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"Why Medicine" Revised

How many times in your life have you been asked "Why Medicine?" You probably have some clunky answer you stumble through, avoiding anything about pay and helping people. Maybe you love science? Well, hopefully you love helping people and you love science, but that will be obvious through your experiences and your academic record.


I've listened to hundreds of people answer why medicine, and the vast majority answer the question in the same way. They tell me a story of how they decided to pursue medicine. Whether they were running down a soccer field and heard a crack, or they watched their grandmother suffer from an illness that they want to prevent in others, most people have a moment in time when that decision clicked. If they don't, they start with how much they loved science classes and always asked questions or they always did puzzles as a kid and love the challenge. It's all based in the past, and if you can't pick up on my sarcasm, it's all a bit overdone. Regardless of whether you have a typical story like that, I bet your story hovers in the past. I call that your journey story.

The story that led you to the decision to pursue medicine is your journey story. While interesting, how is a medical school supposed to select you from thousands of people based on your particular story? Can one person's story be better than another's? Wouldn't life circumstances lead to some people's stories being better than others simply due to access to opportunities? I don't believe that your journey to medicine is super helpful to them. And that is NOT your Why Medicine.


Why medicine is why do you want to wake up everyday and go do that job? What makes you want to do that? Is it simply a drive to help people? If so, who do you want to help and why them? How do you want to help them?


They have to select a few hundred to interview out of 6,000+ applicants. What makes them click the "invite" button on one person but not the other? Well, imagine yourself in their shoes. Imagine being tired and overworked. Volunteering for this admissions committee and having 50 applicants (30 pages each) to read through every week for several months. Now think about the average premed. What do average premeds do? There is a really HUGE misconception out there that premeds need to do certain things, so many, many applicants look almost identical in their application. They also approach their personal statement in similar ways...bragging about their experiences, stating over and over why this or that "reaffirms their desire to pursue medicine". It's gotta be exhausting reading the same thing over and over, year after year. Now imagine that someone comes along who is not a checklist applicant. Who did whatever they wanted simply because they liked it. And rather than listing all the things they did in college, they instead base their personal statement around concepts that support an overarching idea that they want to pursue medicine because they want to address a specific problem, help a specific population, reach a certain goal or practice medicine in a specific way. The applicant doesn't just claim to be able to do these things, but rather they provide evidence through stories about moments in time in their past when they've demonstrated those competencies and then they tie that back to medicine, making the case that one day, they want to be able to do that same thing but as a doctor. The writing alone would be so refreshing, so different from the rest that it's bound to catch their attention. Plus it gives them exactly what they're looking for...."Why should I pick you?" You, dear screener, should pick ME because I bring value to medicine. I can do things. I am good at something. I can be helpful in this way.

It's not enough to simply want something. You're not four years old and get what you want by repeating that you want this or that. You can't state over and over that you want to be a doctor. You need to prove you have skills and competencies to do the job well. Cut to the chase. Don't tell them why medicine is good enough for you. Tell them why you're good enough for medicine.



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