Major Essay: Personal Statement: AMCAS Prompt: III. Personal Comments Consider and write your Personal Comments carefully; many admissions committees place significant weight on this section. Some questions you may wish to consider while drafting this essay are: Why have you selected the field of medicine? What motivates you to learn more about medicine? What do you want medical schools to know about you that has not been disclosed in another section of the application?
I would like to introduce you to a very special friend of mine named "Lumpy". He isn't much to look at; his head is made from a special effects silicone product alled 'Dragon Skin' and houses several balloon catheters which simulate cancerous nodes in the mouth and neck. Lumpy also lacks a body. You see, Lumpy is actually a medical device, the result of my belief that there had to be a way to detect oral cancer in people before it was too late. The idea of Lumpy was sparked after I read a rather startling statistic while waiting in the lobby of my dentist's office: 85% of the people suffering from oral cancer are diagnosed when the tumors are considered 'late-stage' and have progressed beyond the point of medical aid. The article continued on to state the mortality rate of oral cancer is higher than that of cervical cancer, cancer of the brain, liver, kidney, or malignant melanoma. I was rather taken aback by this, knowing that oral cancer treatments are typically 80% effective when discovered early and detecting unnatural lumps in the mouth seems straightforward. After probing a bit further, I finally uncovered the root of the problem: oral cancer detection training was practically non-existent in dental schools across the country. These facts were difficult for me to fathom . . . How could a malady be so treatable, yet completely ignored? I decided to investigate the possibility of creating a cancer model; a device that would mimic various stages and types of oral tumors and could be used to train dental students and physicians in early detection methods. I took it upon myself to fabricate such an instrument, and thus Lumpy was born. In order to make Lumpy as life-like as possible, I worked with a dentist who specialized in geriatric lymph carcinoma. Shadowing the oral cancer specialist gave me the opportunity to interact with patients and exposure to many different types of tumors and diagnostic techniques. I was able to replicate each of these morphologies in Lumpy, creating the most versatile and realistic repertoire to train physicians and dental students alike. This dynamic device was computer-controlled and could inflate balloon catheters that were filled with various substances to imitate a particular tumor's feel and appearance. Although I interacted with hundreds of individual patients, when I reflect back, one unique encounter comes to mind. It was during this experience that I came to know Sid, an elderly smoker who had developed severe lymph cancer in his mouth and trachea. With very few treatment options available to him, Sid had accepted his prognosis and decided to devote his remaining time to spreading the word about oral cancer and the dangers of smoking to others. Due to the severity of his condition he was hardly able to speak, instead he communicated through gestures and facial expressions that I soon learned to interpret. In spite of this handicap, he became a stout advocate of oral cancer detection and opened his heart to hundreds of other cancer patients. It was during one of our many conversations that the topic of oral cancer detection was brought up, along with the lack of screening mechanisms and public awareness regarding the disease. Over the course of our discussion, I brought up Lumpy, describing his purpose and implementation in the near future. Sid was very supportive, and thought Lumpy was a brilliant idea. He even lent a hand to ensure that representative stage-three tumors were as realistic as possible. This process involved several iterations of comparing his tumor to the simulated one, until we both felt confident that we had created a clinically accurate model. My interaction with Sid was bittersweet. He was suffering from a disease that could have easily been treated had it been caught earlier, and yet he was happy to know that through his efforts fewer lives would be lost. Spending time with Sid reminded me that treatment is both physical and emotional. I realized that medicine isn't just about MRIs or antibiotics; rather there are many aspects that contribute to the process of healing. There are many people like Sid who will benefit from the implementation of Lumpy; their cancer may be diagnosed at an earlier stage, resulting in more encouraging prognoses and an improved quality of life. After two years of development, Lumpy is patented and visiting dental schools across the country to demonstrate several detection techniques and tumor types. The success of this project stemmed from combining several different fields, the synthesis of engineering, mathematics, anthropology, and medicine. My experience with Sid and Lumpy reinforced my belief in the therapeutic nature of the patient-doctor relationship.