• The Aspiring Medics

Tolu's Personal Statement (Oxford)

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. Tolu is an undergraduate medical student at the University of Oxford, and received interview offers from Oxford, UCL, Nottingham and Manchester.

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".

My grandfather was labelled as insane for years in his home country, before being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease upon coming to the UK. When I learnt of the healthcare disparities afflicting those living in developing countries, my interest in Medicine grew. As an advocate of the Declaration of Human Rights - particularly the right to accessible healthcare - I believe that being a doctor is a method of fighting inequality as well as disease. My desire to address this imbalance, along with my curiosity in understanding how the human body functions, has motivated me to choose Medicine.

In my opening paragraph, I outline the catalyst for my interest in Medicine, drawing on my experience of healthcare disparities to convey how I view the role of a doctor, and how this aligns with my other interests. I think that drawing on your own experiences can be particularly powerful in a personal statement - many applicants will write about enjoying science and helping people - but if you can explain why this is important to you, this will stand out.

Work experience placements have reinforced my interest in pathology and the role of doctors to counsel patients. In a high-risk pregnancy unit, I observed the use of ultrasound imaging to detect a monochorionic diamniotic pregnancy, where twin foetuses share a placenta. I was able to note how the doctor identified twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome by detecting that one foetus showed signs of polyhydramnios and the other of oligohydramnios. I observed the doctor sensitively address whether selective termination of one foetus might lead to a better outcome for the surviving foetus. I understand that the responsibility of the doctor involves attending to the emotional, as well as the medical needs of their patients. Furthermore, my time in a hospice revealed the difficulties of palliative care from a patient perspective. Talking to nurses and patients has developed my communication skills and made me appreciate a holistic approach to healthcare.

Next, I draw upon my practical experience of Medicine to demonstrate my knowledge of complex medical conditions and their management, as well as the ‘soft skills’ that doctors employ to provide the best care to patients. Through discussing a case that I observed, I show that I understand the emotional impact of certain conditions, and how doctors can utilise their communication skills to best support patients. I think this paragraph reinforces the idea that even if you only complete one or two work experience placements, medical schools are primarily interested in what insight this provides you into the medical profession.

From volunteering at a hospital, I have learnt the challenges of being a healthcare professional, especially the intricacies of caring for patients with complex needs such as dementia. Working with patients with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) has prompted me to carry out further research into the genetic predisposition for this neurological condition. I was fascinated by the link between trisomy 21 and familial Alzheimer's disease and also how certain APOE genotypes alter an individual's risk of developing AD.

As I was applying to a more academic/scientific course (at Oxford), I wanted to highlight how my volunteering experience has fuelled my intellectual curiosity by carrying out further research into Alzheimer’s Disease.

Having the opportunity to observe patients with AD prompted me to read Oliver Sacks' 'Musicophilia', in order to find out how music could affect this progressive brain disorder. I was intrigued by what I found, particularly how familiar music enhances the functional connectivity of undamaged regions of the visual, salience and executive networks. Consequently, a reduction in anxiety and improvements in cognitive and memory skills has been observed. Completing this project has given me the opportunity to cultivate excellent organisation, research and analytical skills.

In the next paragraph, I expand on my interest in Alzheimer’s Disease. By discussing my further reading and research project, I demonstrated my aptitude for the more scientific focus of the Oxford course, as well as providing interesting talking points for my interview! If you can, linking your work experience/volunteering with your academic interest is particularly impressive, as it shows an appreciation of how scientific research can translate into clinical practice and vice versa.

Due to my experiences of healthcare, I am aware that doctors must have a keen understanding of the various ethical issues related to medical practice. In order to address this, I coordinated both the Sixth Form Biology Society and Medical Society with my peers, in which we discuss various ethical dilemmas - for example, 'designer babies.' Combined with my further roles as House Captain and Sixth Form Committee Chair, I have developed essential leadership and teamwork abilities, both proficiencies which I believe will be useful to a medical career. Apart from my scientific interests, I am an avid sportswoman, competing in netball, athletics, and rugby at various levels.

While the primary focus of my personal statement was academics and experience, it’s also very useful to talk about your extracurricular activities, and how those show your suitability for Medicine. Through discussing my various extra-curriculars, I show qualities of leadership, teamwork and commitment (rather than just claiming to have them!), as well as an appreciation for the ethical questions present in Medicine.

What attracts me to Medicine the most is the concept of combining lifelong learning with improving peoples' lives. I can say with confidence that it is a career which I may find challenging at times, yet always rewarding.

In my final paragraph, I summarise my motivation for studying Medicine. As it is a vocational subject, I think it is crucial to finish your personal statement by demonstrating you have thought deeply and critically about a career in Medicine.