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Med School Application Essay

October 1988 

     I spent my childhood on a road less traveled than most.  I grew up in the Oregon country at the end of a dirt road, just like my great grandparents.  (We even attended the same grade school.) In contrast to my peaceful surroundings, my childhood posed several nonordinary challenges.  A difficult premature, twin birth caused brain damage. The problem, recessive hydrocephalus, was not correctly diagnosed for ten years.  In the meantime, I was left to work out problems with coordination, reflexes, headaches, and my speech.   
 
     I stuttered so severely that my twin brother, Kevin, had to interpret to others for me.  The stuttering resulted in social ostracism during my grade school years.  Some­times the kids would wait to ridicule me until they thought I couldn't hear them.  Often they wouldn't.    While these obstacles may have made my early life difficult, hindsight has proven them to be the most valuable experiences in my life. The struggle to overcome them taught me concentration, empathy, hu­mor, and tenacity.  My self-esteem became internalized because there were no external rewards. Isolation fostered independent thinking and taught me that happiness is a choice, not a direct consequence of circum­stance.      
 
     Of all these physical prob­lems, stuttering has taught me the most.  As a child I was always curi­ous, but I couldn't talk.  So I had to listen, to observe.  I learned that there is a whole art to getting answers to ques­tions without asking them.  Oddly, stuttering has been an excellent teacher of public speaking. For in order to retain flu­ency, I must always be aware of my tone and timing.  This awareness makes teaching neuroanatomy sections at the medical school, doing stand-up comedy, or any other public presentation I give much easier for me (which makes it possible for me to finance a large portion of my education).  More­over, stuttering can put public speak­ing in perspective.  Asking out a girl, Janice, for the first time when I stut­tered severely was a mag­nitude more difficult than speaking in front of five thousand peo­ple with the slight stutter I have now (especially since Janice said "no" while the speech went well).  Whether it's taking patient histories, pre­senting re­search, or talk­ing to pa­tients' families I will rely heavily on these communication skills as a physi­cian. 
 
     My desire to become a physician has evolved steadily throughout my college years.  I have done a lot of investigation and introspec­tion that I would not have pursued if I had entered college in­tending to become a doctor.  Greg Adamson, a close friend, mentor, and orthope­dics resident, exposed me to the field and has nurtured my growing interest over the past four years with his almost reckless enthusiasm for medicine.  While this path has been a little circuitous, I am happy I spent my early undergrad­uate ca­reer learning how to write, researching South Africa, and exploring the social sciences, for these have helped to place my physical sciences in perspective and to think more globally.        
 
     Shortly after deciding on medicine as a career, I created and piloted the Stan­ford Medical Youth Sci­ence Pro­gram (SMYSP) along with a friend, Marc Lawrence.  This past year I continued to direct it alone, Raising over $250,000 for the project.  The program brings gifted minority and underserved high school stu­dents onto the Stanford Campus (in residence) for five weeks and exposes them to medicine.  To ar­range the cur­riculum and monitor the hospital work positions, I have in­vestigated a multi­tude of health fields. Moreover, I have had the chance to work with cadavers, see op­erations, and interact with health pro­fessionals right alongside the participants.  I intend to continue this type of pro­gram, if at all possible, wherever I at­tend medical school. 
From medicine I believe I can draw a deep sense of satisfaction and develop skills and habits which will en­able me to help people wherever I go.  In order to be a good physician, I will have to be con­tinuously learn­ing.  The medical field ex­cites me because here teach­ing, researching, formulating health policy and prac­ticing medicine are not neces­sarily mutually ex­clusive.  I am eager to at­tend a medical school which recog­nizes the importance of inte­grating the interpersonal, political, and scientific as­pects of health delivery and explo­ration.   
 
     To medicine I bring curiosity, observation, energy, appreciation of politics and policy, and expe­rience with and dedication to helping the underserved.  In the end, I want to help people, to find new chal­lenges, and to be happy. 
 

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