We write personal statements when we apply to medical school and residency. They serve as a sort of window to our soul, our reflections and aspirations, our physician vision and mission. I was doing some soul-searching, and I found my medical school personal statement. The following is a snippet from it:
I believe that the purpose of medicine, of the restoration of health, is to remind people of their own mortality and humanity, and those of others. Intricately related to such a recovery is the rediscovery of the preciousness of life, the rediscovery of the hope they had for certain goals in their lives. With renewed health and reestablished hope, people can seek to find projects to work on that will leave positive marks on their lives. The physician’s aspiration is to give his/her all in attempting to enable people to realize their goals: to help them to aim towards a project and to be inspired to live life.
I reviewed what my daily physician activities consisted of and compared it to my personal statements. Not surprisingly, I did not find any of the following in my personal statements:
“I want to spend a lot of my time going back and forth with insurance companies so that they will pay for the tests and treatments I ordered for my patients.”
“My dream is to spend my time clicking boxes on a screen instead of being with the patient in front of me.”
“I look forward to hearing patients call me ‘stupid Dr. Yoo’ and threaten to call the CEO of the hospital if they do not get a specific medication they want prescribed to them.”
After four and half years of practicing medicine in a conventional hospital-affiliated outpatient primary care office and doing my soul-searching, I said to myself, “This is not why I wanted to become a physician.” It was clear to me that I needed to move away from this situation that I never wanted to be in nor want to stay in. The office staff members say to me, “What are we going to do with your patients? They are not going to take it well.” I know a part of me will miss being part of the lives of the patients I have cared for here, but I cannot help smiling because I know that I made such a great decision for myself and thank myself for pursuing my authentic physician life.
I wrote a new personal statement for myself and actually ended up keeping the entire above paragraph from my medical school personal statement because it is still true for me today. Here are a few snippets from other parts of it:
I will heal and inspire others using all of my medical training as well as my interests, skills, and abilities outside of medicine while remaining true to my values and having maximal control over my priorities, projects, and patient care delivery.” “I am definitely going to go on a three-month-long ramen-sushi-hot springs tour in Japan.
Do some soul-searching of your own by digging up the personal statements you wrote for your applications to medical school and/or residency and compare what you wrote then to your current life and career situation. Then write a new personal statement for yourself, one with today’s reflections and aspirations, your vision, and mission that describes your authentic physician life. It may be eye-opening, healing, life-changing for you as it was for me.
Francis Yoo is a family physician turned entrepreneur and is the author of Physician Freedom: Living Your Authentic Physician Life. He can be reached at his self-titled site, Dr. Francis Yoo.
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