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.
Major Essay: Please describe your career goals and how your education has supported your future in medicine.
Innovation, engineering, and surgery are the concepts that best exemplify the intent of my career goals. Our understanding of functional neuroscience is just beginning and technology is finally able to contribute to healing the neurologically impaired. It was eighty years ago that the father of neurosurgery, Dr. Harvey Cushing, joined efforts with Dr. William Bovie, a physicist, to develop one of the most revolutionizing surgical instruments of our time, the monopolar cautery. Initially, the idea of a neurosurgeon and physicist operating side-by-side seems foreign and misplaced. And while it is true that a physician may independently care for a patient, the advancement of medicine requires the culmination of milestones from many distinct fields. Deep brain stimulation, implantable microelectrodes, and cortical mapping are all progeny of interdisciplinary medicine. I stand in a confluence of knowledge, poised to seize my imagination, creativity, and desire to develop the next generation of medical technology. Trained in engineering and soon medicine, I am passionately equipped with a unique perspective to assess urgent clinical needs. I fully intend to maximize my resources in achieving this goal. Since the initiation of my educational training, neuroscience has been my primary focus. As an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins, my degree in Biomedical Engineering provided me with a framework for developing new ideas, solutions, and maintaining fresh perspectives on the needs of spinal cord injury patients. I dedicated several years to working with Dr. X to examine the regenerative potential of spinal cord neurons following treatment with a hydropolymer hybrid gel. Supported by the Provost's Excellence in Research Award, I developed an algorithm to analyze the neuronal growth pattern of animals subject to spinal cord injury. This experience was enlightened by time spent with Dr. Y in his neurosurgery clinic, evaluating the status quo of implantable spinal devices. My experience in the laboratory sparked my creativity and harvested my passion for device design, translational medicine, and neurosurgery. My aspiration to impact the lives of many Americans is only partially fulfilled by my future surgical career. As a surgeon, I may only directly improve the lives of those who immediately surround me. However, as an entrepreneur, I will benefit the lives of far more people. Through device design I hope to make greater strides towards curing disease and restoring health. My history as an entrepreneur began once I obtained my fundamental engineering skill set. Driven in part by the loss of a dear classmate to oral cancer, I devised an oral carcinoma training device which is used to teach aspiring dentists and clinicians the detection techniques for early stage oral carcinoma. The translation of this device into industry was an enlightening experience, one that instilled upon me the symbiotic relationship of healthcare and industry in America. My innovative spirit expanded to neuroscience as I constructed a series of intervertebral disc repair systems using novel photopolymers. Through these efforts I interacted with neurosurgeons from Yale and Hopkins to dissect the needs of modern day degenerative disc disease. Our ideas culminated in the incorporation of WW, a company dedicated to advancing spinal technology. As co-founder and consulting engineer, I am responsible for the intellectual direction of our research goals. The experience of designing an implant to be used by thousands in the medical community opened my eyes to a career that channeled leadership and innovation to facilitate the progress of medicine. My desire to cultivate innate feelings of creativity and ingenuity is a demanding burden to place on any academic institution. Continuing my hands on engineering, participating in a flourishing entrepreneurial culture, and obtaining an outstanding medical education were all fundamental reasons for choosing X. As a medical student, I am currently utilizing state of the art imaging tools in the Clark BioDesign Center to investigate the next generation of targeted cancer therapy. The unique X curriculum engages students to continue their study in a field related to their research interests. Having completed a scholarly concentration in bioengineering with a focus in neuroscience, I refined my engineering knowledgebase and affirmed my belief in collaborative medicine. X's pioneering curriculum is a perfect match for my visions of a career as a future clinician-scientist. Over the past year, I received a number of grants and fellowships to support my investigation and creation of novel anti-cancer therapeutics. Currently funded by the American Heart Association, X University Medical Scholars Program, Genentech, and the Goodrich Foundation I am consulting with experts in the Molecular Imaging Program and operative specialists in neurosurgery to design molecular probes capable of exclusively targeting brain tumor cells. These molecular probes embody the future of cancer imaging, targeted drug delivery, and patient selection. I have prepared and published a total of eleven manuscripts, all of which highlight my dedication to a career in academic neurosurgery. Each publication, from the very technical basic science manuscripts to the insight presented in the literature reviews, demonstrates my multidimensional approach to understanding neurosurgery in practice and science. The most recent results from my therapeutic study were presented in the Select Abstract Session at the 54th Annual Congress of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting in October 2006. My notion of medicine, its humanity, its evolving demands, and its potential to affect millions shaped my career goals. The diseases I study today may not be those I face ten years from now, however my training stwill prepare me to generate solutions for new ailments as they present. The culmination of experiences with my mentors, in the research laboratory, and with patients at their beside has confirmed my devotion to neuroscience. As an academic neurosurgeon, I anticipate a career filled with teaching, experimenting, and problem solving. Upon graduating from X, I intend to complete a residency in neurological surgery and subsequently a fellowship in neurosurgical oncology and minimally invasive spinal surgery. I envision myself as an attending physician at an academic institution where I may bestow my skills upon a younger generation of neurosurgeons as well as advance the field of neuroscience.