This applicant sets herself apart by emphasizing a hobby that she loves and accounts for a dip in her grades caused by illness.
Pounding, rushing footsteps started to close in on me. The roar of the crowd echoed, as I extended my hand to receive the baton that signaled my turn to run. As I tightly wrapped my fingers around it, I felt the wind rush around me, and my tired legs started to carry me faster than I ever dreamed possible. As I rounded the final stretch of track I remember battling fatigue by contemplating two paths: slow down and give up my chance of winning to gain momentary comfort, or push myself even harder and give up momentary comfort to receive greater rewards later. I chose the second path and later held a trophy that represented my perseverance and hard work. The years of running — consistently choosing the second path — have taught me discipline and perseverance. These qualities will help me cross a different finish line and achieve a new goal: becoming a doctor.
I have had to learn to budget my time to meet the demands of school, training programs, and volunteer activities. Although I trained and ran at least thirty miles a week throughout college, I also served as a big sister to Kelly, an abused child, and worked in a hospital trauma unit and as a medical assistant in an OB/GYN clinic. My most satisfying volunteer activity, however, was participating in mission work in Mexico City.
In Mexico City I continually saw young children whose suffering was overwhelming. These children had never received vaccinations, were lice-infested, and suffered from malnutrition. They also frequently had infections that antibiotics can easily treat, but due to poverty were left untreated. For a week our team worked feverishly to see as many children as possible and treat them to the best of our abilities. I will never forget the feeling of complete fulfillment after a long day of using my talents for the betterment of others. The desire to replicate this feeling strengthens my commitment to becoming a physician.
Isaac Asimov once said, "It has been my philosophy on life that difficulties vanish when faced boldly." Difficulties have tested my commitment. In September 1992, at the beginning of the running season I developed a severe case of mono. My doctors advised me to drop out of school for a semester and not run for at least four months. Though devastated, I refused to give up. I managed to keep up with all my classes, even when I came down with pneumonia on top of mono in early November. I resumed training in the beginning of December, two months earlier than doctors originally thought possible. Today I am preparing for the LA Marathon in May.
This test helped shape my attitude towards the work that I am now doing in Dr. Lee's molecular biology research lab. In searching for a cure for colon cancer, the work can become tedious, and the project progresses very slowly. Many just give up, feeling that the answers they seek are buried too deep and require too much effort to find. But my training and the battles I have fought with illness have taught me persistence. I realize that many times progress plateaus, or even declines before I find the results I seek. Most of all, I know that the more hard work I invest, the more exciting, overwhelming, and fulfilling are the later rewards.
As a result of my efforts I have been able to experience the joy of breaking through the tape of a finish line, having my name on a journal article in press, seeing the smile on Kelly's face as I walk with her, and hearing the sincere expressions of gratitude from homeless children who have just received a humble roof over their heads and the medical attention they so desperately need. I hope to cross the finish line in the LA marathon and enter medical school this year.
Other Sample Essays
Essay 6: "Although it was a difficult time in my life, it was also one of the most important."
I woke up with a tube down my throat, unable to speak, overwhelmed by voices all repeatedly saying my name. Over all of them I heard my mom, “Lindsay, squeeze my hand if you can hear me”, so I did, but that’s where the memory ends. That’s where a week in the ICU and road to recovery began. I would come to learn that I had suffered a heat stroke while running a half marathon on a scorching July morning and my organs began to shut down. Although it was one of the more difficult times in my life, it was also one of the most important, as it helped solidify my desire to become a Physician Assistant and to change lives like one doctor changed mine.
Long before my accident, I had the opportunity to shadow an Orthopedic Trauma Surgeon. Over the years, I’ve gone into the operating room with him dozens of time, compiling hundreds of hours, but I will never forget the very first surgery I saw. It was a middle-aged man undergoing an ORIF of his fractured humerus. For the surgeons, it was a run-of-the-mill surgery, just another Monday. But for me, it was the first day of the rest of my life. A wide-eyed 18-year old surrounded by blue sterile fields, drills and screws, I knew where I wanted to direct my life. That was when I decided that a career in the medical field was the only option for me. During numerous visits to the OR, I watched the attending surgeon, the residents, the PA and the nurses. The way they worked together reminded me of my high school track team when we ran a relay race, they passed the tools between members, each doing some of the work to achieve a common goal. At this point, I was not entirely sure what a PA did. The more I observed, the more I began to notice that the PA is a crucial part to the relay team; an extension of the team of doctors. The doctors pass the PA the baton and they shoulder some of the work so that as doctors they can focus on their specialties. It allows the entire relay team to reach their goals and creates the safest, most effective approach to patient care. Much like being a part of the 4x800m relay team, I could see myself fitting into the medical relay team as the PA, the middle leg, the extension between the doctors and the finish line of helping the patient.
Following my heat stroke was a weeklong stint in the ICU at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital. During this time I was scared, sad, confused, defeated. My organs had begun to fail and were slowly recovering, which left me exhausted. I could barely stand, let alone walk, and had more lines in me than I could count. One doctor helped me through it all. Dr. Stepke, a gastroenterologist, was at my bedside every day, as my liver had the worst injury. Not only did he provide me with extraordinary medical care, but with the mental and emotional support that I needed. I was told I would be on bed rest for six weeks and limited physical activity for six weeks after that. For a runner, this was awful. The compassion and empathy that Dr. Stepke had for me soars above any other health care worker I’ve ever come across. I was 19, in the hospital, scared, and he made me feel like everything was going to be okay, like he truly cared for me and that he understood how I was feeling. I followed up with Dr. Stepke weekly for six weeks and he never wavered in his support during my recovery. There is something so invaluable about learning first hand the effects that your potential career can have on someone. My relationship with Dr. Stepke was another reassurance that I was meant to be a PA. Since then, every step of the way on my journey towards becoming a PA, I have always strived to make every patient feel how he made me feel: supported, cared for, and understood.
In more than two years working as a CNA, there is one patient that stands out. Her name was Laura, a 37-year-old admitted with a GI bleed. Laura was an alcoholic with dozens of medical problems stemming from her drinking and I would quickly come to realize that she was nearing the end of her short life. Suddenly her care became so much more than the medicine. I cared for her mentally and emotionally, as Dr. Stepke had done for me, while she slowly accepted what was going to happen, while she and the Child Life Specialist told her two young sons, while she was no longer able to walk on her own. This was the hardest time in her life. She was defeated, depressed, dying. After two weeks of working with Laura almost every day, she was discharged. Laura died two days later in the comfort of her home surrounded by family. In my time with her, I did my best to provide her with the empathy and compassion that I had once felt from Dr. Stepke. In my time as a CNA, I’ve learned communication, working as a cohesive team, patience and improvisation, but working with Laura taught me so much more. Through her, I learned about the importance of holistic medicine, in taking care of the mind, body and soul. This can best be achieved by working together as healthcare professionals, passing the baton and ultimately crossing the finish line as a team.
First, I observed and saw I wanted to be a Physician Assistant. Then, I was the patient and felt that I wanted to be a Physician Assistant. Once I felt the impact an incredible doctor can have on a person, I adopted those practices into my own role as a CNA. And once the two came together, working as a team to care for someone in such a vulnerable state, like I had once been, I saw the rest of my life unfold as a Physician Assistant.