"Why medicine?" How many times have you been asked that? By your aunts? Professors? PI? Your date? It seems like an innocent enough question. I'm sure those entering the teaching profession are faced with similar curious questions, but when it come to pre-meds, why medicine is a bit more loaded. There's a lot of value placed on that question, and with that value comes fear and insecurity.
I have found over the years that many people know they want to be doctors. How do they know? They just do. Whether they've known since they were three years old or after high school biology, they know. Some people have a profound moment in time where everything clicked, but the majority of applicants do not have such a story. Becoming a doctor just makes sense to them. They love science. They like people. They like to feel helpful. They like the feeling of being important. For others, they want to solve a large systemic injustice. Maybe for some it's the money. Unfortunately, there are still some that are doing this because it was expected of them by their families, or worse, because they declared it out loud and now there is no going back because of pride. No matter what anyone's reason for starting this path, it's not my place to judge. It is, however, the medical school's job to discern one applicant's "why" from another.
Here is what I've gathered over the years:
Most people's Why Medicine is a story of how they decided to pursue the career. It's what I call a journey story. Your journey into medicine is what most think of as why they decided to do this. However, from what I know about med school admissions, the why medicine is not how you decided to do this but rather why you want to wake up everyday and do this job. It's what you want to accomplish by doing this.
A quick Google search on "Medical School Competency Based Admissions" will show you that many medical schools have adopted what's called a Competency Based Approach to admissions. The AAMC worked with many medical schools to create the 15 Core Competencies. These are the competencies medical schools are measuring in their applicants. While many applicants find the admissions process a mystery, these competencies take the elusiveness out of the process. They are literally telling everyone want they want.
How does all of this relate to Why Medicine? You are going to make a case (by applying) that you want to wake up everyday and do this job (like the other 6000 people applying to that school), but the schools need to figure out how to select 100ish people out of 6000. All 6000 want to be a doctor. All 6000 have passion. How can admissions folks start to differentiate everyone who declares to really want to be a doctor? Simple. By looking at the competencies people bring.
This is why I use the phrase, "What is the value that you bring?" rather than "Why Medicine?" If you haven't printed out and taped the competencies to your wall, go ahead and do that. Study them. Understand that this is what they want. How do you embody them? How do your experiences show them? How does your story in your personal statement illustrate you possess them? It is your job to tell them why they should pick you through your personal statement, experience writing, secondaries and interviews. I encourage everyone to write a Power Statement, which is 1-2 sentences that synthesizes all of the value that you bring to medicine. It pulls from your attributes, your childhood, and your college experiences make a case that you need a seat at that table. I encourage people to have that statement written and read it often. You need to have it memorized, believe it, embody it. That is your why medicine.
Having grown up seeing first hand the challenges that my low-income community faced in accessing healthcare due to mistrust, financial constraints and dysfunctional behavior, I possess the insight, linguistic ability to connect, and cultural understanding to begin to build bridges that I hope to use to improve continuity of care in rural communities that have historically been underserved and marginalized.
Your Why Medicine should be half past, half future. Where do you come from and what do you want to do.
To begin building your Power Statement, schedule an appointment with me.