Two years ago, I embarked on the exhausting and exhilarating journey known as the 4th year of medical school, where residency programs and applicants court one another for a season and dreams are made or broken. As the newest generation of 4th year medical students (including a few of my own “doclings”) now bravely set forth on this path, I thought it would be appropriate to stand with them by doing something brave, too—publicly posting my personal statement. After all, it was through writing this personal statement that I became convinced I needed to apply for Radiology. I hope my words will prove helpful to at least a few people who feel, like I did, doubtful and overwhelmed at the start of a long year.
I am so happy to be choosing Radiology as the path to becoming the kind of doctor I’ve always envisioned: smart, cooperative, and compassionate.
I love that Radiology is “brainy,” requiring great mental power and flexibility. Radiologists are central to the practice of medicine, as diagnoses and treatments so often pivot on the proper understanding of imaging. Of course, as a proper Physics geek, I am intrigued by the technology that continually increases our ability to know more and diagnose more. But what I love most about being on the cutting edge is the intellectual challenge of having familiar concepts swept out from under my feet. It’s not enough to memorize the pathognomonic patterns—those may change along with advances in imaging modalities. For radiologists, there is a real advantage to reasoning by principles and not by rules; the difference being that a rule may forbid stepping off the roof, but the principle of gravity also extends to not jumping off a cliff.
I want to be a good colleague, one who uplifts and brings out the best in others. I’ve seen how a good radiologist can turn others into better doctors. During my Internal Medicine rotation, a very patient Radiology lecturer introduced me to the Physics principles of imaging and systematic approach to reading films, which opened my eyes to a new level of reasoning and sparked my interest in becoming a radiologist. In learning how shadows translate from densities, and densities from pathology, I finally began to illuminate what I previously saw as a mystery in medicine. I realized that there is an order and logic behind the shadows, revealing the answers to those who understand. I am excited not only to gain the diverse knowledge and skills that radiologists employ when consulted by physicians of all specialties, but also to continue working as part of a diverse team.
I want to be a good person, one who respects other people regardless of where they stand in the hierarchy. I love that Radiology, far from being an antisocial desk job, requires clinical skills and bedside manner. I was impressed that of all my mentors, it was a radiologist who stressed the importance of cleaning up my own sharps and treating nurses with respect, and who, in answer to a 90-year-old lady asking if he would recommend the thoracentesis, considered his own wife. Even though it may be easy to dehumanize the dozens of scans that populate the computer screen each day, I will not abandon my philosophy of what it means to be a doctor: to heal and affect positive change through personal relationships. I’m happy to know that a dark cubicle does not preclude this, but rather makes it even more important.
As I reviewed my experiences to choose my future, I realized that the answer lay much deeper than, “Do I like thinking or cutting? Do I want to treat diabetes or gallbladders?” What it took for me to love all my rotations was a good attitude, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to being happy. I know these qualities will serve me well in the difficulties that I will undoubtedly encounter in my career. Ultimately, my decision is based on the kind of person I want to be, and I look forward to residency as the next step in shaping that person. In this regard, I am seeking a program that will expand my boundaries, where I will grow intellectually, work as a productive member of a supportive team, and provide excellent patient care.