Why Did I Choose Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statement

Throughout medical school I have committed myself to finding the one specialty that aligns perfectly with my personality and future goals. While this task seemed straightforward and uncomplicated, I soon realized during my third-year clerkships that every area of medicine offered aspects I enjoyed. After exploring other specialties, I reflected on the qualities that I wished to possess as a physician. I envisioned myself as compassionate, respected, and knowledgeable, traits which I realized embodied the field of internal medicine. My intense self-reflection, combined with my medical school experiences, solidified my decision to pursue a residency in internal medicine.

The first patient I admitted while on my third-year internal medicine clerkship was an African American lady who was diagnosed with sarcoidosis. After I completed my history and physical, I realized the questions I had asked relied upon my ability to combine my knowledge of pathophysiology along with the clinical presentation of a disease process. At last I comprehended the importance of the basic science years as it related to patient care. I continued to follow this patient every day, and the responsibility of caring for someone's health had both a significant and fulfilling impact on me. I gained immense satisfaction from treating the whole person: her emotional needs as well as her medical needs. After completing my twelve weeks on internal medicine, I discovered that four months later this patient was re-admitted for a pulmonary embolus, which combined with her diminished lung function, ultimately resulted in her passing away. Although I was only a small part of this woman's care, I still felt connected to her. While her death saddened me, it also made me conscious of the potential rewards, such as lasting patient-doctor relationships, which could only come out of providing a lifetime of care to each of my patients.

Upon the completion of my third-year rotations, I felt that the role of the internist most closely matched my interests and abilities. The variety and complexity of the problems I encountered offered the intellectual stimulation that I desired in a medical field. I admired my attendings' breadth of knowledge across various medical disciplines, and I took pleasure in collaborating with physicians of all specialties, especially when the diagnosis proved to be difficult. The opportunity for close patient contact was also an appealing aspect. With fewer responsibilities than an intern, I found that as a third-year medical student I was able to spend more time with my patients, explaining how a diagnosis is made and what treatments might be required. Encouraged by these experiences with my patients, I was inspired to learn more about their conditions, not only for my own personal knowledge but also for their education as well.

I have many attributes to contribute to internal medicine. My experiences as a secondary education school teacher, Special Olympics swim coach, and elected class officer attest to my ability to lead and educate others. I am also analytical and detail-oriented, characteristics which originally led me to complete an undergraduate degree in economics. After my first year of medical school, I was awarded a scholarship to conduct research in the field of trauma surgery, an experience which enhanced my problem solving skills. In addition, my years as a varsity swimmer at Duke University have endowed me with certain traits that will not only make me a successful internist but also a well-balanced physician. These qualities include a never-ending quest for personal improvement, pride in my work or training, and the ability to focus on several tasks while balancing personal and professional obligations.

As our friends finish undergrad, apply for jobs, settle down and develop a lifestyle, we are preparing for the next standardized exam, writing that catchy personal statement and requesting another set of recommendation letters on our journey towards residency. Although medicine is not for everyone, for whom it is, it likely is the only choice. After completing three years of medical school, the time finally comes to choose what we will do for the rest of our careers. My decision to enter internal medicine is based on the experiences, diversity and opportunities it provides.

The main reason I chose internal medicine was the experience of developing effective and longitudinal relationships with patients. The irony is that I wrote that same sentence in my personal statement while applying to medical school. Four years later, I actually know what it means. People rarely let others choose their next meal, but in the doctor’s office, we are often guiding patients through invasive treatment options and discussing end-of-life care. Practicing effective internal medicine is rooted in facilitating change through teamwork and communication. Giving a patient the mental wherewithal to improve is arguably as valuable as the medicines and therapies we prescribe.

A common phrase during our medical training is “when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.” Simply put, common things are common. When a patient comes in with ten days of nasal congestion, nasal discharge and facial pain, they have acute bacterial sinusitis, not a raging fungal infection or sinus abscess. Much of our work in the hospitals is treating COPD, congestive heart failure exacerbations, acute coronary syndrome and acute abdominal pain.

However, in just the last few months, I have taken care of patients with rare metastatic cancers, drug-induced lupus and scrofula. Every once in a while, you even get to treat one of those diseases that only exists on board exams. (I’m looking at you, Goodpasture.) The diversity of patient presentations, workups and treatments makes every day on the internal medicine service a bit different.

Similar to the diversity in the patient population, the variety of opportunities a career in internal medicine provides is unparalleled. You have many options to choose from, and most importantly, these choices can evolve as your career matures. You can pick between outpatient and inpatient medicine, or practice both. You can remain a general practitioner or become a specialist through fellowship training. Finally, you can branch out and become involved in academics, administration or research. Although this may change as I continue my training, I see myself as a specialist practicing inpatient and outpatient medicine while devoting time to teaching and training future doctors.

Through my experience, I have learned that we need everyone to be at their best for patient care to succeed. The emergency physician admits the dyspneic pulmonary hypertensive, the pulmonologist provides the acute treatment, the interventionalist performs the cardiac catherization, the cardiothoracic surgeon recommends a permanent solution and the internist manages the team. Time will tell where I fit in the team.


Storytellers

Patients are the true storytellers. They come in with pathology, we interpret physiology and prescribe pharmacology, but their stories are what we remember. They shape our experiences and how we practice medicine.

Manik Aggarwal (7 Posts)

Columnist Emeritus

Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine


Hi! I am an Internal Medicine resident at Georgetown University Hospitals. I graduated medical school from Texas A&M Medical School and Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX. I went to Case Western Reserve University where I did my bachelor's in medical anthropology and a masters in public health. Life is good. I am an inherent optimist who simply enjoys life. Avid Dallas Cowboys fan! In all my free time (ha ha), I enjoy traveling and spending time with friends and family.

Storytellers

Patients are the true storytellers. They come in with pathology, we interpret physiology and prescribe pharmacology, but their stories are what we remember. They shape our experiences and how we practice medicine.


Tags: choosing a specialty, medical student lifestyle, MS4, residency

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