Alright, here you go future medical school applicants. Here it is. My personal statement for medical school, written four years ago.
Strolling down busy, student-filled Rue Mouffetard, I was surprised to turn around and see my friend’s swollen eye as he ran off; he had been punched in the face. Thirty seconds later, his cousin was attacked and pushed against a car. Initially confused and terrified, I sprinted across the narrow street, begging for someone to intervene, “S’il vous plaît aidez-lui!” As a couple of large men slowly approached, my friend was able to escape, and the three men attacking him ran off in the opposite direction.
Throughout high school, I shadowed physicians, volunteered in hospitals, and conducted clinical research, all which reassured me that clinical medicine was my primary interest. Entering the combined program in medicine at the University of Connecticut, my undergraduate education has been focused on a career of ethical medical practice. One of my first “patient and the healer” lessons emphasized that medicine occurs within the larger context of life. This theme was carried throughout my classes, bioethics internships, and human rights conferences, and has become a part of my working framework for medicine, leading to my hope of becoming a physician and ethicist.
After receiving a first place prize for a poster presentation of “Changing Attitudes toward Government-Funded Universal Healthcare” in 2007, I enrolled in a University of Pennsylvania course focusing on society’s role in shaping the use of medical technology, and in turn, technology’s role in changing political and social movements in America. One of the single most influential inventions, birth control, has guided the progress of the women’s liberation movement. As a woman entering a scientific field, this knowledge led to my participation in the alternative break, “Women, Children, and Political Action.” During this trip, it became clearer that anyone can be the target of intentional or unintentional discrimination.
As president of Hillel and a member of UConn Interfaith, I have seen many instances of religious discrimination and abuse. With a minor in religion, I have also learned about the tenets of various religious beliefs and attended religious celebrations like Diwali and Nourouz. During this time, I learned that discrimination falls under an umbrella of complex unethical behaviors, which have plagued all fields, medicine included. At Georgetown, I conducted research on the Catholic view of withdrawing nutrition from patients in persistent vegetative states. This research ultimately led to my publication in the Penn Bioethics Journal and my presentation at Sinai Scholars Symposium at Princeton University. Slowly, I became more enveloped in the intricacies of science and ethics.
After interning at the Abramson Lab and taking two honors genetics courses, I investigated my interest in genetics as I interned at Yale. I contacted a pediatric geneticist who allowed me to shadow him as he examined children, trying to find what genetic mutation caused their phenotypic disease. During a pregnant woman’s genetics consultation, she had been informed of an increased number of repeats on her FMR1 gene. The main concern was that her grandchildren, the potential children of this fetus, might develop Fragile X syndrome. In my presentation, I asserted that the potential affliction of a grandchild should not be considered in the evaluation of whether to continue with a pregnancy. As I listened to the other presentations on topics such as bioethics and Nigeria, I gained further awareness of the global issues of bioethics.
Similarly, my experiences abroad opened my mind and challenged my perception of normal medical care. While in Salamanca, Spain I embraced the culture and language, visited medical institutions, and learned about Spanish bioethics within the global context. Ever since, I knew that I had to return to Europe, both for the cultural and educational opportunities. This past semester, I lived the life of a Parisian as I interned at UNESCO, where I edited the international guidebooks on human dignity and benefit and harm, while learning about bioethics in the most international of forums. During my experience in France, I found that truly unexpected events serve as the best measuring stick for one’s aspirations. Even a singular tragic event fortifies the need for sagacious ethical deliberation. Medical immediacy is first and foremost; however, the interminable ethical ramifications of base acts cannot and will not be ignored.
Concerned, I rushed to the cousins’ apartment, where I washed their wounds and checked for signs of serious injury. I assuaged their feelings of humiliation, fear, and emotional anguish. We found out that the attackers were known white supremacists, assaulting my friends because of their race. Band-Aiding the scars would not have changed the factors that led to the attack, nor prevent them from reoccurring. This event inspired me to attend the Geneva Summit on Human Rights, lobbying against the global epidemic of discrimination. Discrimination is a blatant act; however there are myriad examples of other, even more egregious unethical behaviors that go undetected. I hope to uncover these instances and utilize my experiences to become a humanistic physician and ethics activist.
I revisited the essay after reflecting on my path through medicine, as I am now applying for residency programs. Any guesses, four years later, what field I will be applying for?
Jennifer Chevinsky is a medical student and can be reached on Twitter @jchevinsky. She is the creator and moderator of @BioethxChat on Twitter.
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