I blazed my own trail to residency. While fraught with obstacles, my unusual journey to otorhinolaryngology has developed my character. I have not been and will not be deterred from achieving my goals. Internship in general surgery has confirmed my love for surgery and aptitude for medicine, despite dropping out of high school to work in construction at age 15. Humility is only one result of the dedicated effort that my achievements required—from putting myself through community college and university while helping to provide for my four younger siblings, to spending over half my life in manual labor. I am confident in my abilities but also willing to ask for assistance. My family, work history, educational background, and years of volunteering have established my leadership skills and appreciation for teamwork. My past reveals that I am a self-motivated hard worker who excels at independent, broad studying and remaining calm under pressure. My wide range of experiences helps me relate to my peers, coworkers, and patients, enabling goal-oriented relationships built on understanding.
All physicians swear an oath to care for others to the best of their ability and judgment. Yet, sometimes, regardless of our efforts, we are unsuccessful in providing optimal care. Depending on the patient and situation, the standard may even change. For example, the peaceful death of a long-time cancer patient may well be considered a success, while a trauma patient’s death is failure. As a naive intern on my sixth shift as a surgical resident, I expected burns and other firework-related injuries during Fourth of July’s overnight trauma call. Instead, we had four priority-one gunshot wounds. After the first patient expired in the operating room, I remember crouching for a moment against the wall and texting a friend from medical school, “losing a patient feels different somehow, now that I’m a doctor.” I thought of how the patient and I had looked into each other’s eyes in the trauma bay while he grasped my arm and told me his name, and my promise that we would take good care of him. We had taken good care, but it was not enough: his death was our failure, despite our best efforts.
Clearly, residency has informed a more nuanced understanding of failure and responsibility. I consider my failures—dropping out of high school, a less-than-ideal Step 1 score, and last year’s unsuccessful application to the Match—as the significant events whose sum has shaped me into an excellent candidate for otorhinolaryngology residency. The learning process requires failure; these are instances that have refined my problem-solving and coping skills as a physician. My medical school graduation and high Step 2 score, along with the earned confidence of mentors, are evidence that hard work and dedication can overcome any obstacle. My ability to learn from my mistakes and press on after failure allows me to better serve each subsequent person—making them feel safe, confident in my surgical abilities, and trusting of my clinical judgment.