Use these residency personal statement examples as a reference as you work on filling out your residency application. If you are having trouble getting started, you are not alone. Many students find that the personal statement can be one of the most challenging components of the residency application. However, your personal statement can make or break your application. Get started on the right track by following the guidelines outlined for you below.
This blog will outline what types of things to include in your residency personal statement. It will also give you 10 examples of personal statements from 10 different specialties written by actual students who matched into those fields.
You will learn:
Most residency programs, whether through ERAS (US-based) or CaRMS (Canada-based) require applicants to submit a personal statement or letter. Some programs will include specific instructions for what they wish you to talk about, while others will not give you a topic.
ERAS, as well as most CaRMS programs, ask that your statement be within a one-page limit, about 750-850 words. Please check the specific program requirements through the ERAS or CaRMS websites.
The experiences in your residency CV can be used to help you indicate why you are applying to a particular program and how you came to that decision.
The following are topics that should be covered in your residency personal statement:
- Specific reasons for choosing the specialty
- Experiences in the specialty you are applying to
- Reasons for applying to the specific program
- Any experiences working in the city and program you are applying to
- Learning goals and future career plans
You may also choose to include the following:
- Reflections on the selection criteria mentioned by your program
- Personal strengths that you can contribute to the program
- Did you consider applying to other specialties?
- Significant research contributions, publications or presentations
- Any gaps in your medical education or evaluations that were less than satisfactory
Would you like us to help you make your residency application stand out?
Here is the family medicine example:
During the pre-clerkship years of study in medical school, I enjoyed learning about the many specialties within medicine and actively considered pursuing several of them. I was drawn to the complex pharmacology of the drugs used by anesthesiologists, the acuity of care faced by emergency medicine physicians and the complicated medical issues of patients cared for by internal medicine specialists. I also found myself interested in psychiatrists’ thorough history-taking and the technical skills in performing procedures exhibited by surgeons. It started becoming clear to me that I was interested in many different areas of medicine. I began realizing that I wanted a career that combined the many things I enjoyed in different specialties. A family physician has the flexibility to practice all of these facets of medicine. As clerkship drew nearer, I knew I wanted to gain more clinical experience in family medicine to see if it would be a good fit for me.
My clinical experiences in family medicine were fantastic. I worked with family physicians and family medicine residents not only during my core family medicine rotation and family medicine electives, but also during my psychiatry, surgery, anesthesiology, and pediatrics rotations. These clinical experiences confirmed my belief that family medicine is a diverse and exciting specialty; family physicians, while maintaining a broad base of medical knowledge, can tailor their practices to the needs of their communities and to their own interests and areas of expertise. During my family medicine rotation and electives, I also found myself greatly enjoying my encounters with patients. I enjoy hearing patients’ stories and sorting through their many medical and psychosocial issues. I am also naturally a fastidious person. Being a thorough history-taker and a meticulous recorder of details helps me in formulating a complete story about a patient. My joy in interacting with patients and my attention to detail allow me to appreciate patients as people, not just as disorders or diseases. I am both interested in learning about and have a certain affinity for, family medicine clinical experiences; pursuing a career in this specialty is an obvious choice for me.
The versatility and diversity of family practice initially drew my interest but the wonderful encounters I had with family physicians solidified my desire to pursue a career in this specialty. These family physicians have not only been skilled and knowledgeable clinicians but also, variously, dedicated teachers, researchers, and administrators. They were committed to improving their clinical skills by attending continuing education lectures and courses. They practiced patient-centered care and were knowledgeable about community resources that may help their patients. They worked cooperatively with other health-care professionals to improve patient care. Importantly, these physicians have also been friendly and approachable towards both learners and patients. The family physicians I have worked with also strive toward a healthy work-life balance; all of them seemed to have many interests and hobbies outside of their professions. These clinicians demonstrated to me what being a family physician involves: practicing both the science and art of medicine, advocating for patients, guiding patients through the health-care system, being committed to improving clinical knowledge and, importantly, maintaining one’s own health and happiness.
Being sure of the specialty I want to pursue is the first step in my career. There are many learning opportunities ahead. [Name of the program]’s family medicine residency program is attractive in so many ways: the protected academic days, the opportunity to participate in research and, most importantly, the clinical curriculum, all appeal to me. I believe the solid foundation of family medicine experience, as well as the exposure to other specialties, alongside the opportunities to build the skills necessary for life-long learning through the academic experiences and research, make this an ideal program for me. On a personal note, I grew up in [hometown] and did my undergraduate studies at [name of university]; I would be thrilled to return to my hometown and a university already familiar to me. My career goals after finishing my residency include having a community-based, urban family practice and being actively involved in teaching residents and medical students. I am also open to being involved in research and administration. Career goals, however, may change as I progress through my training. I am excited to begin the next stage of medical training and begin my residency in family medicine!
This example does a great job of explaining why the applicant wants to enter that specialty. Their interest is clearly stated and the decision to enter the field is well explained. The author does an excellent job of talking up the specialty and stating what they like about the field. Take note of how the author gave specific examples of their experience and exposure to the field. You want to highlight any time you have interacted in that specialty. This shows interest and a commitment to the specialty.
Clearly stating your intentions and using the program's name makes your statement personal and stand out. It shows that you pay attention to details and your passion for that program. Use strong, precise language when you are writing. You only have about 800 words, so state your intentions and keep your story clear.
Want a sneak-peak at some residency interview questions?
Growing up the first-born daughter of a hard-working Saskatchewan cattle farmer and hairdresser, medicine was never a consideration. In a small town, I could easily see how too much free time got many of my peers in trouble. From grade 8-12 I devoted myself to sports, playing high school, club and provincial beach volleyball, weeknights and weekends year round. Despite my small stature and lack of innate abilities, with determination and persistence, I overcame these obstacles. At the end of my grade 11 year, I received an athletic scholarship and chose to pursue business administration and athletics.
After the first six months, it became apparent that I was not going to attain my full potential in education at [university name}. Despite my parent’s reservations, I left and enrolled at a [university name] for the next semester. This university was much more challenging as I was now balancing my educational and financial responsibilities by working evenings and weekends managing a number of part-time jobs. With little direction as to what degree I wanted to pursue, I happened to enroll in anatomy and physiology. This was the first time I became really excited about my future prospects and began actively considering a career in medicine.
The first time I applied to medicine, I was rejected. Despite my initial devastation, in hindsight, it was a great opportunity for myself to reflect on my own motivations for medicine and work as a laboratory technician at a potash mine in my hometown. I gained additional life experience, spent time with my family and was able to help financially support my husband’s pursuit of education after he had so selflessly supported me for many years.
My first exposure to anesthesia was in my first year of medical school with [Dr. name here] as my mentor in clinical reasoning. I was again, intrigued by the anatomy and physiology with the interlacing of pharmacology. I remained open to all specialties, however, after summer early exposures, research, and clerkship it became clear to me that anesthesia is where I felt the most fulfilled and motivated.
In a way, anesthesia was reminiscent of the competitive volleyball I had played years prior. I was again a part of a team in the operating room with a common goal. Similarly, our countless years of education and practice had brought us together to achieve it. In volleyball, my role was the setter, which to many is considered a lackluster position as we rarely attack the ball and score points with power. However, as a setter, my role is to set the pace, strategize and dictate the game from my team’s perspective. There is a long sequence of crucial events before a “kill” in volleyball and I strategized my teammate's individual strengths in both offense and defense to win. Anesthesia gives me the same opportunities to strategize anesthetics, balance individual patient’s comorbidities and anatomy all while maintaining a calm demeanor and level head through unexpected circumstances. In volleyball, I never shied away from tense games or difficult situations, instead I trusted in my own abilities and training despite uncharted territory. Lastly, I didn't need to actually score the point in order to understand my role and contributions to my team.
As an athlete, I understand the importance of practice and repetition which allow us to fail, but most importantly, to learn. I believe that the curriculum at this program will provide me with a well-respected education, which strongly reflects my learning style. I also admire the mandatory communication block in the curriculum because I believe an emphasis on clear and concise communication, is essential as an anesthetist.
Throughout the course of the next 5-10 years, I anticipate that both my husband and I will complete the next chapter in our educational pursuits. We both agree that [program name here] has the potential to nurture the next chapter in both our private and professional lives if given the opportunity.
The author of this passage carries the theme of athletics throughout the statement. Having a theme can unify your personal statement and give it direction. This is a good example of a way to use a theme to tie together different ideas. Also, take note of how the author explained the transition to different schools without speaking negatively of the institutions. In your own personal statement, feel free to use the names of the universities you attended. They have been redacted here for anonymity. This statement has parts where you could customize it. Use the name of the program when possible or the name of the town. Taking time to add this into your statement shows the program that you pay attention to detail while personalizing it to each program.
I was six years old when my father read to me the first chapter of “How Things Work.” The first chapter covered doors and specifically, the mechanics in a doorknob. What lay hidden and confined in the door panel was this complex system that produced a simple action. I credit this experience as the onset of my scientific curiosity and eventually my passion for complex systems found in medicine. Intensivists vigilantly maintain homeostasis within the human body, a complex system in and of itself, a concept I recognize as personally fascinating and enticing. I find myself especially drawn to the field of critical care and intensive care medicine. My dreams to become an intensivist would be highly complimented by a residency in surgery.
In critical care, each patient in the ICU is usually in a general state of shock. From the initial state of shock, the patient can be further complicated with comorbidities and chronic diseases that may require further intensive medical intervention so that they may recover from a recent surgery or traumatic event. This dynamic nature of the ICU is not available in every unit of the hospital and the high level of acuity does not suit everyone. I, however, enjoy the high energy of the enthralling, engaging and exciting environment offered by the ICU. I am personally energized and awakened by managing patients with surgically-altered physiology coupled with comorbidities. There is an overwhelming satisfaction when a patient following a bilateral lung transplant gets up from his bed and walks through the unit after days of being bedridden, or the moment we can discontinue the lines we had the patient on and finally talk to them after two weeks of intubation and sedation. Being in the ICU also encompasses the emotional seesaw of going from a successful patient case to a room in which a family has just decided that comfort care is the best way to proceed, which gives me chills just to type and verbalize.
The work of an intensivist is not only limited to the patient, but also the emotional well-being of the patient’s family as well. My involvement in the ICU has taught me that sometimes it is necessary to talk to a patient’s family, to explain to them simply that the postoperative expectations that they had had, may not be met. Communication is key in this field, both with the patients and the physicians of the OR. Communication prevents perioperative complications, establishes a willingness to follow directions and relays professionalism. It is important for an intensivist to have an excellent understanding of surgical procedures, so that they may explain to the patient what to expect as well as ease the nerves of the patient preoperatively. A surgical residency would facilitate this understanding and undoubtedly prove to be useful in my future training.
Studying medicine in Europe has taught me volumes about myself, how driven, motivated and open-minded I can be. To move so far away from home and yet be so familiar with the language, I feel blessed to be able to say that I’ve had a high level of exposure to diversity in my life. The mentality in [insert country name here] is if you don’t see the doctor, you are not sick. This common thought has to lead to an outstanding environment to study medicine and to see end-stage, textbook presentations of various pathologies and their management. Studying medicine in two languages has in itself taught me that medicine is a language and that the way a patient presents, conveys themselves, and the findings of the physical examination, all represent the syntax of the diagnosis. This awareness has reminded me that patient care, relief of patient suffering and illness, transcends the grammatical rules of the patient’s native tongue. My clinical experience in [insert country here] will aid me in providing thoughtful care to my future patients.
All things considered, I am ready to leave my home of the last four years and come back to the United States, to enter the next stage of my life and career. I am ready to work harder than ever, to prove myself to my future residency program and most importantly, learn so that I may be a suitable candidate for a future fellowship program in critical care. My experiences abroad have constantly pushed me to new horizons and encouraged responsibilities that I don’t believe I would otherwise have. I’ve developed a new level of human connection through my work in the ICU, the OR and my travels throughout Europe. These experiences will aid me in working with a diverse patient population and a diverse team of physicians. I hope [the program name here] can give me the variety and the background in surgery that I will need to succeed.
This statement has to do double duty for the admissions committee. It has to explain why surgery, what this student can offer, and why this student is passionate about the field while simultaneously explaining why the applicant chose medical school abroad. If you are applying to a country where you did not attend medical school there, you have to explain why you studied abroad. This often poses a challenge for students. Be honest and positive about your experience. This student did an excellent job of explaining why it was such a good fit for their personality while highlighting the advantages of this experience.
Focus on the characteristics you gained from your experience abroad. Explain how your experience will translate into success in your residency. There are many things to be gained from having spent time outside of your home country. Talk about the skills you developed from living abroad. Unique details like those will set you apart when you are writing your statement.
Check out our video to find out how to write a residency letter of intent to increase your chances of acceptance!
One of the most surprising things that I learned through my emergency medicine (EM) electives is that working in an emergency department is like leading a horse. I grew up on a farm in the [name of city], and working with animals was very much a part of my childhood. When walking a horse, one must be prepared for anything should the animal become spooked. It can startle at any moment and one must react quickly and calmly to redirect the thousand-pound creature. Similarly, in EM, one never knows when the department is going to become “spooked” by what comes through the door. EM is exciting, with a variety of patient presentations and medical procedures done on a daily basis. I enjoy dealing with the unexpected challenges that arise in caring for patients with backgrounds vastly different from my own. It would be a privilege to gain the skills as an emergency physician to provide acute life-saving care, to connect patients with resources and other healthcare professionals, and to provide comfort to patients and families in the settings of acute loss or difficult diagnoses. I feel that the [name of program] is the ideal path to reach that goal.
First, the [name of program] offers additional support and training to continue to perform research and other scholarly activities. Through my experience in quality improvement, I have learned of the value of research and how it can be applied to practical problems. For instance, while volunteering in a pool rehabilitation program for individuals with neurological disabilities, a patient who I had worked with for a year tragically suffered a fall and broke his hip leaving him significantly disabled. This led me to research inpatient falls during medical school and I initiated a quality improvement project and presented at several conferences, quality improvement rounds, and meetings with hospital stakeholders. After several years of work, I am very proud that this led to the implementation of a province-wide quality improvement initiative funded by [name of organization]. This initiative is physician-led and is aimed at reducing inpatient falls across [name of city]. This project demonstrated how rewarding research is when it can be translated into tangible initiatives and is why I am particularly interested in quality improvement research. I look forward to more dedicated time in the [name of program] to develop my research skills and to apply quality improvement to EM.
In addition to increased training in research, the [name of program] offers the opportunity to subspecialize within EM. While in medical school, I helped my single mother raise my much younger siblings and this has inspired my interest in pediatric EM. I maximized my studying through the effective use of weekly group study sessions and podcasts to allow for free weekends to return home to spend with my brother and sister. Through my experiences teaching and playing with my siblings, I have learned to deal with children in a calm and friendly manner. I used these skills to maintain positive therapeutic relationships with children during my pediatric EM rotation at [name of hospital]. For instance, I was able to cast the forearm of a frightened child by first demonstrating the procedure on her toy rabbit, and then calmly fitting a cast on her arm. I enjoy the emphasis on patient and family education as well as the focus on making the patient feel safe and cared for. I would love to explore this field further as my niche within the [name of program] in emergency medicine.
Alongside research and pediatric EM, I am also interested in teaching. Some of my fondest memories involve the evening teaching sessions during primary and secondary school spent with my grandpa, a retired teacher. My grandpa modeled effective teaching techniques, first assessing my knowledge and then expanding on it by asking questions and providing guidance when needed. Similarly, some of my best memories in medical school include the five-minute bedside teaching sessions after interesting cases that were taught in that way. Inspired by many residents and staff I have worked with, I look forward to expanding my teaching role in residency. Like my grandpa and my clinical mentors, I hope to help future students maximize their learning potential through the delivery of lectures and bedside teaching. Training within the [name of program] would allow additional time to develop the skills necessary for this, through increased exposure to mentorship, teaching role models, and opportunities to be involved in curricular development.
I would feel privileged to join the resident team in the [name of program]. I was fortunate that most of my core clerkship training including EM, as well as my fourth year EM elective, was at the [name of hospital]. What stands out the most to me most about working in the [name of hospital] is the tight-knit community feel in the setting of a high volume, high acuity ED. I value that the small program leads to a cohesive resident group and staff who are invested in their learners. Furthermore, from my rotations there, I know the ample procedural and hands-on exposure residents get from the beginning of their training. With my interest in pediatric EM, I value the longitudinal exposure to pediatrics at [name of program], with opportunities to do dedicated pediatric rotations both at [name of hospital], as well as [name of hospital]l. Finally, the [name of city] is my home; my family and friends are here, and I love the hiking, fishing, kayaking, and snowboarding that are all less than an hour away. I would be incredibly honored to have the privilege of pursuing EM in the [name of program], and look forward to serving my community.
The thought of caring for severely ill children seemed disheartening and overwhelming when I first began shadowing [name of doctor] at [name of hospital] five years ago. I was very nervous. While some of the cases were indeed difficult, my experience was starkly different. In one of our first cases, I quickly jumped in to comfort a scared child suffering from kidney disease. The mother of our patient confided in me about her son's struggles with bullying due to the disfiguring edema. I felt how much she appreciated being able to share her son’s challenges with me. Throughout my clinical experiences, I saw that caring for a pediatric patient often involves delicately navigating complex social situations and family dynamics. From that point on, I knew I had both the passion and compassion to succeed as a future pediatrician.
I am particularly keen to complete my residency at the [name of school], because I had such an immersive learning experience completing 5 years of research with [name of doctor] at [name of hospital] and at [name of hospital], not to mention [name of school]'s stellar international reputation. The incredibly high standard of excellence at [name of school], as well as [name of city] being my hometown, make the [name of school] my top choice to complete my residency. To further demonstrate the excellent education, I remember a time while shadowing at [name of hospital] in the genetics clinics where we discussed the pathophysiology of Bartter’s syndrome. The residents were having a hard time understanding this disease, but [name of doctor] explained the exact pathophysiology and downstream effects of it. The incredible intellect, mentorship and leadership [name of doctor] demonstrated has inspired me to pursue a nephrology fellowship upon completion of my residency.
During my elective rotations in [name of cities], I saw indigenous pediatric patients with a variety of ailments from hypoglycemia to cystic fibrosis. I spoke with them about the struggles of travelling long distances to obtain care. As an Inuit member of the [name of group], I have spent time reflecting on the medical needs of this much-overlooked population and hope to explore ways of reaching out to underserved populations in my future career.
I am prepared to be a leader and engaged learner in my residency program because of my participation in impactful leadership roles. I am currently the president of the [name of society], where one of my main duties is coordinating the [name of initiative], an initiative that teaches children about hospitals and healthy living. I was able to spend one-on-one time with disabled children teaching them about the heart through dance and instruments and activities to decrease fears associated with hospitals. This demonstrated the importance of promoting health care initiatives for kids and educate families and their children on how to be advocates of their own health.
As a competitive Irish dancer for sixteen years, I developed perseverance, determination, and time management that have been critical throughout my medical school training. Competing in front of judges and thousands of spectators all over the world, performing to my best ability under intense pressure was a necessity. I persevered with the challenge of competing at an international level and still maintained a very high level of academic performance while achieving my career high of second at the World Championships.
As an IMG applicant born and raised in [name of city] and educated in [name of country], I believe that my international education provides many advantages. I was exposed to diverse cultures and innovative ways of thinking from teachers from all over the globe at the [name of college] that I hope to bring back to Canada with me. Through the last 6 years, I have also had many research experiences and clinical electives in Canada that have given me insights into the intricacies of the Canadian Health Care system.
I am confident that pediatrics is the field I wish to pursue and I cannot wait to begin my residency so that I can start becoming an excellent clinician who advocates for children, as well as a scholar involved in research projects that will help advance the field. After successfully completing my pediatric residency program, I plan to pursue a pediatric fellowship. I am excited at the prospect of working and learning at the [name of school] while being an active and professional member of your residency program. I am also looking forward to developing my teaching skills and contributing to the community while also enjoying bike rides down the paths in the [name of path] and to be reunited with my [name of city] based family.
“Code blue, electrophysiology laboratory” a voice announces overhead during my cardiology rotation. As the code team, we rush to the patient, an elderly man in shock. Seamlessly, we each assume our preassigned roles. I quickly review his chart and note to the team-leader that this patient had a previous EF of 10 percent and just got cardioverted. Vasopressors administered, intubation, central line secured, and the patient is stabilized and sent to our floor. During my rotations in internal medicine, I was constantly elated by my team’s ability to come together at such key moments. This gave me a sense of joy I did not find in other rotations. Moreover, I had inspiring attending physicians and residents who served as my mentors. They taught me that an internist is a medical expert committed to evidence-based medicine and perpetual learning, a compassionate physician, and an engaged community member. These lessons and the satisfaction of managing highly complex cases with a dedicated team consolidated my interest in internal medicine.
Compassion and a holistic approach to medicine remain quintessential for patient care. During my rotations, I took advantage of opportunities to learn from my patients both at the bedside and through independent reading. As a senior student, I prepared learning capsules that I presented to my team. This taught me to synthesize and communicate information efficiently. Beyond that, I took courses outside of the formal curriculum such as a point-of-care ultrasound course to improve my ultrasound procedural skills. When we no longer had any curative interventions to offer patients, I learned that acknowledging the patients’ suffering and being present for them in their most vulnerable time can ease their pain. As a resident at [name of school], I will continue my dedication to academic excellence and compassionate, patient-centered care in my efforts to care for my patients.
I have built strong ties to my community serving as president of the [name of school] Biology Student Union. Together, we enacted a complex study space and locker initiative through my role as a mentor at [name of organization]. These experiences instilled in me the values of proactivity and advocacy which I aim to bring with me to [name of school]. There, I hope to continue my community engagement as a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of [name of city]. Moreover, as I learn more about [name of town]'s healthcare system, I hope to combine that knowledge with my medical education to add my perspective to health policy decision-making in the province.
In addition to its excellent academic reputation, [name of school]’s commitment to academic excellence and continuing education, as exemplified by the abundant academic teaching, drew me to the program. Moreover, given my belief that we develop to be an amalgam of characteristics and values our mentors espouse, I was delighted to learn about the mentorship opportunities available. This was a unique characteristic that motivated me to apply to [name of school]. Finally, having lived in [name of city] for the last ten years, I am looking forward to spending the next chapter of my life in a smaller, more tightly knit community of [name of city].
As I learned and modeled the different roles of an internist, I also learned a lot about myself. I learned of my thirst for knowledge, of my desire to treat as well as to heal the patient, and of my urge to be a leader in my community. These characteristics will play a defining role in my residency. I also learned of my passion for acute medicine. After my residency, I hope to further subspecialize in cardiology. As a future cardiologist, I aim to provide patient-centered care, conduct research, continue my community engagement, and act as a role model to future generation.
I walked into the room and saw him flanked by his family members; he was working hard to breathe but never failed to smile once he saw me. I had been following Mr. D for the past several days while on my Medicine rotation as he was transferred from the ICU. He was newly diagnosed with advanced idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and presented with rectal bleeding with a likely GI malignancy seen on imaging. Despite our best efforts, I watched his health deteriorate daily. However, he was still optimistic and told me he had lived a fulfilling life. I took the time to explore how he and his family were coping, and they expressed their appreciation and sense of peace to me. In those moments, I was able to provide Mr. D and his family comfort in a difficult situation. Mr. D decided that he preferred comfort measures during the last moments of his life and he passed away overnight.
Internal Medicine involves far more than diagnostic challenges. I value the holistic approach that internists provide to patients. In Mr. D’s case, we were not able to cure him but I believe we provided solace to him and his family that respected his goals of care. There are many challenges associated with Internal Medicine, be it the complexity of care, the amount of knowledge that it requires, the hours involved, and the variety of patient presentations. These are challenges I am motivated to tackle and my patient experiences have reinforced this for me.
An integral aspect that I enjoy about Internal Medicine is teamwork. Along with advocacy, collaborating with allied health staff provides a bridge of care for patients. For example, Mr. T presented with disseminated herpes zoster infection. He was bedbound from a previous stroke and dependent on his elderly wife for daily care. After managing his infection in hospital, I advocated for him and liaised with allied health staff to implement extra supports at home that would ease his situation. Witnessing his wife’s relief upon learning of these supports is a memory I will cherish forever. Additionally, my commitment for perpetual improvement is one that fits well with Internal Medicine. There is always room for learning, especially in scenarios where I do not know the answer. I remember Mr. V, who presented with fever as a returning traveler, with non-specific signs of illness. It was difficult to ascertain the cause of his symptoms, so I read further around his case and with clinical investigations revealed a rare bacterial endocarditis. I continued learning so I could help provide the best care to Mr. V. I appreciate that Internal Medicine allows for no stone to be left unturned in the pursuit of exceptional patient care.
My professional ambitions are to be an excellent clinician combining knowledge with compassion. I am passionate about teaching and mentoring, which I have done since high school. By working with the Faculty of Medicine at the [name of school] on various mentorship programs such as the [name of programs], I have given back to the student community as well as local high schools. I mentored an undergraduate student guiding him through academic and personal struggles; today he is studying dentistry and mentoring others. I would not have made it here without mentors myself and at [name of school] ’s Internal Medicine program, there is a strong mentorship culture and I hope to be a part of that to grow.
I was also involved in the [name of program] organized by the Faculty of Medicine at [name of school] which provided me an opportunity to receive formal training regarding adaptive teaching strategies, curriculum development, and creation of a teaching dossier. I hope to continue teaching and mentoring as a resident to give back to others. My future goal is to further develop my teaching skills, as well as engage in education-based research regarding how to teach and develop curriculums. I am interested in pursuing the [name of program] and engage in further training so that I can develop a career in medical education. Being in [name of city] provides me with the resources and the opportunity to work and develop ideas with leaders in medical education to attain my career goals.
Furthermore, a major aspect of my training has been research. I have worked in lab and clinical research projects during my undergraduate studies. Here at [name of school], I had the opportunity to study outcomes of chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity in breast cancer patients. I have learned the importance of critical thinking and the positive impact I can make on patients’ lives through advancing findings in medicine. I have also participated in publishing papers and hope to continue my research endeavors in residency. Pursuing my residency at [name of school] will allow me to further develop my research skills with the resources available, dedicated research blocks, and opportunities to attend conferences to present my research.
Continuing my training in [name of city] would be a privilege. After attending [name of school] for medical school, the city has become another home for me and I have developed roots here. There are so many hospitals and environments that offer unique learning and practice opportunities. The time I have spent within the walls of the downtown hospitals has taught me immensely. My family is also in [name of city] and it would mean a lot if I can stay close to home as they are my primary support network as I balance my professional and personal commitments. The varied patient cases and outstanding teachers and mentors at [name of school] are unparalleled. Moving forward, I hope to keep in mind the lessons I learned from interacting with patients like Mr. D and my experiences during internal medicine rotations: the need to be a knowledgeable yet empathetic physician and one who strives to be a scholar, an advocate, and a mentor to others.
“People are drawn to medicine in one of two ways: the humanity or the science.” My mentor, [name of doctor], staff medical oncologist at the [name of hospital], once told me this. As a volunteer during my premedical studies, I assisted him with his impromptu lunchtime clinics while others were on break and was able to catch a glimpse of his patients’ unshakable trust in him. Those moments sparked my interest in Internal Medicine. Internists are entrusted with the most complex patients in any hospital. Therefore, Internists take on the responsibility of a patient’s trust in their lowest, most disoriented moments. Accordingly, when I finally started clinical rotations, I saw it as my responsibility to fully understand each patient’s motivations and fears to advocate for their goals. One patient I had gotten to know still stands out in my mind. She was 95, witty, and self-assured but was found to have bone metastasis causing excruciating pain during her hospital stay. She knew she did not want aggressive life-prolonging treatment and declined further workup, but how could we help her? I suggested palliative radiotherapy to my team because I remember her telling me “I had a good life. I am not scared of death, but if I have to be around for a while, can’t I be more comfortable?” Therefore, my team entrusted me to talk to her and her family about a referral to Radiation Oncology. She responded to me with “I don’t think there’s anyone who knows what I’d want better than you. You’ve listened to me so much. I trust you.” I spent the next half hour explaining the rationale behind the referral to both her and her family. She received urgent Radiotherapy two weeks later. Her narcotic requirement decreased by more than half. After that moment, I envisioned that one day, I could also look into the eyes of someone at their most vulnerable moment and give them confidence to trust me and my team with their care.
Although my interest in Internal Medicine is rooted in the human connection, my attention to detail, work ethic, and natural curiosity, also makes me especially well-suited for the challenges of Internal Medicine. Indeed, beyond the human connection, Internal Medicine’s challenges of complex problem solving, and large ever-growing breadth of knowledge is also what makes each day so satisfying. When I was on the Nephrology Consult service, I was following a patient with a kidney transplant who was admitted for Line Sepsis. I noticed a mild Non-Anion Gap Metabolic Acidosis and a persistent mild Hyperkalemia. I presented my findings to my staff as a possible Type 4 RTA. He complimented me on my attention to detail and warned that a Type 4 RTA in a kidney transplant patient could be a sign of rejection. We restarted his anti-rejection medication that had been held due to his infection, his electrolyte abnormalities corrected in less than two days. My attention to detail is a particular asset for Internal Medicine because more than any other specialty, the tiniest details like a mildly abnormal lab work, when pieced together in the correct way, could solve the most difficult clinical problem. That is also what makes problem-solving in Internal Medicine so satisfying. My mentors have always complimented me on my work ethic. However, I enjoy staying late for admissions and additional learning or reading hours around my patients at home because learning Internal Medicine is so interesting.
On the other hand, Internists are also tasked with the very large, working with multiple professionals and navigate system issues to keep patients healthy and out of hospital such as when [name of doctor] entrusted me with planning the discharge of a homeless patient during my Medicine CTU elective at [name of hospital]. The patient had Schizophrenia and Grave’s Disease and had been admitted to hospital multiple times that year with thyrotoxicosis due to medication non-adherence. During his admission, I had elicited the help of two homeless outreach coordinators to ensure proper follow-up. Therefore, by the time of discharge, he had a new family doctor, timely appointments with the family doctor and endocrinologist, maps with directions to each appointment, his prescription medications ready to go, as well as a new apartment application.
Ultimately, I am fortunate to be drawn to Internal Medicine for both its humanity and science. I believe that I have the qualities that will help me excel in its smallest details and its largest responsibilities. In residency, I aim to explore and learn as much Internal Medicine as possible before becoming an expert in one area so I can make an informed choice and be a well-rounded physician. Therefore, the fact that [name of city] has so many leading experts especially suits my learning goals. Indeed, during my electives in [name of city], I’ve already learned knowledge that I’ve not encountered elsewhere like the Bernese method of Suboxone induction. The availability of resources such as the DKA management simulation and the use of presentations of cutting-edge knowledge as part of evaluation also suits my self-directed learning style. Furthermore, my research has focused on the PMCC Gastro-Esophageal Cancer Database where we were able to discover various new details in the clinical behavior of Gastro-Esophageal cancer due to the large volume of patients are PMCC and its world-class expertise. This line of research would not work as well anywhere else in [name of country]. Indeed, our database is currently the second-largest in the world. Therefore, the second reason [name of city] is my ideal place for training is for its unique research opportunities, so I can continue to contribute to further medical knowledge. Lastly, [name of city] is the most diverse city in [name of country]. Growing up as an immigrant, I had experienced how cultural backgrounds can become a barrier to receiving good medical care. Therefore, the diverse patient population and strong allied health support in [name of city] could also allow me to hone the skills required to assist me in providing good quality care to all patients, regardless of background.
My first exposure to Family Medicine occurred during my time as a Medical Officer working in a small clinic in Nigeria in fulfilment of the [name of service]. There, I recognized that a career in this specialty would offer me the opportunity to not only experience the aspects I cherished most about other specialties, but fulfill my personal interests in advancing community health.
My many encounters with patients during my days in the clinic reaffirmed my view of Primary care physicians as being on the frontline of diagnosis and preventive medicine. There was the middle-aged diabetic patient who had first presented to the emergency with diabetic ketoacidosis, the hypertensive man whose initial complaint of a persistent headache prompted the discovery of his soaring blood pressure, and the adolescent with a family history of allergies who was diagnosed with asthma. These encounters highlighted that as the first point of contact, the general practitioner is not only responsible for diagnosis, but often in ensuring patients are set on the path of healthy habits to prevent disease complications. This unique opportunity to significantly advance the well-being of a patient, and by extension, the community renewed my interest in the field.
An especially appealing feature of Family Medicine is that it provides an opportunity for patient care without limitations of age, sex, disease or organ system. From treating colds and routine checkups to referral for a suspected malignancy, I enjoyed that every day in the clinic was a learning experience and no day was routine. In addition, having a diverse population of patients and cases requires an abundance of clinical knowledge and I cherish the chance to learn and expand my skills every day.
I also value that an essential part of Primary care is in the enduring relationships the practitioners develop with patients. I recall several moments during my clinical experiences when I recognized that some of the bonds formed during ongoing patient interactions had evolved into lasting friendships. Being a practice of continual care, I appreciate that this specialty provides many opportunities to follow patients through different stages of their lives ensuring a deepening of relationship and compliance with care. I was inspired during my clinical rotation here in the United States when I saw how my preceptorís long-term relationships with patients enabled their compliance and often extended to different generations within one family.
Ultimately, I am confident that my experiences have prepared me for a career in this specialty. An agreeable, attentive and compassionate nature has aided me in gaining trust as well as building meaningful interpersonal relationships which are crucial components of this field. Furthermore, my interaction with an extensive array of patients during my clinical and volunteer experiences has equipped me with the ability to communicate and relate to patients across different age groups and backgrounds. In addition, I enjoy working to coordinate patient care with colleagues and other specialties and value that the wellness of the patient is a result of hard work, dedication, and teamwork.
Thus, I hope to find a residency program dedicated to providing in-depth clinical training with a diverse patient population and an emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention through patient education and community service. Moreover, I look forward to being part of a program that will encourage my pursuit of intellectual development and advancement to enable my transition into a well-rounded, competent and skilled physician committed to serving people with needs in all areas of medicine. With a career in this specialty, I know that every day will bring a new opportunity to influence health behaviors, and while there will be challenges, fulfilling them will always be satisfying.
“So many disconnected pieces, yet no clear starting point.” I think as I stare at the 1,000 puzzle pieces in front of me. I instantly rewire my brain to consider all of them but also how they fit in the big picture. Working for hours on puzzles with my terminally ill grandfather taught me there is something mesmerizing about simultaneously losing and centering yourself in a disarray of colors and shapes. Dermatology is a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces sit in front of our eyes, waiting to be assembled into a diagnosis. Solving this intricate puzzle, which encompasses a wide variety of intriguing diseases, fascinated me early in my medical career.
During my first contact with patients as a research assistant at [name of center], I developed a genuine interest in this specialty. Witnessing the effects of severe and refractory dermatological diseases on their quality of life sparked my empathy and a desire to strengthen my knowledge in order to help them. This empathy grew over the course of my rotations, as I observed the distress brought on by a melanoma diagnosis, the debilitating pruritus associated with atopic dermatitis and the emotional scars left by acne.
Driven by this experience, I founded the [name of race] with my devoted and inspiring team. Together, we raised close to $18,000, which was donated to the [name of society] for the advancement of malignant melanoma research and prevention strategies. This project allowed me to serve as a leader and a strong team player. I was also granted the hands-on opportunity to take concrete steps towards promoting prevention and advocating for patient health – competencies that will serve me as a devoted dermatologist.
As a result of my scientific rigors and dedication, I have had the opportunity to publish my work on inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and speak at international conferences. I recently submitted a case study to the [name of journal] and an abstract to next year's [ name of conference]. I hope to further my contribution to the advancement of dermatology both scientifically and academically. Besides my interest in skin malignancy, I am also very passionate about immunodermatology, skin manifestations of IBD and vascular anomalies, to name a few. Committed to a lifelong learning experience, I strive to expand my knowledge through academic research. My constant desire to improve, in addition to an insatiable curiosity, was valued during my rotations regardless of the specialty.
During my residency, I look forward to being challenged and surrounded by new ideas and perspectives. I wish to pursue my training in [name of city]'s multicultural epicenter, where I will be exposed to a wide range of unique cases. [Name of school]'s prestige for research and mentorship is second to none. During my elective at the [name of hospital], your commitment to patient care, your dedication to knowledge, and your pedagogical approach instilled a sense of belonging in me. It is with you that I hope to set the final puzzle pieces of my medical training into place.
There are some things that are out of our control. Sometimes we have to take time off to deal with personal issues, or sometimes we have to retake tests. If you have something you feel like you need to explain in your application, the personal statement is the area to address it. If you had a leave of absence or failed an exam, you should offer a clear, unemotional explanation of the situation. Use positive language. Whatever the area of concern, try and phrase it in the most favorable light. Take accountable for what has happened, but do not place blame or make an excuse. Here are some phrases you can try and use in your personal statement.
Leave of Absence
During my time, unforeseen situations arose...(state situation)...while it took me away from my coursework I learn (insert a lesson here) that I can use to be more empathetic towards my patients.
This mark does not reflect my best work. My performance was a deviation from my normal academic performance. I simply wasn't as prepared as I liked. This experience taught me to be accountable for my mistakes.
It was humbling to have to repeat (insert course here). However, the second attempt taught me so much about (lesson learned here) and now I have better strategies for when I approach this (subject or idea).
Unfavorable Evaluation by an Attending
Sometimes we have to interact with people who we don't see eye to eye with. When I worked with (you can choose to say the person's name or just use their title) I learned how to (insert a lesson here). Even though it was a challenge, I have gained skills that will better my future practice.
Keep in mind that these are suggestions. If you are concerned about an area of your application that might be a red flag, it may be in your best interest to address it head-on. The choice to write about them is your own individual opinion. Your personal statement should highlight the best side of you. If you think that an area of weakness might hurt your chances, it may be beneficial to take ownership of the problem and write it in a way that will show what you learned and how it made you better.
1. How long should my personal statement be?
For the most part, your residency personal statement should be within a one-page limit or approximately 750-850 words. Be sure to check your specific program requirements to verify before you begin writing.
2. Should I address areas of concern or gaps in my residency personal statement?
It's entirely up to you if you want to address unfavorable grades or gaps in your studies. However, if you feel something in your application will be seen as a red flag, it's best to address issues head-on instead of having admissions committees dwell on possible areas of concern. If you're going to address a gap, just ensure that you have a clear narrative for why you took these breaks, what you did on break and what this break means for your ability to function at a very high academic level for many years to come. If you're addressing a poor evaluation, ensure that you take responsibility for your grade, discuss what you learned and how your performance will be improved in the future - then move on. It's important that you don't play the victim and you must always reflect on what lessons you've learned moving forward.
3. Should I mention my personal connection to the location of a residency program in my personal statement?
Absolutely. While it's not necessary to discuss your personal connection to a program location, showing program directors that you have ties to their program's location can give you a competitive edge over other applicants. The reason being is that it's a way to show program directors that you are invested in practicing medicine locally. That's not to say that you have to apply to programs that are within your home state or province, but if one of the reasons you love a particular program is because of its location in your hometown, don't be afraid to mention this. Whether you enjoy the outdoor activities in the program's location, have family and friends in the area, or even grew up in the area at some point, these can all be great aspects to mention.
4. What are the main areas I should address in my residency personal statement?
Firstly, it's important to check the program's specific requirements for your statement because some programs have a specific prompt or multiple prompts that you'll need to address. If you are not given a prompt, in general, your statement needs to answer “why this specialty?” and “why this program?”. Your responses must be supported with your personal experiences and your statement should incorporate your future career goals.
5. Do I have to write a personal statement for each program I want to apply to?
No, instead you'll be preparing one personal statement for each specialty. For example, if you're applying to emergency medicine and family medicine, you'll need to prepare one statement for emergency medicine and one statement for family medicine.
6. Can I review and edit my personal statement after I have assigned it to programs?
As long as it's during the application season, you can edit and review your personal statement. However, keep in mind that if you edit your personal statement, there is no guarantee that programs will review the most up to date version. For this reason, it's best to only assign your personal statement to programs once you've 100% happy with the final version.
7. I'm applying to 5 different specialties, is there a limit on the number of statements I can upload?
No, there is no limit on how many personal statements you can create.
Give your personal statement your utmost attention. It can give you a leg up in the mass of applications a program receives. Use this guide as inspiration for your own statement, but please do not plagiarize any of these statements. They are to serve as a tool for when you begin to brainstorm ideas for your own essay. Check back as we will continue to add new statements for you to read and get inspired by. Good luck with this upcoming application cycle.
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About the Author:
Dr. Veena Netrakanti is a senior admissions expert at BeMo. Dr. Netrakanti attended the University of Alberta for her undergraduate studies and the University of Calgary for medical school. Throughout her training, she participated in volunteer programs that allowed her to tutor and mentor students of all ages. She also participated in the University of Calgary’s medical school interviewing process. Veena is currently a practicing family physician.
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Your friends at BeMo