Medical School Sample Essay
Yale University: Accepted
In the Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita, it is said that "the path of wisdom is for the meditative and the path of work is for the active." In many ways this quote exemplifies the duality of the path which I have taken thus far in my life, and which has directed my pursuit of a medical career.
As a philosophy major, I am continually seeing "wisdom," as the quote articulates, in a reflective or meditative manner. Instead of requiring passivity, however, my studies have reinforced my belief that every individual has a significance which must be materialized in the contributions he or she makes to society. For me, this contribution has been in my molecular biology research and AIDS-related community service and education. These activities have focused my goal of becoming a physician into one of specializing in HIV and AIDS, both in research and patient care.
While not directly concerned with AIDS, the research with which I have been involved has been instrumental in developing fundamental research skills essential for any area of medicine. My study has been directed toward the examination of sodium channel expression in spinal cord cells and its relation to the motor defects characterizing multiple sclerosis. Last year, I developed a probe known as sodium generic which is unique in its capacity to simultaneously detect all forms of sodium channels. At a broader level, my work has familiarized me with basic techniques, such as RNA and DNA gels, in situ hybridizations, and gene transcriptions, and has introduced me to the process of generating a paper for publication (in press), from the actual experimentation to data analysis and writing.
More directly influential in my AIDS-related medical goals have been my experiences as a volunteer and, currently, as the coordinator of the Yale Student AIDS Educators (SAE). In high school, through the buddy program of an AIDS foundation, I served as a companion for a woman with AIDS. While our friendship personalized the pain caused by the disease, it also made me realize that this suffering can, and must, be prevented by modifying awareness and behavior. This conviction guided me toward the path of the "active," namely that of peer education and outreach through the SAE. Our group develops presentations for all first-year students about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and communication skills. Throughout the year, we also design outreach campaigns in the form of posters and newsletters, and distribute condoms around campus. While we do serve as an essential resource for college students, I am convinced that education about disease prevention should begin at a much earlier age. Therefore, with a medical school organization, I also give presentations to New Haven junior high school students.
Through my outreach efforts, I have found that a great obstacle in today's society lies in the barrier which so many have developed against AIDS awareness attempts. For many, the countless disease prevention messages have become little more than ineffective cliches. With this in mind, my goal as a health educator has been not only to provide information, but also to challenge people to translate that knowledge into practice or, in a sense, to synthesize their paths of wisdom and action.
Sometimes when I see the current statistics concerning the appalling rise in HIV infection rates, I question the value of the relentless efforts in prevention education; when I read about the tremendous mutation rates of the virus and the resulting difficulties in developing a vaccine or cure, I wonder if these research attempts are in vain. Perhaps the path of the active can only lead to a dead end. I then remember, however, the countless students who have revealed to me that the information our educators provided was integral in altering their risky practices; I recall the fact that the administration of AZT to infected pregnant women has resulted in a significant reduction of vertical transmission rates, and that the development of an HIV vaccine has proceeded to the later stages of clinical trials. I realize that dedication, innovation, and action, yield progress, which has, in the past, nearly eliminated such devastating diseases as malaria and small pox. I hope my path of action will enable me to witness a similar eradication of AIDS, and allow the commencement of work against other major scourges.
As a physician I plan to continue my efforts in AIDS education while also helping my patients, both clinically and through research, battle the disease. Perhaps the knowledge attained from my philosophy background will provide myself and them with some perspective on life in the face of AIDS, while my medical studies will furnish them with the possibility of physical endurance and survival.
The opening quotation of this essay is unusual and intriguing, and draws a reader immediately into the text; it seems perfectly suited to the applicant's discussion of how her background as a philosophy major uniquely qualifies him or her to be physician in today's world.
Yet the essay would benefit greatly from a more concentrated focus on this theme, from which the writer occasionally tends to stray — for instance, in the unnecessarily long, slightly awkward, and less compelling central paragraph detailing "the examination of sodium channel expression in spinal cord cells and its relation to the motor defects characterizing multiple sclerosis." A more anecdotal style, with more illustrative details, would add much to this essay.