Residency Personal Statement: The Ultimate Guide (Example Included)

A step-by-step medical residency personal statement guide to help you match into your dream program

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Part 1: Introduction

Applying to medical residency programs is by no means easy. After four years of medical school, and years more before that of preparing for medical school, you might be ready for a breather. But residency applications hit you with everything from USMLE scores to Medical School Performance Evaluations (MSPEs). The uncertainty leading up to match day can be stressful and anxiety inducing. Will your near-decade of work pay off?

Thankfully, the residency application process is more transparent than others. We know what the most important aspects of the residency application are. Though the exact position on the ranking varies from year to year and according to specialty, the National Resident Matching Program typically lists three factors as crucial components of your residency application and core deciders for whether or not you’ll get an interview: USMLE/COMLEX scores, letters of recommendation from physicians in your targeted specialty, and MSPEs. 

But these materials may not express what drew you to the specialty in question or what got you into medicine in general. And though it can seem as if programs are overwhelmingly interested in your scores and evaluations, they are also interested in the person behind the grades.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the fifth most cited factor by program directors on NRMP’s 2018 survey: the residency personal statement. Before we get into the step-by-step guide, we’ll offer some general framing thoughts.

Being able to communicate your motivations and personality through your application, especially your personal statement, bodes well for your ability to bring that same enthusiasm and drive as a resident and in the rest of your career as a physician, so take note. 

Why does the residency personal statement matter?

The personal statement is an essay of about a page (one page in ERAS is 3500 characters including spaces) in which you articulate who you are and why you want to enter a certain specialty. It’s your big opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants by highlighting anything that isn’t well represented in other parts of your application but that nevertheless contextualizes your CV and accomplishments. This context could include interesting life experiences and motivations for pursuing a given specialty. 

There’s a good reason the personal statement is relevant for program directors. Because so much of the information programs have to determine whether you will be a good fit is quantitative in nature, it’s likely programs will receive applicants with similarly competitive scores. What can serve as a tiebreaker?

Letters of recommendation offer qualitative information. But the personal statement is the main opportunity for you to directly make a case for yourself, on qualitative terms, before you attend residency interviews.

The personal statement can also weed out applicants who don’t demonstrate an adequate understanding of their specialty of interest or who come across as pretentious and pompous. For this reason, in addition to the basic requirements of proper grammar and spelling, you’ll need to strike the right tone with your essay: seeming aware of your motivations and accomplishments to date, passionate about what you hope to achieve in the specialty, and also humble.

Remember: A great personal statement cannot save an otherwise weak application, but a poor one could hurt an otherwise strong application.

What should the personal statement accomplish?

The residency personal statement should include and reflect:

  • What draws you to the specialty

  • The skills or qualities that will help you succeed during the residency and as a practicing physician

  • Your long-term plans, what you hope to accomplish, your preferred setting

  • Personal attributes that make you well-suited to the specialty and training

  • What attracts you to a particular program (if you’re applying for a specific program outside of the national matching system or if you customize a personal statement within NRMP) 

Ultimately, the combination of these elements will give program directors a sense of the kind of colleague you would be and how you would fit into their program.

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Part 2: Brainstorming Topics for Your Personal Statement

Meet our students

Throughout this post, we’ll provide examples from students who have gone through this process so you can see their writing in action.

Roger: Roger immigrated from Mexico as a teen and attends a medical school in a rural area. His path to medicine wasn’t straightforward. After graduating from high school, he worked for several years in construction, quickly climbing the ranks to become project manager for a small roofing firm before deciding to go back to school. He hopes to specialize in dermatology because, after growing up in poverty and performing blue-collar work for years, he wants a comfortable life that will allow him to focus on his growing family. 

Mohana: Mohana entered medical school believing her path was pediatrics. But after an away rotation in radiology, she’s leaning toward radiology, having become attracted to the more technical aspects of the field and its work-life balance. After years of schooling, Mohana mostly wants time for her musical hobbies.

Cynthia: Cynthia either wants to work at a research hospital or practice gynecology. She thinks she could be happy with either, but knows she’d be happiest if she could do both. She also received an MPH before attending medical school. Cynthia still has a taste for social justice, but it isn’t always evident on her CV.

Kazuo: Kazuo initially wanted to pursue thoracic surgery, bu, after spending time with surgeons, he decided the culture was not for him. Now he’s certain he wants to pursue anesthesiology, and isn’t entirely sure how to convey his interest. He is worried this change of heart may hurt his chances of matching into his top programs.

Brainstorming

Before you begin writing, set aside time to brainstorm. Whether you have an idea in your head or are struggling with where to start, freeform thinking can expand your options, call to mind experiences you hadn’t considered, or even help you pick unique interests you otherwise might have left out.

If you’re uncertain about how to proceed, jot down your answers to the following questions:

  • What first drew you to medicine?

  • Was there an experience, clinical or otherwise, that had a significant impact on you? What was it and why is it meaningful?

  • When did you know you wanted to pursue the specialty in question? What attracted you to the specialty?

  • What are your greatest qualities? When have you demonstrated these qualities?

  • Where do you see yourself 20 years into your career as a physician?

  • What’s an important part of who you are that isn’t on your resume?

  • Who are your role models and why?

  • What are your most meaningful extracurricular activities? Why?

  • What’s an accomplishment you are most proud of?

  • What was your most enlightening moment?

  • What medical cause do you care about most, and how did you come to care about it?

These are just a few questions to get started. Add more as they occur to you.

Another way to approach the personal statement is to ask what qualities make a good physician in your target specialty and consider how you embody those qualities. For example, here are a few qualities that might represent pediatric neurology: 

  • Strong communication or interpersonal skills

  • Attentiveness

  • Technologically inclined

  • Passion for advocacy

  • Ingenuity 

After brainstorming, take anywhere from a few hours to a day or week to step away from your notes. This will help you as you move onto the next step: focusing your ideas.

Focusing your ideas

Here are some sample topics our residency applicants came up with:

Roger

  • An accidental run-in with poison ivy

  • Advocating for his Spanish-speaking roofing clients

  • Adjusting to the U.S. after immigrating from a small town in Mexico

Mohana

  • Teaching herself MaxMSP programming skills

  • Babysitting her nieces and nephews

  • Her away rotation in radiology

Cynthia

  • Giving sex-ed talks in local middle schools

  • Being a surrogate daughter for her next-door neighbor, Leticia

  • Presenting her research findings at conferences

Kazuo 

  • His ten-year meditation practice

  • His experience in surgery rotation

  • Admiration for his father, who taught him darkroom photography

Once you’ve generated your list of ideas, consider how they do or do not compellingly answer the following questions:

Why this specialty?

Before writing your personal statement, you should be very clear, personally, about why the specialty you’ve chosen is the right one for you.

Program directors want to know that you have a realistic idea of what your specialty will entail. For instance, you might be interested in plastic surgery because it’s a highly paid field but fail to understand the importance of artistic anatomy in its practice. If your application fails to convey compelling reasons for pursuing a specialty beyond high salaries or the potential “lifestyle” benefits associated with it (especially true for specialties like radiology and dermatology), it may cost you an interview invitation.

What strengths do I have that are not apparent in my other application materials?

Though your recommenders may offer a sense of your personality and interests, you are in the best position to include meaningful details that can’t be found on a CV. What aspects of your life do you think might compel a selection committee to pick you over other applicants? What makes you unique?

How do I embody the qualities of a good physician in the specialty?

This is slightly different from understanding the realistic requirements of a given specialty. Instead, it joins the strengths of your full life to the characteristics of an exemplary practitioner in your field of choice. 

For instance, an anesthesiologist who performs their role well may go unnoticed by a patient, whereas a pediatrician who is too technically inclined may come across as cold or uncaring. The decisiveness of a surgeon in the OR is distinct from a psychiatrist adjusting a patient’s depression medication through trial and error over time. Make sure that the details you select speak to the qualities of your chosen specialty.

Let’s look at how our students applied these principles.

With two young children and another on the way, Roger wants good work hours and enough money to give his children a high quality of life. He’d never thought much about dermatology until he had accidental contact with poison ivy and took an elective in the specialty. Also, Roger hopes to practice in a rural setting because the low cost of living would facilitate his family-oriented lifestyle, but he knows he must communicate a more selfless reason in his personal statement. Roger’s approach will combine seemingly unlike things (roofing, dermatology, advocacy for rural patients) into one cohesive portrait of who he is and what matters to him.

Mohana doesn’t list her hobby on her resume, so writing about it for her personal statement will illuminate a side of her that neither quantitative scores nor letters of recommendation can comment on. Programming beats is Mohana’s passion, and she wants to show off how her technical prowess can serve her in the field of radiology.

But what to make of her experience babysitting her nieces and nephews? For Mohana, childcare helped her learn that she was particularly adept at soothing children in unfamiliar situations. It isn’t her strongest idea because she’s primarily interested in diagnostic radiology but including it may convey to program directors that she understands that radiology remains as patient-centered as any other medical discipline. 

So far, Roger and Mohana are using their experiences to tell a story, not just enumerate things they’ve done. At the end of the day, great personal statements tell stories – about you, your journey, and why you’re right for a given specialty. If your idea is a topic without a story, it’s not worth mentioning.

Questions to determine if an idea can be a story:

  • Can you reference a specific anecdote (a day, a summer, an interaction)? Can you include significant details that convey the specificity of what you experienced?

  • Is yours a story no one else could tell? You want a story that, even if someone had the same jobs, schools, or extracurricular activities as you, they would not be able to write in the same way.

  • Does the narrative have an arc? Do you demonstrate growth and insight over a period of time?

  • Is the voice of the essay yours? Is the language lively?

Regardless of the idea, you should be able to answer yes to at least one of these questions.

To that end, while Cynthia felt that her positive experiences presenting her research at conferences best expressed her passion for research, this information was readily available on her resume and could be a sentence in her personal statement, not an entire framing narrative.

On the other hand, Cynthia’s experience serving as a “surrogate” child for her neighbor, Leticia, could be used to encompass her interests in reproductive health, patient advocacy, and gynecology. Leticia, an elderly woman who had never had children of her own, was sterilized without her consent while receiving an appendectomy as a teenager in the 1960s. The injustice of this fueled Cynthia throughout her medical education.

Similarly, Kazuo thought his experience in the Operating Room was a natural place to begin: it was where he discovered he did not want to be a thoracic surgeon after all, but an anesthesiologist. But to convey a greater sense of his level-headedness and exactitude, he chose to also talk about his role model – his photographer father – and the lessons learned in darkrooms and meditation, neither of which could readily be written about by another applicant.

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Part 3: How to Write An Amazing Residency Personal Statement

Start with an outline

With so many great ideas and a narrative in mind, you might be tempted to start writing your essay now. But an outline will keep your ideas organized and help you write more efficiently. Even if you don’t start draft one with an outline and instead just “vomit draft,” consider making draft two a reverse outline so that at some point you have structure guiding you.

Here’s one path to follow:

First paragraph: Lead with detail

The residency personal statement is short – under 3500 words – and this brevity creates constraints. While an opening anecdote is a good approach to hook readers, you may choose to describe a situation or an experience more generally to accommodate the brevity.

Both options are possible, but what you choose depends on the anecdote in question and what you hope to accomplish over the course of the statement. The point is to pin your unique story to your interest in medicine by the end of the first paragraph if you can, but at the very least by the end of the second paragraph.

How do you choose your opening story? One way is to check against the questions above – can you remember specific details? Is it something only you could write? Is there an arc or will there be one over a few paragraphs, even the whole essay?

Kazuo has a specific anecdote in mind for his hook: the first day of his surgery rotation. As you’ll see, the essay passes the specificity test by the strength of its details—an ovary riddled with cysts, the bright OR light, the origins of Kazuo’s surgical interest, the introduction of the father as a character—and sets Kazuo up to discuss how he came to be interested in anesthesiology. 

One of the most powerful moments in my medical education occurred during an oophorectomy. As Dr. Srivastava removed a cyst-riddled ovary, I noted that his calm was contagious; I felt focused but at ease. The surgery finished without a hitch. In fact, it was anticlimactic, even unremarkable. Having dreamed of becoming a surgeon since age 16, when my father had to undergo emergency surgery after a heart attack, it was a let-down. But my photographer father’s words on darkroom printing – “Look at the shadows, and they will guide you” – made me reconsider. When I looked away from the bright overhead light, I saw the reason for our calm: our anesthesiologist, Dr. Grant, had been silently watching the whole time, making sure the infusion was working as planned. 

Roger, on the other hand, describes a situation that conveys the roots of his advocacy.

 As a young roofing project manager, I chose to work with Spanish-speaking clients with roofs leaky from hailstorms many years prior. Because I was born in Mexico and had spent my younger years there, I felt a special connection when aiding non-English-speaking families who otherwise may have had difficulty navigating a complex insurance process to restore their damaged homes. I spent hundreds of hours learning to inspect and scrutinize the sometimes subtle, timeworn signs of hail damage to expertly advocate for those families. It was this love of advocacy, combined with my later love of biologic systems, which drew me to medicine. 

By distilling the career wisdom of years into one crystal clear statement about the relationship between allyship and medicine, Roger is anticipating an arc he will develop across the length of the essay while setting himself apart from his more traditional colleagues.

Body paragraphs: Connect your narrative to a thesis

Roger has, by the end of the first paragraph, indicated what drew him to medicine in the first place. This is a good approach, and a model that works for articulating the thesis for the specialty as well. 

Mohana gives her thesis in her second paragraph. Her opening anecdote was about how playing her first MaxMSP composition for friends was the culmination of hours of online tutorials and technical discussions on programming forums.

She describes the elation she felt at seeing her creation come to life for others and the satisfaction she received from sharing a common language with those who like learning through doing. This anecdote conveys something about Mohana’s qualities but doesn’t mention medicine at all. 

That’s where her second paragraph comes in. 

My passion for making music machines and my interest in radiology are fraternal twins. I want to be a radiologist because it would put my analytic skills to use just as trouble-shooting atonal compositions compelled me to search for answers. As someone who enjoys collaboratively finding creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems, I am especially suited to being a “doctor’s doctor”—a radiologist. I love talking shop with knowledgeable colleagues. Establishing a common diagnostic vocabulary with fellow clinicians intrigues me most of all. In fact, my radiology rotation felt like a real-life MaxMSP forum except that, instead of collectively developing an audio patch, we jointly scrutinized sagittal reconstructions for complex fractures.

Connect the personal to the professional

Having described the impact of growing up next door to Leticia, Cynthia connects that personal story to how she envisions moving forward in her professional life in her third paragraph. She also takes the opportunity to make a case for both research and clinical practice, giving herself a flexible statement that could suit a variety of program environments.

As I researched sources of misdiagnosis among OB/GYNs, particularly pertaining to endometriosis and hormonal disorders, I was driven by memories of Leticia. She once described how it took her ten years after her forced sterilization to understand the female reproductive system enough to comprehend what had been taken from her. As an OB/GYN, I would make sure no patient left my examination room without a clear understanding of her reproductive health. Moreover, the sex-ed I do in Baltimore middle schools has inspired me to share my research findings through outreach. Over time, my clinical and research experiences will give me the authority to advocate for reproductive health education reform. It is my ultimate goal to ensure that no young woman suffer as Leticia did. 

Demonstrate change and growth over time

One way to keep a personal statement reader engaged is by using the tried and true storytelling methods of conflict and resolution.

Put another way, things have to happen – specifically, they have to change.

Body paragraphs are the perfect place to develop these transformations. What events incited your growth? How are these shifts related to your interest in pursuing a specialty or the kind of practitioner you will be?

Kazuo, for example, reckoned with the realization that surgery proper was not for him. But rather than consider this a failure of direction on his part, Kazuo uses this to his advantage, spinning it as a successful reorientation that more closely aligned with his experiences and values.

I was excited to alternate between preoperative procedures and pain management in the anesthesiology rotation. Some tasks felt familiar; assisting the attending in diluting medications called to mind the exact ratios I once mixed for my father’s developer and fixer so that his prints expressed the full gradient between black and white. Other tasks, like induction and the occasional corrections required for maintenance, were foreign. But the beeping monitors and visual cues entered my mind like the thoughts I’ve aimed to consider without fear or anxiety in my ten years of meditating. By honing my attention in darkrooms and in silent morning meditations, I’ve become attuned to others, often anticipating the needs of recovering patients before they can articulate these themselves. My anesthesiology rotation helped me understand that behind every unremarkable surgery was a great deal of foresight and diligence. These are the qualities I enjoy exercising most.   

Notice how Kazuo includes personal biographical details and establishes their relevance to anesthesiology. Interests aren’t mentioned just for the sake of mentioning them. They have been selected because they illuminate some aspect of Kazuo, whether it’s his longtime—and personally meaningful—interest in mixing solutions or his mindfulness. 

More importantly, however, is that these align with the qualities of a good anesthesiologist. For Kazuo, an anesthesiologist should not merely be reactive, but proactive, “anticipating the needs of recovering patients before they can articulate these themselves.” By the last line, Kazuo’s body paragraph is in conversation with his opening anecdote. In fact, Kazuo has demonstrated a transformation from the naïve student in the surgery rotation to the attentive, proactive, and self-aware anesthesiologist-to-be.

Communicate the kind of specialist you hope to be

Kazuo wants to exercise his foresight, diligence, and calm. Mohana wants to be a “doctor’s doctor.” Here are how Cynthia and Roger express the qualities they would like to respectively embody. 

I want to take the expertise I gain in my OB/GYN practice and reproductive health research and apply it in policy.  

Short, sweet, and to the point. Roger chooses to convey his ultimate goals in his conclusion, which can also be an acceptable approach if your essay’s structure invites it.

I intend to apply my passion for human connection and community to providing high-quality dermatologic care and research to communities which have traditionally had difficulty accessing care.

In one sentence, Roger synthesizes the different facets of his interest in dermatology and returns to the advocacy he first mentioned in his intro paragraph.

Conclusion: Tie it all together

Your concluding paragraph should leave selection committees with an understanding of who you are and why you’re applying. There are several ways to think about an ending to successfully avoid falling victim to clichés.

Don’t pre-write your ending

Some people have deeply ingrained ideas of what an essay’s conclusion should accomplish and can even write with a conclusion already in mind. It’s best to let a conclusion naturally respond to the elements in the essay, so don’t force it.

Avoid declarative sentences

Program directors see it all the time: “And that’s what would make me a great oncologist” or “I would bring these skills to your program.” Don’t let their eyes glaze over. Write something more unique. 

Consider ending on an image or with a callback to where you began the essay

This is one of the most organic and satisfying ways to conclude any piece of writing.

Mohana’s essay, for instance, opens with playing her music for others. She closes with the following.

There is a joy in finding your tribe. I’m lucky to have several. The wider world of musical programmers is my creative community and the radiology team at Beth Israel Deaconess is an example of my ideal medical community. Whether creating a neural network for note generation or exploring new possibilities for interventional radiology, I know my fascination with innovation, technique, and diagnosis will help me find harmony between invention and the tried-and-true backbone of medicine–excellent patient care. People-centered radiology–that’s music to my ears.  

After you’ve finished the first draft of your residency personal statement

First, celebrate! Writing is hard no matter what, it’s emotional purgatory, and the fact that you’ve accomplished anything with language is no small feat. But you’re just getting started. Settle in for some revisions, it’s going to be a bit.

Read your essay aloud

This will alert you to typos, problems of pacing, and issues of form that you might otherwise miss. Reading aloud also helps you get a sense for your essay’s voice – it should sound like you when read aloud.

Ask for feedback 

You should have a trusted peer, professor, specialty advisor, or admissions counselor read your essay. The core question to ask them is, “Do you have a good sense of who I am and why I want to pursue this specialty after reading this?” 

If the answer is no, revise, revise, revise.

For big changes, don’t edit – rewrite

It can be a pain to invest so much time into a draft only to scrap it, but if you decide on structural revisions or major changes in content, start with a new document. Starting anew may give you a more cohesive and coherent final product.

This doesn’t mean all your hard work was in vain. Print out a hard copy of your original, keep it on the table beside you, and open a clean doc. Drawing from your previous draft for your revision will ensure you have one essay at the end, not two spliced together. 

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Part 4: In-Depth Analysis of a Full-Length Personal Statement Example

Before we go into our analysis, consider reading the personal statement example in its entirety. As you go through it, keep the following questions in mind: 

  • Does Roger demonstrate an understanding of his specialty of interest, including the kind of qualities an exemplary resident in the specialty must possess? If so, which ones?

  • Does Roger tell a story about how his interest developed? How does Roger demonstrate growth and change?

  • Could anyone have written this statement, or is it unique to Roger?

  • After reading the statement, do you have a good sense of who Roger is and why he wants to pursue dermatology? 

Let’s look at the dermatology statement Roger produced based on the process we described.

As a young roofing project manager, I chose to work with Spanish-speaking clients with roofs leaky from hailstorms many years prior. Because I was born in Mexico and had spent my younger years there, I felt a special connection when aiding non-English-speaking families who otherwise may have had difficulty navigating a complex insurance process to restore their damaged homes. I spent hundreds of hours learning to inspect and scrutinize the sometimes subtle, timeworn signs of hail damage to expertly advocate for those families. It was this love of advocacy, combined with my later love of biologic systems, which drew me to medicine. 

In medical school, I serendipitously found the specialty within which I wanted to apply this passion after accidentally dumping a bag of mulched poison ivy on my head. The resulting rash was painful but interesting and sparked a curiosity in cutaneous manifestations of disease that later led me to a dermatology elective. There, I was impressed by the dermatologist’s keen eye for detail, and I found the diagnostic challenge and the detail-driven expertise to be both fascinating and rewarding.  

Each new rash I saw was reminiscent of inspecting leaky roofs and I wanted to emulate my new mentors, who had developed the ability to diagnose and treat skin disease based on the subtle cues they saw. Such was the case when a grizzled farmer from a distant rural community with infrequent follow-up ascribed a sore on his arm to a specific trauma. Despite this history, the dermatologist recognized some subtle and suspicious features, prompting a biopsy that later showed invasive squamous cell carcinoma. In addition to the dermatologist’s diagnostic acumen, it was her relationship with the patient and her understanding of his community, values, and risk factors that allowed her to guide this patient to a better outcome.

In medical school I have enjoyed caring for those who, for cultural, insurance, or geographic reasons, have difficultly receiving care. After one shift in my inpatient pediatrics rotation, I brought my guitar to play for a Latino boy who was dying from leukemia and made his parents my favorite recipe for chile verde with pork. Although I couldn’t offer any more to them medically, I hoped to aid the fear and disconnection they had expressed with the unfamiliar environment now surrounding them. The connection made in that moment helped ease their suffering and fostered a better union between the treatment team and patient.

Multiple studies have suggested that outcomes for dermatologic conditions tend to be poorer in certain demographics. As part of my own research, I have begun investigating these disparities. This has included a research project where we evaluated the effects of social and demographic factors on melanoma outcomes. One finding that spoke to me was that outcomes tended to be poorer in areas with fewer dermatologists. Having grown up in a small town and having completed medical school in a more rural area, I feel a special connection to these communities. I hope to continue to engage in research that better elucidates these disparities to supply better care to these populations.

In my career I intend to apply my passion for human connection and community to providing high-quality dermatologic care and research to communities which have traditionally had difficulty accessing care. Training at your program would enable me to meet these goals and effectively treat and advocate for these patients. 

(Word count: 563; Character count: 3,498)

Residency Personal Statement Analysis 

Let’s analyze the entire personal statement section by section and answer the questions posed above.

Introduction 

As a young roofing project manager, I chose to work with Spanish-speaking clients with roofs leaky from hail storms many years prior. Because I was born in Mexico and had spent my younger years there, I felt a special connection when aiding non-English-speaking families who otherwise may have had difficulty navigating a complex insurance process to restore their damaged homes. I spent hundreds of hours learning to inspect and scrutinize the sometimes subtle, time-worn signs of hail damage to expertly advocate for those families. It was this love of advocacy, combined with my later love of biologic systems, that drew me to medicine.

Analysis

Roger leads with details like “roofs leaky from hail storms” and “time-worn signs of hail damage” that make his previous career in construction vivid in the reader’s mind. The specificity also ensures that only Roger could write an introduction like this. He indicates the hundreds of hours he spent learning to examine subtle signs of roof damage in a manner that suggests, without stating it outright, both the kind of learner Roger would be as a dermatology resident and the transferable qualities he gained from his work and life experiences.

The last line of the paragraph, which helps anchor the reader in Roger’s motivations from the beginning, describes how Roger’s interest came to be. This thesis makes it much easier to navigate the essay and helps Roger compellingly articulate who he is and why he has chosen to apply for dermatology.

Body Section 1: Specialty

In medical school, I serendipitously found the specialty within which I wanted to apply this passion after accidentally dumping a bag of mulched poison ivy on my head. The resulting rash was painful but interesting and sparked a curiosity in cutaneous manifestations of disease that later led me to a dermatology elective. There, I was impressed by the dermatologist’s keen eye for detail, and I found the diagnostic challenge and the detail-driven expertise to be both fascinating and rewarding. 

Each new rash I saw was reminiscent of inspecting leaky roofs and I wanted to emulate my new mentors, who had developed the ability to diagnose and treat skin disease based on the subtle cues they saw. Such was the case when a grizzled farmer from a distant rural community with infrequent follow-up ascribed a sore on his arm to a specific trauma. Despite this history, the dermatologist recognized some subtle and suspicious features, prompting a biopsy that later showed invasive squamous cell carcinoma. In addition to the dermatologist’s diagnostic acumen, it was her relationship with the patient and her understanding of his community, values, and risk factors that allowed her to guide this patient to a better outcome.

Analysis

In this section, Roger emphasizes his interest in dermatology and develops the idea he introduced in his opening paragraph: being attuned to subtle signs of damage. Roger finds kinship in the dermatologist’s “keen eye for detail,” relishes the “diagnostic challenge,” and emphasizes “detail-driven expertise” – all qualities he previously expressed about himself as a roofer and which he is now connecting to dermatology as a field.

In the second specialty paragraph, Roger turns his attention to a mentor to tell a specific anecdote that demonstrates his clear understanding about what dermatology entails. With his point about the visual and attentive elements of dermatology made, Roger transitions to describing the patient relationship toward the end of the second paragraph. The “understanding of his community, values, and risk factors that allowed her to guide this patient to a better outcome” sets Roger up to describe how he shares this awareness as well.

Finally, the specificity of the mulched poison ivy, its resulting rash, and the grizzled rural farmer makes this firmly Roger’s and no one else’s.

Body Section 2: Advocacy

In medical school I have enjoyed caring for those who, for cultural, insurance, or geographic reasons, have difficulty receiving care. After one shift in my inpatient pediatrics rotation, I brought my guitar to play for a Latino boy who was dying from leukemia and made his parents my favorite recipe for chile verde with pork. Although I couldn’t offer any more to them medically, I hoped to aid the fear and disconnection they had expressed with the unfamiliar environment now surrounding them. The connection made in that moment helped ease their suffering and fostered a better union between the treatment team and patient. 

Multiple studies have suggested that outcomes for dermatologic conditions tend to be poorer in certain demographics. As part of my own research, I have begun investigating these disparities. This has included a research project where we evaluated the effects of social and demographic factors on melanoma outcomes. One finding that spoke to me was that outcomes tended to be poorer in areas with fewer dermatologists. Having grown up in a small town and having completed medical school in a more rural area, I feel a special connection to these communities. I hope to continue to engage in research that better elucidates these disparities to supply better care to these populations.

Analysis

In this section, Roger returns to the advocacy he mentioned in his introduction. He keeps it unique by describing a specific interaction with a single family and even mentions his favorite recipe, which gives the body paragraphs a touch of his personality.

The cultural angle helps remind the reader of the ways Roger has been interested in culturally-specific service since his days in roofing, when he advocated on behalf of Spanish-speaking clients. 

Finally, Roger gives context to the research on his CV by showing how his preference for the underserved isn’t merely an ideological commitment. Rather, Roger’s attraction to dermatology dovetails with his passion for connecting with the underserved because his research credentials back it up. Even his upbringing in a different country finds a parallel in the rural environment where he hopes to practice now. The combination of details makes this section uniquely Roger and deepens our sense of who he is.

Conclusion

In my career I intend to apply my passion for human connection and community to providing high-quality dermatologic care and research to communities which have traditionally had difficulty accessing care. Training at your program would enable me to meet these goals and effectively treat and advocate for these patients.

Analysis

Roger keeps it short, perhaps due to word count. Still, his first line clearly articulates who he is and what draws him to dermatology. Placing this line at the end helps the anecdotes and examples Roger used throughout the essay helps the image of him crystallize in the minds of the selection committee. Roger’s last line isn’t our favorite—it’s a little bit common. But the rest of the essay is specific enough that we aren’t hung up on it.

Final Thoughts

By reflecting on how your personal attributes and interests inform who you are and who you might be in your chosen specialty, your well-crafted, authentic, and unique personal statement will help you land those coveted residency interviews and, ultimately, match into the residency program of your dreams.