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Health Professions Advising

Leslie Bell
Interim Health Professions Advisor
315-859-4338

The Health Professions Advising Office is located on the third floor of Bristol Center.

Personal Statement


Crafting a Message (Part 2)


Theme 1: Why you want to be a doctor

Admissions committees want to know what has motivated you to pursue a career in medicine. When developing this theme, ask yourself questions like: How old was I when I first wanted to become a doctor? What sequence of events led to that decision? Was there a defining moment? Was there ever any uncertainty? Were you inspired by particular person or experience? What kind of doctor do you want to be/in what area or with what community do you want to serve and how does this tie into your motivation?

There are several common ways applicants incorporate this theme into their essay. If you decide to use one of these methods in your essay, here are some things to remember about them:

I've always wanted to be a doctor. If you use this approach, then there are two things you should be aware of. First, it is not enough to simply say you've always wanted to be a doctor and leave it at that. You need to show, not just state, your motivation. It's okay if you truly have always wanted to be a doctor since childhood, but admissions committees will want to if you've tested this decision over the years and approached it in a mature manner. Second, this approach has been done to death by generations of medical school applicants. To avoid the "here we go again" response from admissions officers, you should use an interesting, creative opening to catch their interest. Avoid beginning with a line "I've wanted to be a doctor since…" or your reader might not be willing to read past it.

My parents are doctors. This is another very common approach, and, if not handled correctly, it could be potentially dangerous. Once again, don't let this be the sole reason for you wanting to go to medical school. If a parent truly was your inspiration to become a physician, then describe exactly how they inspired you. Otherwise, you risk sounding as if you're being forced into the profession or that you can't think for yourself. 

Being a patient/having a sick family member made me want to become a doctor. Many people are inspired to become a physician because they or a loved one have had personal experience with an illness or disability. If this is the case for you, then make sure you don't dwell on the sickness itself, don't overdramatize it, and don't lexpress it as your sole motivation. 

Also, while it true that poignant tales of great emotional and personal struggle can provide  strong evidence of your motivation for medical school, such a discussion must be handled with extreme sensitivity and care. Don't try to manipulate the reader's emotions or try to make them feel sorry for you. 

Instead, focus on what about the experience of being sick or having a loved one being sick made you want to become a doctor. How did you grow as a person due to this experience? What did you learn from being a patient or having someone close to you being a patient with regard to the medical profession? What about the profession intrigues you? Do you know what goes into being a doctor? Have you observed a doctor for a long period of time? Do your research and show that you understand the life of a doctor and you have chosen it for a variety of reasons.

You want to help people. It is common and natural to cite a desire to be help people as being one's motivation for pursuing a career in medicine; after all, that's exactly what doctors do. But, remember: actions speak louder than words. It is not enough to simply say you want to help others. You must be able to point to the specific activities you've engaged in that demonstrate your sincere desire to help. Moreover, explain why you have chosen medicine as the specific profession through which you will help people as opposed to all the other possible career paths through which you could accomplish the smae goal.
 

The dual nature of medicine. Many are drawn to medicine because it combines both science and humanism. If this is what motivated you to become a doctor, then be specific about what you mean by medicine's "dualistic" nature and how you've explored both of these sides. Demonstrate your passion for all the facets of medicine that you bring up. 

 

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