As I was making my final decision on my career path I tried to write several personal statements for different specialties. The one that was the easiest and most enjoyable to write was the one I wrote for internal medicine. I found that there were lots of stories I’ve gathered during my third year rotation in internal medicine that resonated with me and affirmed my determination to become a physician.
I felt that my personal statement reflected on the “professionalism” competency as my initial story demonstrated my personal struggle between social stigma and maintaining professionalism by growing out of fear. I’m happy that I was able to stay respectful and compassionate and grow as a professional.
I plan on continuing this competency by being an honest, kind and respectful health care provider throughout my medical career.
“Who are you?”… “I’m the medical student working with the internal medicine team. It’s nice to meet you.” On my first day of my internal medicine rotation I was assigned a unique patient. He was a prisoner with a fever, melena, cellulitis and signs of acute kidney injury. As I walked into the inmate’s room—no doubt looking very nervous—I quickly introduced myself. Wasting no time, I took a brief history and proceeded onto my physical exam. His right leg was visibly inflamed and swollen, with pus seeping from a superficial wound. His foley catheter had minimal amounts of urine and he exhibited costovertebral angle tenderness. On a rectal exam, the melena was apparent by sight and smell. I began to formulate a list of hospital problems, and with the help and guidance of my attending physician and residents, we created a treatment plan. Each day as I visited my patient, I began to see the positive effects of our treatment. His wounds were healing. As I measured the amount of lower extremity edema with a measuring tape, I found the swelling had decreased dramatically in a matter of days. He began to have adequate amounts of clear, yellow urine, and he had multiple days without a fever. Even his melena resolved! However, the best part was that I grew to know this patient as a person. He was a proud father of two grown children: one a kindergarten teacher, the other an engineer for the Navy. He enjoyed a close relationship with his father and his hobbies included fixing cars and playing guitar. I learned that his prisoner status was not his defining characteristic and that he was like any other patient. Though initially I perceived him as someone to fear, he was just another person who needed help. During this time, I appreciated the opportunity I was given as a medical student to learn about the human body and to have this rare window into someone else’s life.
When I decided to pursue medicine, I was the first in my family to attempt a medical career. My only experience with doctors was conducting research with them or shadowing in college. Still, there were certain qualities I admired about physicians and their practices that drew me toward medicine. I found these were best exemplified in internal medicine. Firstly, I enjoyed the idea of a life-long relationship with patients and pursuing a career with the main principle of helping others. Next, I found the challenging and detective-like process of interrogation (history taking), scene investigation (physical exam), and forensics (labs and imaging) to be thrilling and satisfying. Finally, it appealed to my love of organization and details since everyday I would write notes, make lists, and constantly adjust my patients’ plans until the mystery was solved and a life had been saved.
My extracurricular activities, work experiences, and research further contributed to my interest in internal medicine. Before entering medical school, I had conducted cardiac/radiology research at the Los Angeles Biomedical Institute. I enjoyed viewing the human body through CT imaging and was fascinated by the complexities and inner workings of the heart. In my first and second year of medical school, I worked with a medical oncologist and was able to see the varied manifestations of breast cancer and how medications can become a lifesaver. Then once I started surgery rotations, I found the most interesting and intellectually challenging moments were during pre-rounds and morning rounds where I formulated differentials and interacted with patients. Out of all the avenues of medicine I had explored, I found that internists spent the most time with their patients and provided healing physically, emotionally and socially. I have come to believe internal medicine is the foundation and home base where patients are cared for from the beginning to the end of their hospital stays. I want to become this anchor and support for my patients.
As a future physician, I envision myself as not only an efficient and comprehensive clinician, but also as a caring patient advocate. My ideal practice would focus mainly on clinical practice with some research and teaching opportunities. During my free time I envision myself volunteering in free clinics or participating in medical mission trips to help those in need. So who am I? Simply, I am a doctor-to-be who wants to be a friend and guide for my patients through this ever-changing healthcare system.