This is the part of a series of blog posts where members of the 6med team attach and comment on their own medicine personal statements. Ali (one of our co-founders) applied to study Medicine at Cambridge, Imperial, UCL and Kings, and received offers from Cambridge, Imperial and Kings.
Please be aware that these examples are meant purely for the sake of inspiration, and should absolutely NOT be used as a model around which to base your own personal statement. UCAS have a rather strict system that detects plagiarism – more details can be found here: https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/filling-your-application/fraud-and-similarity
Personal Statement and Comments
Standing in theatre for seven hours during a triple bypass surgery made me appreciate the resilience and tenacity required to be a successful doctor. The level of focus and adrenaline flowing through the room was tangible, as the surgical team worked calmly through every complication that arose, stopping only when the final stitch was sewn. This display of sheer determination deeply inspired me, and strengthened my resolve to study medicine.
Standard introduction. I opened with an interesting example from work experience – obviously, this kind of introduction means you have to know a decent amount about what a triple heart bypass is, what it’s used for etc.
To gain a better insight into the lives of doctors, I observed ward rounds and clinics in different hospitals. I was struck by the patients’ gratitude towards and utmost respect for the doctors, even when things weren’t going as planned. I was able to contrast the experience with the healthcare system in Pakistan, where I spent a week shadowing both consultants and juniors. Although there was a huge disparity in facilities, I could see that doctors everywhere work towards a common goal, doing everything they can for the patient, with teamwork and communication playing a vital part in that process. I am enthused by the prospect of becoming a part of such a dynamic and stimulating field.
One of the benefits of doing work experience in a different country is that you can always make some interesting comments when you compare/contrast their healthcare system with the NHS. I haven’t specified how many “different hospitals” I visited – the names and numbers of hospitals is pretty irrelevant.
Two weeks spent in a GP surgery (coupled with five years of being a St John Ambulance cadet) highlighted to me the importance of primary care and society’s dependence upon these services. What stood out most was how the doctor was able to explain her observations to the patient in an understandable and relatable manner – a style that I hope to emulate in my own work.
In all honesty, I don’t particularly like this paragraph. It lacks a clear sense of style, but it does name-drop 5 years in St. John Ambulance, which can only be a good thing.
I also volunteered at a special school over the last year, where I taught ICT to mentally and physically disabled young people. Although this was a challenge at times, I learnt valuable lessons in patience and empathy, and the experience was immensely rewarding. I was particularly drawn to, and worked with, a child with autism. He was quiet and reserved, but our various discussions about trivial matters really brought out his personality, which shone brightly in his final presentation to the class. In addition, I have worked at a maths study centre for the past four years, where I enjoy identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses, and working with them over a long period of time. This is another aspect of medicine which I am attracted to – being part of a patient’s life and seeing them progress through treatment to hopeful recovery.
A few points here – firstly, the name of the school is irrelevant, and would have been a waste of words had I included it. Secondly, it’s generally a good idea to mention a specific patient/student, rather than making solely general comments about the experience of working with the patients/students as a whole. Thirdly, working at a maths study centre doesn’t have much of an explicit relationship with Medicine, so it requires a quick sentence to link it back and make it relevant to Medicine.
Being a naturally inquisitive person, I have always been drawn by the allure of science. I am fascinated by the workings of the human body in particular, and recently came across Oliver Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, which introduced me to other mental disorders and opened my eyes to the world of neurology. I find it amazing how even the smallest defect has the potential to alter a person’s entire being, and hope to learn more about this intriguing subject, along with others, at medical school.
The classic technique of mentioning a book that you’ve “read”. I threw this paragraph in because I was applying to Cambridge and Imperial, two universities renowned for their “love of science”. Although interestingly, it was only in my King’s interview that I was actually asked anything about this book/neurology. Obviously, if you’re mentioning a book in your personal statement, you need to be able to talk about it, so be very careful about saying you’ve read something you actually haven’t, or mentioning a really complicated book that you don’t really understand.
Having spoken to many doctors and students, I understand that medicine can be a stressful profession, which is why it is important to find a good work-life balance. I personally enjoy playing tennis and chess, and have also been running my own web design studio since the age of thirteen. This, along with my prefect duties, has really improved my organisation and ability to work under pressure. Finally, I have recently discovered the world of magic and hypnosis, the psychology behind which I find incredibly fascinating. I take pleasure in sharing with people that moment of wonder, and have found that becoming a magician has also improved my confidence and communication skills. After a year of practice, I gave my first public performance at a hospice last month, and am now a regular volunteer there.
Always good to end with a quick paragraph about extra-curricular activities. I think I’ve got a decent, quirky bunch of things here which are all interesting topics of conversation at interviews. I was fully prepared to answer questions about what web design, magic and/or hypnosis had to do with Medicine – if you’re someone (like me) who doesn’t have the classic “I played football at county level” or “I’m a diploma pianist”, it’s helpful to have one or two interesting activities/hobbies that you can talk passionately about.
From watching open heart surgery to caring for vulnerable children, I have really enjoyed the blend of science and human interaction that medicine offers. No other career would allow me to combine my love of science with an inherently caring nature, while making a profound difference in people’s lives.
Standard conclusion. Not reinventing the wheel, just drawing it together in a nice, somewhat cliched fashion.
About the Author: Ali Abdaal
I'm a medical student at Cambridge University, and one of the co-founders of 6med. I created the BMAT Crash Course and Interview Crash Course, and helped code BMAT Ninja and UKCAT Ninja. If you need a hand with anything, feel free to give me a shout!
My decision to adopt the lifestyle of medicine was not the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons—no flashing light bulb materialized above my head, nor did a load of bricks fall from the sky and crush me. Medicine has, for as long as I can recall, been as innate to me as composing drafts of this essay right-handed. The earliest queries about my “grown-up” profession were answered by a matter-of-fact “I want to be a pediatrician. That’s a baby doctor.” I could never imagine doing anything else. I wanted to help people who were sick or injured, and I had an avid curiosity about the workings of the human body.
The “B” volume of my family’s World Book Encyclopedia was nearly destroyed by my small hands repeatedly flipping to the ‘Baby’ and ‘Body’ entries, studying the images in an attempt to comprehend pregnancy and birth while puzzling over how those multi-colored organs fit into my own body. Exploration in comparative anatomy began during fishing and hunting trips with my grandparents—cleaning the fish and animals was just as entertaining to me as harvesting them. I wanted to learn more, so I returned to the encyclopedia shelf. Branching out to ‘Bird,’ ‘Dog,’ ‘Ballet,’ and ‘Painting’ quenched a bit of my thirst for more global information, but I never stopped wondering just how the body worked, what happened if something stopped working, and how to fix it. Throughout my childhood, I believed I knew what medicine was, and exactly why I wanted to be a doctor.
Years later, I find myself standing in a cozy kitchen, watching a hummingbird sip red nectar from a feeder outside the window. I cool the running water. I help my grandmother steady herself on reluctant legs, bend forward, and lower her head into the sink. After getting approval of the water temperature, I wet her thin blonde hair and massage in shampoo. I recall frequent baths in her kitchen sink as a toddler and smile. I condition her hair, rinse and gently dry it. I take her into her bedroom and dress her, recounting years of playing dress-up in her fancy dresses just a few years ago. I reflect on all the changes since then, and am in awe of the power of time.
Polymyositis changed my life. When I was seven, my maternal grandmother’s doctors finally gave a name to the phantom causing her escalating symptoms: frequent falls, chronic weakness, and striking loss of muscle mass. The strong, beautiful, dynamic woman who danced with me in her kitchen as we waited for cookies to bake would never be “healthy” again. My young mind could not grasp the long-term consequences of her disease, but I absolutely did not like what happened next. My grandparents sold their split-level home and built a single story with minimal steps in and out of the house. Grandma couldn’t dance anymore. She stopped driving because her legs were too weak to press the pedals, or change between the brake and gas. I had to help her carry small boxes and open jars. About a year ago, she stopped walking. I have always resented the disease that stole so many active years from her; that will never change. However, observing her decline over the last fifteen years has given me a capacity for empathy that I sometimes take for granted. I have seen the shame-filled countenance of a woman who needs help with something most private, but who is embarrassed to ask. I have cried with her after a painful and frustrating fall, and then helped her get back onto shaky feet. I have read countless pages and pamphlets on alternative healing and experimental methods recommended to her by friends and church members, to help her decide which to try next. Despite this, she has never complained. She has remained my dearest friend, and I simply became her arms and legs. Our roles have reversed in several respects, but our love for one another has not diminished a bit. Caring for her has always felt shamefully inadequate compared to her gifts to me. Every time I end a visit, guilt racks me. I want to do so much more for her, but I cannot. Her solution: I should become a doctor and heal others. It seems my grandmother’s altruism is another precious gift.
Medicine has become more than the dream of a five-year-old who ran to aid classmates injured on the playground. Medicine has become my very purpose—improving the quality of life of as many people as I can, using all the information obtainable. My newfound love of social science, ethics, and public policy has led me to a path that combines clinical medicine with a degree in either Law or Public Health, so I can have a significant impact on as wide a range of people as possible. I want the experience of working with my own patients to identify, solve and prevent health problems, but also feel a duty to assist the entire population through education and advocacy.
As I reflect on the winding path that led me to this juncture, I am reassured that I have made the right choice, if one would call it a choice. My entire life has prepared me for this great endeavor in some form or another. I have taken the courses and done the volunteering, spent months in a research lab, and declared a gut wrenching major. I have struggled, but succeeded, yet I become more excited about my future every day. I will be an excellent doctor. I simply need the opportunity to prove it.