your personal statement as you like onto ERAS, but be especially careful when uploading and make sure you apply the correct personal statement to each program! Triple check your work! Pro Tip: Use your file names to help you stay organized. Pick a format and stick with it. Ex. PS-JohnsHopkins, USCF-PS, etc.
6. When should I start writing it?
Do I really have to answer this? The sooner the better, people! Get cracking now. You can even begin to think of ideas during your third year as you develop your interests in specific specialties. As ideas come to you, jot them into your phone so you don’t forget!
7. Can/should I get any help with my statement?
Yes. Yes. A thousand times YES! After getting your draft finished, show it to whomever will look at it BUT please remember to take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt and to strongly consider the source. If you have an advisor at your school, ask for their input. Do you have an English Lit friend? Ask them for advice on polishing your essay.
Be careful asking other people applying for help. Sometimes people get weird and competitive and try to give you advice about making their statement more like theirs because they want to feel justified in their own efforts.
Now, it should be mentioned that there are services out there that will “write your personal statement” for you. Aside from the obvious reasons why not to do this, you have to be really careful. Those services don’t know you, don’t know your voice, and often times have very generic ways of putting these statements together. Using a service to help polish your statement, though, is A-OK. Overall, it’s best to stick with getting help from people you know and trust!
So without further ado, get writing!