4 min read

“Yes, this guy says yes to everything. Are you pregnant, sir?” asked the hospital ambassador. “Yes,” replied the young man. “You are pregnant? A pregnant man?” The ambassador laughed. While volunteering at a local hospital, I’ve seen first-hand how immigrants like myself can receive unequitable treatment compared to their English-speaking counterparts. I speak both Russian and Spanish and grew up surrounded by some of the challenges that immigrant populations face. In the interaction above, I stepped in to ensure the patient checked in with dignity. His gratitude led to my initial belief that I could be a hero to others like him by speaking their language and providing them with the care they needed in a more welcoming way. Recently though, I’ve realized that the idea of doctors being heroes isn’t realistic and I’d been missing what medicine actually is. It took a few meaningful experiences and my own internal reflection for me to come to this realization.

My desire to become a doctor began when I cared for a nursing home resident with late stage dementia. She was bedridden and often cried due to the hallucinations caused by her debilitating disease. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t calm her. I recall feeling helpless in a way that I never had before. It was my first real encounter with my own limitations and I had to confront the fact that sometimes a task as simple as drying someone’s tears, may not be possible despite my best efforts and intentions. This initially shook my confidence and I started questioning whether I was good enough to be a doctor. At the time, I’d believed that doctors were superior citizens capable of anything. I was someone who always met or exceeded expectations despite significant barriers. At her bedside, I was responsible for her physical, mental and emotional well being to the extent of my skillset. My expectation was that I would comfort her and stop her tears for a little while at least, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t meet expectations, something that at that point, nearly defined my self-perception. This experience resulted in a nearly desperate need to learn about her condition in order to improve her state. I wanted to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to never feel that helpless or incompetent again.

While shadowing primary care physicians, neurologists and a laryngologist however, I realized just how untrue the idea of doctors failing to feel helpless can be. In neurology, I saw children whose ailments were terminal and wondered how it was possible for patients to never get better due to the severity of their ailments. Looking back now, I realize that what I’d seen then was a gap in medical knowledge. At the time; however, I didn’t yet comprehend that doctors were human and didn’t always have all of the answers. This was my first encounter with the limitations of medicine.

It was daunting to think that I might not have the answers for my future patients, so I considered research. In research, I wouldn’t be faced with the consequences of problems I couldn’t solve—I would be solving a problem. What prevented me from pursuing research though were the patient interactions I yearned for and regarded so highly. The most impactful of these interactions was while volunteering at the [name of hospital] for the Homeless Program, I spoke to a woman recovering from substance abuse disorder. She trusted me with her story, the dreams she lost, her frustrations with addiction and her own lessons learned in the process. I never told her what to do to recover, just listened and encouraged her endeavors. For me, this was a powerful moment on my journey towards medicine because of the trust she placed in me, a stranger. I realized then that I can create safe spaces for others to discuss sensitive matters. My mentees had mentioned it before but this was the first time I believed it myself. It gave me confidence in both my communication and listening skills and I was reminded yet again that if I went into research, I wouldn’t be able to make the direct impact I want to have. Perhaps I won’t always be able to cure my patients, but I can individualize treatments so they work for the specific patient and family. I aspire to give patients and their families more quality time together and help them adjust to and understand their new situations to the best of my ability. In a research lab, I wouldn’t have the interactions necessary to fulfill the role I want to.

The knowledge I’ve gained since helping the Spanish speaking patient navigate check in has changed my perception about the role of physicians. I have come to see doctors for what they are: facilitators doing their best for patients, not heroes with all of the answers. Having witnessed and experienced some of the barriers that patients and especially immigrant populations face, I want to apply my compassion and willingness to go the extra mile. I aspire to advocate for and equip patients with the knowledge and resources required to overcome disparities and take control of their health. By attending an osteopathic medical college, I can accomplish my goal by focusing on the care of underserved populations, while simultaneously appreciating the interconnection of body systems, pathology and determinants of health. 

Click to go back to medical school personal statement examples.

Like our blog? Write for us! >>

Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!