To learn how to write a great surgery personal statement in 2023 start by reviewingsurgery personal statement examples. Along with taking time to review possible surgery residency interview questions that may come your way, and practicing your answers, you should learn what makes a strong personal statement and write one that reflects your suitability for this specialty. A great personal statement will increase your chance of being offered an interview, and being considered for residency.
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Surgery is a moderately competitive field, and is a common specialty choice for many future MDs. Throughout a surgery residency, you will learn to master the basics of patient interaction and care, tend to patients’ needs (especially when the attending physician isn’t on duty), and most importantly, learn all of the essentials about general surgery and hone a wide set of skills that will ultimately lead you down a path to becoming a skilled and talented surgeon yourself.
Whether you’re Canadian and applying through CaRMS, or American/International and using ERAS, your personal statement is a very important portion of your surgery residency application. Your personal statement should highlight several aspects of your experiences, including your personal ties to the field, academic career, goals, values, and professional experience in this speciality that, when all considered in combination, will ultimately make you stand out in the field.
What Information Should Be Included in My Surgery Personal Statement?
While your personal statement is a personal piece of writing, it must still adhere to any word limits (normally this is 750-800 words) and should maintain a concise and organized structure.
Consider including the following details in your surgery personal statement:
No matter what field you’re applying for residency, your residency personal statement must only be a few concise paragraphs that clearly communicate why you are interested in pursuing a particular residency/field.
Here are some things that your surgery personal statement should not include:
Surgery Personal Statement Examples
Looking down at my little sister’s wound on her head after she’d plummeted from the top of the slide was the first time I knew I had to act fast in order to tend to her injury, as well as her emotional well-being. When somebody would fall and become injured, most children would freeze or watch the situation unfold from afar…but not me. I would often be found consoling injured classmates on the playground. I’d utter words of inspiration and keep their spirits high—not because anybody taught me to—but because I reacted calmly to humans in distress. I’d watch curiously as their wounds were bandaged, but that action quickly morphed into me having the urge to be the one to dress the wound and offer insight and opinions about the injury. Of course, many people don’t take the word of a 10-year-old seriously, but it never discouraged me. Rather, it fueled my desire to be in a position where I would be taken seriously when I tried to help.
Through my surgical clerkship in year 3 of my MD program, I was able to make the confident decision that surgery was the field I was meant to train in, and I feel I’ll make an outstanding surgeon.
Throughout my various rotations, clerkships and volunteer opportunities over the past five years, I’ve met many patients whose lives had been altered and improved—and many saved—by their surgeons. I learned that while some surgeries are certainly more ‘general’, others are lifesaving, and all require quick thinking and organized action. Accident victims, victims of a ruptured appendix or inflamed gallbladder, and those suffering from a fracture (and more)! Every time I interacted with them, or heard of their case, patients of all ages inspired me in their own unique ways to continue to learn how to best correct and fix such problems through surgery. In my general surgery clerkship, I was often asked to address pre-op questions that patients had, comfort them and put their mind at ease before wheeling them into the OR, and report to the patient in recovery with the attending physician. During surgery, I would observe and have the opportunity to ask questions afterward about specific tools and approaches used in the OR to better understand what was being done, and why. Through this experience, I gained a broad knowledge of general surgery terminology an practices, and grew to understand the importance of communication between patients, doctors, nurses, residents, and even shadowing students, collaboration, and focus during the entire surgical process.
During my most recent clerkship, I assisted in OB/GYN surgery on five occasions and met several young women suffering from various issues that were addressed with surgery—endometriomas, molar systems, ectopic pregnancies, and the removal of adhesions and diseased tissues. I found it profoundly interesting and impressive that the careful removal of disease or distressed and impacted organs could not only save a life, but better the quality of it, and provide patients with hope, promise and validation that they’d longed for, if they happened to be a patient who had suffered for years from their condition. In that same experience, I was able to gain hands on experience assessing and dressing surgical wounds, observing a patient post-op, and I gained an understanding of the importance of noting when an incision is or isn’t healing well. The human body is wonderfully complex, and I’ve learned that sometimes, through a disease, accident or other ailment, some bodies would not be able to heal and prosper in life without the expertise and dedication of a skilled surgeon. And, I’ve also learned that pre and post-op care it vital to a patient’s healing, and in determining the overall success of the surgical procedure in the long run!
I have known, from a young age, that I was born to be a ‘helper’ and work in medicine, but I have known concretely for a few years now that surgery is the field for me. I am looking forward to a surgical residency because I’m eager to gain exposure to various surgeries and OR procedures, to observe and learn from skilled surgeons, and to continue my journey toward becoming the best helper to humanity that I can be. I am innately curious and dedicated in every endeavour I pursue, and surgery would be no exception. I strive for excellence, and thrive during challenging situations and intense learning environments. I am hopeful that I can one day become a skilled surgeon and lead other residents in their journey, too, and along the way, I hope to help as many surgical patients as I possible can. I would be ecstatic to be presented with an opportunity to complete my residency in surgery.
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In the tenth grade, my class entered the Body Words exhibition at X City Science Centre. Most of my classmates joked uncomfortably and cringed throughout the exhibit, but I remember being utterly captivated and intrigued—I wanted to know more. That was the first time I remember being stunned by the intricacy of the human body and the world that exists within the CNS and every bone, muscle and vein within us all. From the tenth grade onward, I knew I wanted to study medicine, but I now wholeheartedly believe that the surgical field is where my skills and interests lie, and where I can best utilize my passion. I have been continually fascinated by the human body and have been a strong observer of its functions and dysfunctions throughout my past four years in medical school, as well as throughout my undergraduate and adolescent years. I am eager to learn as much as I can about how the body works, how it fails, and how surgical interventions can help people achieve optimal function and health.
I also believe that surgical residency is where I can best utilize my communication skills and interpersonal abilities, whether communicating with colleagues or patients. During my clerkships, in general surgery, emergency medicine, and my rotations and volunteer experience in pediatrics, I learned to communicate thoroughly, calmly, and clearly with various patients, even in tough situations in the ER trauma unit; my ability to remain collected and communicative is innate, and I feel this would be an asset as a future surgeon. I have always felt a strong sense of empathy for others, which has helped me connect with patients and their families. I also believe that my years as an athlete and team captain have given me incredible discipline, leadership skills, and a competitive edge in the operating room, where every second counts and no one wants to lose. Just like on the hockey rink during AAA finals, everybody has a job to do, and communication and teamwork is key, especially when quick decisions must be made.
I have a personal connection to surgery, and this experience further drove my passion to become an expert in the field and pursue medicine. My father had a heart attack when he was 41 years old. The doctors told him that he needed open-heart surgery, but they could not perform the procedure due to his poor condition. They said that if they were able to operate on him, he would have only a 25% chance of survival. However, his skilled surgeon assured us that he would take a risk do everything he could to help my father...and he did just that. During my undergraduate years, I volunteered at the same hospital that saved my father’s life, and I attribute the volunteer experience to my ability to remain calm and level-headed in traumatic, upsetting and intense situations. In particular, I volunteered in the pediatric oncology unit for six months, met dozens of inspiring patients and had the pleasure of reading to them, assisting them with meals, as well as shadowing physician’s during scheduled appointments and post-op visits, and tense conversations with patient’s families.
During my MD program, I was a part of a research team that studied methods of improving the quality of care in rural settings. Our research showed that better training and education for surgeons was correlated with lower rates of surgical-site infections. As a future surgeon, I have an interest in pursuing work in a medically underserved community. During my emergency medicine clerkship, I was privileged to have the opportunity to be placed a rural hospital in the eastern part of the state. I had an idea of the conditions to expect from my previous research, but the clerkship experience showed me first-hand what the demand for adequate care is like, and taught me how timely and compassionate patient interactions can make a difference in triage, bedside care, and the patient experience.
I would be elated to have the opportunity to train with incredible, intelligent surgeons in a surgery residency, and I'm confident that I will one day make a great surgeon who will be capable of helping many patients heal, recover, and have the second chance at life that they deserve. I understand (first hand) the importance of impeccable surgeon skills, as well as bedside manner, and I’m confident that I would thrive in surgery.
I remember the first time I won a mathematics competition; people congratulated me and often spoke of my future as being one in academia. While it didn’t seem far-fetched, I, even as a teen, had visualized myself working in a hands-on field and helping people directly, despite my talent for solving complex equations.
I have loved science and math since I was in elementary school and won various awards and scholarships throughout my life, including seven state math competitions in high school, and being awarded the X University Grant (for ‘Mathematic Excellence’) in my third year of undergraduate study. But, ultimately, I knew I wanted to work hands-on, and in the medical field. I first became interested in science when my father began to take me outside to show me plants in our yard and explain their biology to me, as he is an accomplished, passionate Botanist. The knowledge he imparted on me about these plants inspired me to learn more about all kinds of organisms—not just plants— but humans. I was about ten years old when I figured that because I loved biology, anatomy, science and math, a career in medicine was the clear choice for me. And, I was in high school when I realized that working hands-on in surgery was my calling.
This interest in biology led me to pursue a combined degree in Mathematics and Biology at X University, where I began to take more speciality- focused courses to explore all of my areas of interest, like immunology. From there, I went on to medical school at XYZ College of Medicine. During my recent years in medical school I took advanced courses and completed rotations in neurosurgery, orthopedics, sports medicine, general surgery, and emergency medicine—all while working toward earning my MD degree and trying to learn as much as I could, across various fields of medicine. At the end of each day, though, surgery was always at the forefront of my mind. I am an analytic thinker, an accomplished mathematician, a science-minded MD student, with the ability to act quickly and think of several ways to approach a scenario, which I feel is a vital quality for a surgeon to have. Sometimes, the solution to a problem is black-and-white, and other times, the solution can only be found if one thinks ‘outside-the-box’; I have proven, through my academic and professional experiences, that I understand how to do both.
I have had multiple opportunities to work directly with patients as part of clinical rotations, and these experiences gave me valuable insight into what it's like to be receiving care, and what their expectations may be of their surgeons. As somebody with diagnosed Asperger’s who has never experienced any surgeries or prolonged exposure to medical settings on a personal level, it was initially hard for me to establish an appropriate bedside manner with less of an intense, formidable approach; I was said to be ‘cold’ or detached from my patients, when really, I was focused on helping them. It took me some time, and a poor grade recorded in my second-year clinical rotation, to realize that I had to put more focus into developing some better interpersonal skills in order to serve patients better. I am thankful that this was brought to my attention, as I’m a fan of continual growth and I was quickly able to grasp what patients expected of me, and learn from my patients and consider their perspective, rather than simply relying on scientific facts and my own interpretation of the situation. Keeping an open mind and compassionate perspective as a surgeon and physician is, I think, almost as important as having advanced surgical skills. Of course, patient care would be at the forefront of my mind and actions daily, but ensuring that my bedside manner and communication skills are at par with what my colleagues and patients are expecting is something I will strive toward throughout my career.
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Overall, I would be excited and grateful for the opportunity to provide exceptional surgical care to patients in my future, and would acquire as much knowledge as possible during my residency, where I would learn from skilled and dedicated surgeons. I bring with me a robust set of skills, a thirst for knowledge, incredible analytical thinking skills and hands-on abilities, and a passion to help human beings in need by performing various surgeries, saving lives, or at the very least, restoring their quality of life accordingly. I believe my combination of skills, knowledge, experience, and my desire to grow and learn continuously would make me an established and well-rounded surgeon, and I am eager to attend a residency that will help me achieve my dreams and goals.
1. What is the purpose of personal statements?
Your personal statement is a vital component of your residency application! It is an opportunity for you to express your interest in a particular field, in this case, surgery, and explain why you are a great fit for residency in your respective field! Remember, ERAS and CaRMS do not include prompts, and this is why it’s important that you review samples of personal statements in order to understand how to write your own and make it as strong as possible to increase your chances of admission.
2. Is surgery a competitive field?
Surgery is considered to be ‘medium’ or ‘average’ in terms of competitiveness, as it is in demand, a fairly popular choice, and moderately easy to match in. Remember, whether it’s the most competitive residency or the least competitive residency, your application must be stellar in order to match.
3. How can I ensure my surgery personal statement stands out?
In order for any personal statement to stand out, you have to highlight what skills, experiences and accomplishments you’ve had that are relevant to the field of which you’re applying! For surgery, be sure to detail any volunteer, paid, and especially clinical clerkship experiences you’ve had that are related to surgery. You must also outline what steps you’ve taken to familiarize yourself with the field, for example, courses and clerkships, patient/rotation experiences, research, or even personal experiences that enhanced your passion for surgery.
4. Is my personal statement related to my CV?
Your CV exists to list and highlight your academic and professional achievements, and your personal statement is a story, so they are quite different. While you can certainly mention any relevant points included on your CV, such as an award or publication, in your surgery personal statement, you should ensure that it ties into the overall story you are trying to tell with your personal statement.
5. What information should I include in my surgery personal statement?
Your personal statement should include a very strong opening sentence/paragraph that captivates the reader (the admissions team!) and brief details that highlight why you’re a perfect fit for surgery, what specific accomplishments and experiences you’ve had that make you a strong candidate, and examples of skills you’ve acquired/experiences that taught you these vital skills.
6. How long are personal statements?
Generally speaking, aim for 750-800 words, unless otherwise specified by the program! Personal statements are meant to be a brief, personal piece of writing that highlights your relevant skills and experiences that would make you an exceptional surgery resident.
7. How should I address poor grades or any unfavorable details in my personal statement?
First of all, you don’t have to address these things if you feel you shouldn’t! However, a personal statement can serve as a way for you to clarify any details and share information about what you’ve learned/how you’ve recovered from a bad grade or experience in your program. If you choose to do so, you should describe the scenario briefly and explain what you’ve learned, or, how you’ve changed as a result. Avoid any negative statements and excuses and stick to the facts!
8. Can I refer to my other residency application components in the statement?
Your personal statement is an independent story! So, we would advise against directly referring to components of your application, and encourage you to focus on creating a brief narrative that highlights the skills, experiences and qualities you possess that make you a great candidate for surgery residency.
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