Zute's Personal Statement (Cambridge)
In this series of blogs, medical students and medicine offer holders share and explain their personal statements so that you can learn from our experiences and reflections. Zute is an undergraduate medical student at the University of Cambridge.
Disclaimer: Please do NOT be tempted to use our personal statements as a model/foundation/plan. UCAS is very strict about plagiarism, more information can be found here.
Please remember that there is no such thing as a model personal statement. By definition, it is supposed to be unique and there is no "golden formula".
In an overcrowded and understaffed ward, I joined the only junior doctor on her ward round. With a compassionate bedside manner, she won over the trust and gratitude of her patients despite the high volume of demands. This resilience under stress, while remaining compassionate, exemplified the meaning of being a doctor for me. My experiences have highlighted the personal fulfilment I could have in delivering effective healthcare, and it has become clear that medicine is my vocation.
This paragraph details my motivation for why I want to do medicine. It’s very important to show admissions tutors that going for medicine is something you’ve thought about thoroughly – a clear motivation helps with this. Opening with an anecdote is a good way to make your personal statement sound interesting and most of all personal. I made sure to appropriately reflect on what I thought about that doctor-patient interaction by extracting traits desirable in doctors
e.g. resilience and compassion.
Eager to explore my interest further, I shadowed an orthopaedic surgeon for a week, which exposed the problem-solving and practical nature of medicine. By observing him analyse the presence of osteophytes and cartilage degeneration from a knee X-ray, I learned how acute analytical skills are vital in making correct diagnoses. Moreover, seeing first-hand the interplay between each member of the team during the knee arthroplasty stressed the value of strong teamwork and communication skills, which I have developed as a pastoral prefect.
It's good to have a transition between your paragraphs to build a narrative of how you’ve found out more about what medicine entails. Here, I didn’t just say I did work experience, but I gave an example of specific skills I deemed important such as teamwork and analytical skills. I furthered this by giving an example of where I demonstrated these skills i.e. as a pastoral prefect. Teamwork is essential to medicine, so I wanted to reflect on where I saw this in action during my work experience.
Additionally, volunteering weekly in a urology ward over the past year has deepened my insight into how other healthcare professionals work in tandem with doctors, all of whom are integral to the holistic treatment of patients. From feeding to offering a listening ear for patients' worries, I have been confronted with the emotional demands of caring for the sick. From this, my communication skills have matured by adopting an empathic approach to patients and their families; I learned that alleviating their concerns can enhance patient recovery.
I decided to talk about my volunteering because it showed that I had a long-term commitment to medicine. I also made sure to show that other members in the healthcare profession have an important role to play in patient care – it’s good to get across that you understand doctors don’t do everything. It’s also important to show that you understand the emotional challenges associated with being a doctor. Following this up with why you still want to do medicine is a good way to show you’ve come to a reasoned conclusion.
A placement in a fast-paced A&E department gave an enlightening contrast. The doctors handled sensitive issues professionally, allowing me to appreciate the utility in being composed in the face of emotionally challenging clinical situations, such as ineffective CPR delivery. Whilst it is frustrating that not everyone can be saved, reading Henry Marsh's ‘Do No Harm’ helped me realise that doctors must reflect on their limits, and palliating symptoms instead of attempting curative treatment may at times be the best plan.
Adding your thoughts from a book is a good way to reflect on things you haven’t physically experienced. It doesn’t have to be long, just choose one main takeaway from the book and explain what you learnt from it. I chose to talk about the idea of choosing when and when not to operate as this was something I didn’t fully appreciate before.
Intrigued by the neurological cases from the book, I researched more into the brain and evaluated the evidence behind differences between teenage and adult brains, which gained me a national finalist place in a national essay competition. From this, I sharpened my critical thinking skills and engagement with scientific research, equipping me with essential tools for practising evidence-based medicine in the future. Following a lesson on stem cells, I investigated the use of them in epidermal sheet transplants as treatment for epidermolysis bullosa for a young boy. I found the pathology behind the disease fascinating, which inspired me to write an article on how the insertion of LAMB3 cDNA into cells regenerated his epidermis. The drastic improvement to his quality of life physically and psychologically showed me how medical research is critical in improving patient care.
Since I was applying to Cambridge, I wanted to put more emphasis than most personal statements on how much I was interested in the science behind medicine. Firstly, I was proactive by entering an essay competition and then saying which skills I gained from it. The foundation of all treatments and guidelines in medical practice is evidence so I wanted to show I understood that aspect. If you have a specific example of where you’ve gone beyond your A Level specification to research something, then definitely put that in. However, don’t just leave it in a vacuum, try to link it back to medicine to show that ultimately all the science you learn is to benefit patients in some way.
As a keen scientist, I enjoy problem-solving, especially in novel scientific contexts, evidenced through achieving a Gold award in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge and Intermediate Biology Olympiad. Alongside my academics, I tutor KS2 children weekly which has refined my ability to effectively convey complex information to others, a useful skill in discussing diagnoses and clinical decisions with patients. From tutoring six children at a time and giving tailored feedback to their parents, I have managed the high workload by prioritising tasks. As a dedicated athlete, I have competed regionally for my athletics club for the past three years which has taught me the value of perseverance during difficulty.
It's easy to forget to mention what things you do outside of medicine. I made sure to include my hobbies and other passions, not to tick a box but because it’s useful for admissions tutors to know that you have a life outside medicine. Burnout is real! If you have something that you do on the side then keep on doing it, your entire life doesn’t have to be devoted to medicine. For me, athletics is something that I still take seriously while at university because it helps me to maintain a good balance between studying and having fun.
Informed by my experiences, my drive to study medicine is stronger than ever and I embrace both the emotional and intellectual challenge it brings. Crucially, I aim to embark on a lifetime of learning, equipped with the tenacity, diligence and compassion needed to be a successful doctor.
For my conclusion, I chose 3 qualities that would summarise the traits I have that make me a suitable applicant. This made sure the ending was concise and impactful enough. There isn’t necessarily a right way to write one, but I intentionally kept it short so I could use most of my characters in the main body to talk about other more important things.