Medicine Personal Statement
Submitted by Oriana
Shadowing a doctor on a geriatric ward, I witnessed tears, arguments and security interventions. However, the patients responded to interaction. I realised that most of the patients wanted to be listened to and treated as people, not problems. Reading Gawande’s Being Mortal made me reflect upon the difficulty of providing elderly care, how to look after someone who is in the final stage of life and the difficult question ‘When should we try to fix and when should we not?’. Despite the prevalence of dementia, I knew little about it. Inspired by the patients I encountered, I carried out research leading to an essay where I tackled possible ways to helps its sufferers in society.
An online university course on nutrition and research into a number of diseases made me realise that so many of these were linked to poor diet. Even so, the purported link between diet and dementia for instance, is rarely taken into account in meals provided by public care institutions.
Volunteering at a drug and alcohol addiction centre has made me increasingly aware of how destructive mental illnesses can be. For me, it has been rewarding to help these individuals and the importance of social interaction in their recovery processes. In addition, I have learnt more about drugs, particularly their effects on synapses and how this affects brain chemistry. I came across Bulgakov’s accounts of being a doctor in the Russian countryside in the 1920s and his struggle with a morphine addiction. I reflected upon how despite his severe illness, he could still function and I was encouraged by how dedicated he was to his patients and how imaginatively he cared for them.
When shadowing a cardiothoracic doctor, I was shocked by a young patient who refused to have simple and low risk surgery. This refusal would likely mean death. Despite the surgeon explaining the procedure and its benefits, he still refused. This allowed me to notice the important role communication had. Appearing in a play at the National Theatre and taking part in a French play competition have helped me to develop my ability to make quick decisions and view things from other perspectives. I realised that patients’ rights always must be respected, we must accept that we cannot always do what we think is best. In reading Marsh’s Do No Harm, I appreciated that success in surgery, despite planning and skill, is often down to luck.
My study of French and interest in French culture led me to work experience with a radiologist in a Parisian suburb. Discussing the healthcare system I found that whilst different, it faced the same difficulties as systems elsewhere. Reading about the history of medicine, I prepared a French presentation on Louis Pasteur which gave me insight into some of the his discoveries. I was able to use my knowledge about immunology and the practicals I had done in Biology.
Volunteering with St John Ambulance has provided me with invaluable first aid practice, experience in dealing with patients and working under pressure. The need for composure when working in demanding situations became particularly clear to me when shadowing a dentist and watching her interact with difficult patients and their families.
I know that medicine will be a challenging career, but this is partly what draws me to it. Reading Weston’s Direct Red, I was forced to consider the unpredictability of disease. I recalled that when doing first aid, if someone has an injury on one side of their body, you are advised to compare the corresponding part. Later, a radiologist told me that when looking at an X-Ray, a range must be considered because our internal systems can vary greatly in size and form. Reflecting on these, I realised that no human body is the same. Every patient encountered will be slightly different and every disease will manifest itself in a slightly different way.