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My heart pounded blood into my ears as my hands fumbled across the keyboard. My eyes darted back and forth between the screen and the wall behind it, attempting to escape. After an eternity, the pointer finally aimed and clicked. It was good news: I was accepted. I gasped and held in a small scream, even though I was alone. Quickly dialing, I wiped tears of relief as I plopped down on the bed. “I got into UVa, mom.” A small gasp followed by excited laughter, and then “Okay, I have to get back to work, I wish I was there.” I wished the same, but her work seven hours away was the only source of income and it forced me to live alone for most of my senior year of high school.

At first, it was fine; I kept busy with college applications. Then I got in a car accident and realized I did not have anyone who could help me. It was daunting to be in such an unfamiliar and grim situation, but I knew I had to move forward. After a few deep breaths, a call to the police, the insurance company, and a few tears, I rattled home in my dinged car. I often despised having so much responsibility, from simple tasks such as cooking dinner, to futile efforts in battling a mice infestation. However, as I overcame the challenges, independence became a source of clear confidence. My college acceptance was meaningful because it assured me that with hard work, I could accomplish anything, even when support was not nearby. Independence is a significant part of my identity today; but through my undergraduate experiences, I recognized the prevalence and irrefutable significance of community. I developed my passion to become a physician assistant with the capability to make decisions and rely on relationships to guide my choice.

Throughout my first semester in college, I only used myself as a resource in navigating both academics and personal life. When my grades did not reflect the hours of studying I put in, I begrudgingly joined a study group as a last-ditch attempt to improve my marks. To my surprise, discussing and asking questions helped me to recognize essential ideas I would have missed and allowed me to have a more extensive understanding of the topic. Connections we made from bits of knowledge including basic sciences to entire functional systems fascinated me and I recognized the benefits of sharing and combining information, especially in regard to the human body. This experience led me to become a teaching assistant in biology, which required me to be not only confident in my own knowledge but also to have skills in sharing what I knew with students who were in similar situations. I encouraged students to ask questions and to discuss with peers before forming an answer, which benefited their learning and ultimately improved grades throughout the semester. Realizing the importance of collaboration motivated me to seek novel opportunities to connect with diverse types of people in healthcare.

In the summer after second year, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa where I studied hypertension and the impact of a recently built clinic next to a township called Khayelitsha. A shared conversation with an elderly woman revealed that although she was diagnosed with hypertension at the clinic, she had not been back since. She preferred to walk several more blocks to the traditional healer who made herbal medicines rather than to visit a professional doctor at the new nearby clinic. It was difficult for me to understand why she made that decision and to some degree, my education held me back from accepting the validity of her choice. There were clear disparities between the seemingly rational choices and the actual decisions made by patients in healthcare. After subsequent research, I found that the clinic operated mostly in English, including instructions for prescriptions and lifestyle changes for managing hypertension. Local dialects were unable to be translated by doctors who came from larger cities. At first look, the elderly woman made what some would consider the “wrong” choice, but with further investigation, it was evident that she chose what was best for herself. From this experience, I realized that I wanted to be an effective physician assistant who takes culture and community into consideration to provide the best care possible for a patient.

The qualities that I value the most are best represented in a physician assistant; collaboration, intelligence, community, and awareness. Healthcare is fundamentally patient-centered and requires an immense amount of trust in not only the physician but also in the entire healthcare team. Working together to recognize differences between each patient and communicating with other professionals to make a collective decision is crucial in gaining confidence and thus providing effective treatments.

Living alone at 18 years old, it seemed like I overcame all adversities on my own. Now, one of the greatest challenges I face is attending PA school and I have no doubt that the invaluable relationships I form will reinforce my aspirations to become a capable physician assistant.

What aspects make this statement great

  1. This student does an excellent job of discussing challenges or hardships they faced, such as their car crash and slipping grades, without ever playing the victim. They used any challenges as fuel to work harder, improve, and be better as a person and future professional. They admit initial missteps or personal struggles but, most importantly, they discuss what they did to turn their situation around or what they learned from a particular encounter.
  2. The student conveys their personality quite nicely in this essay by reflecting on how they felt at different points throughout their journey, in addition to what they learned.
  3. This statement highlights a variety of desirable qualities a physician assistant would possess such as collaboration, communication, reflection, and maturity.

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