Growing up, my relationship with healthcare and medicine was like most other Canadians. Sore throat? Cough syrup. Bacterial infection? Antibiotics. This changed when I learned my 5-year-old cousin was diagnosed with Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL). I was devastated to learn that NCL would steal her ability to walk, see, talk, and eventually live. Growing up in the same neighborhood, I was at most of her doctor’s appointments and helped take care of her. My family scheduled our lives so there was always someone to talk with her, administer her medications, bathe her, and take her to the hospital when she had severe seizures. The emotional support and comfort we received from her physicians helped us get through these trying times and showed me that patient care involves more than just treating the disease. Hearing about research on NCL from her doctors gave us hope and made me realize that being a doctor goes beyond providing clinical care. The connection the doctors developed with my family, the way they taught us about NCL, and the hope their research on NCL gave us helped drive my curiosity and love for medicine.
While it was devastating to learn that there was no treatment for NCL, it highlighted the importance of medical research and motivated me to apply for a laboratory assistant position at the end of my first year at [name of university]. Soon after joining the lab, I became a research assistant and have been working since then to collect and analyze data on anti-malarial drugs. This experience helped me during a self-directed research project in biochemistry class. My group and I chose to investigate the ability of antifreeze proteins to kill liver cancer stem cells during cryosurgery in order to prevent recurrence. I presented our findings to my professors and class of over two hundred. Because of the novelty of our idea and our promising results, I prepared a first author manuscript, which is currently under review. Through this project, I formulated an experimental plan, analyzed data, prepared a report, and gave a presentation. Because of my interest in computer science, I will be conducting bioinformatics research on the spread and adaptation of viruses in my fourth year at [name of university]. Leveraging bioinformatics to interrogate biological systems will give me a unique perspective as I progress in my career as a physician-scientist. Though I know I won’t be able to help my cousin, I hope to improve health outcomes for others.
While my research experience has refined my quantitative analysis and scientific reasoning skills, my involvement at [name of association] has developed my communication skills. [Name of association] is a business I co-founded, which gave me the opportunity to train recruits, form professional relationships with local business owners, and work with my team to advocate for products and services. The interpersonal skills I developed through [name of association] helped me as a tutor and mentor. [Name of association] gave me the opportunity to form a bond with my mentee via verbal and non-verbal communication. My experiences have shown me that to be a doctor is to be a collaborator, a leader, and a professional.
I know I will always be a student of medicine, and that is what excites me. I want to learn intimately about disease and medicine. I want to educate the community on their personal health to empower them to live a healthier lifestyle. I want them to share their lives with me when they are vulnerable so that I can comfort them and their families. I want to conduct translational research to improve the health outcomes of countless individuals. When I lost my cousin, I realized that I wanted to be a doctor so I could be involved in research and in clinical care; so that the next time a 5-year-old comes in, instead of saying there’s nothing we can do, I want to be able to tell them that there is a cure and we are going to make their child feel better.