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You wouldn’t think that an otolaryngologist would inspire a lot of kids to become doctors, but mine did, because she really has made my life a lot better than it had a right to be. I began my journey toward medical school as something of a wastrel, inhabiting an unhealthy number of music venues with loud, angry music. I’m not decrying loud music, but what I am talking about is the development of tinnitus. I was diagnosed with this condition after sneaking out to party one too many times, and at first, I was miserable. A series of bad decisions and ignored warnings may have condemned me to a future of obnoxious background noise.

Fortunately, I was referred to an otolaryngologist named Dr. Pierce, who prescribed and followed me throughout the lengthy treatments and management required. In time, not only did I feel more optimistic, but I became really curious about understanding my condition, preventing it, and helping people who had similar afflictions. I did a deep dive into the ear canal – not literally, of course – and started learning all I could about human biology as well as the science of sound.

Hearing loss and hearing loss prevention is a fascinating subject, but until it affected me personally, I had no idea of the possibilities being opened by technology in assistive listening. However, what really appealed to me was the human element; my thoughts return to Dr. Pierce often and how she was the person who made that tremendous difference in my life. It has taken me a few years to settle on becoming a doctor, but I know now that this is what I want to do with my life – to inspire and help people lead better lives.

To this end, as I prepare for medical school, I am both working at a walk-in clinic and participating in hearing-related biomedical research at my university. This research initiative is exploring ways to heal and regenerate hearing loss, as well as how to mitigate hearing loss with a combination of natural processes and technological advances. I credit this project with building my extensive knowledge on the latest medical trends in hearing aids and other technologies while allowing me to incorporate my personal research and experiences in dealing with hearing issues.

During this study, I worked closely with students in the engineering department to create some speculative ideas for novel hearing aids. I worked on the medical and biological aspects of the designs – how they would integrate with their users – and we produced some prototypes that won a scholarship for myself and two other members of the design team.

This was my favorite experience in university, and I learned more than I could have hoped for. In fact, early on, I was so enthusiastic for the project that I lost sleep, and a graduate student named Alex intervened to help me to work out better organizational skills. We also worked together on compiling the data and tracking the experiments and tests, which required extensive documentation. With this structured support, I learned how to temper my enthusiasm with self-discipline to work more effectively and efficiently. Consequently, my undergraduate has comprised valuable research experience as well as training in practical, everyday skills that I will be able to use throughout my life and career.

To more easily step into a role in which I can continue to advance technology and medicine and directly help patients deal with, cope with, or even solve their hearing loss, I plan to pursue medicine and design. Therefore, the opportunity to combine an MD with a Master of Engineering degree at your institution provides the perfect path for me to simultaneously follow both aspects of my passion closely.

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