My personal statement for residency application (2000) is a little snapshot and introduction of who I was before the whirlwind of medical practice and 4 children. This blog will paint a mural of who I have become 12 years later.
Quite frequently, I am a gourmet chef, or at the very least a sous-chef, sautéing, dicing, braising, and boiling; a molecular biologist turned cuisine technician, pipeting aliquots of broths and catalyzing dishes with rosemary, allspice, savory and tarragon. I capitalize on my undergraduate days working in a molecular biology lab at Cornell, practicing sterile technique and converting Western and Southern blots into risotto with portabella mushrooms and chocolate soufflés. Whether cooking a five-course meal or purifying an antibody, the timing, organization and detail is crucial. I rise to the task and plan methodically, anticipating baking and incubations as well as any unforeseen burning. I imagine my fondness for cooking arises from my Chinese culture, in which, like many other cultures, cooking represents more than simple oral alimentation. Dishes are an extension of love, loyalty and pride. When I cook, I manifest my emotions. Through a medium outside of words, I express the tenderness and commitment I hold for my guests through individually wrapped dumplings or Cornish hens filled with raspberry stuffing.
Other days I am the quiet girl curled up like a lock of hair in a cubbyhole at the used bookstore, breathing in the musty perfume of words gracefully quilted together. I savor the writings of John Irving, Frank McCourt, Ayn Rand and Amy Tan. Their sentences waltz on each page and challenge the synapses in my mind. Through novels I am introduced to cultures and traditions and learn about hardships as well as about the plasticity of the human spirit. I become acquainted with philosophies I may embrace or decline. Books unearth my primitive cravings to discover and study. Novels shake the complacency of the prosaic and help me gain perspective of what has been and what I could be.
From time to time, I am a journalist and poet. No longer the audience of texts, I am the pied piper of words. In college, the Cornell Daily Sun was my forum. The university newspaper is entirely student-run, conveying news to Ithaca and surrounding communities. As a news reporter, I wrote about right-wing conservatives who touted white supremacy, interviewed Carl Sagan during his last days battling bone marrow cancer, and presented stories about the fresh-faced collegiate who dreamed about changing the world. My writing is not limited to the scope of journalism. Through poetry I create. A pencil, a pond or the color purple can be actors in my verse, impersonating grand messages or simply reflecting a hiccup of silliness. Composing poetry soothes my frustrations and stress. When faced with a long-time diabetic grieving over the loss of her legs or with a toddler hooked up to drips and a vent, poetry serves as my catharsis. It is my therapy for the heavy load that health care workers may carry.
Regretfully not as often as I would like, I am a musician. A piano player bereft of long fingers, my dwarfish digits still fly over piano keys like a Cessna and draw smiles from my parents and my friends. As a little girl I would diligently practice pieces for my piano teacher and for the competitions that would ensue. As a high school student, I would play the accompaniment for the school concert choir and the Cleveland Singing Angels. During college summers, I taught five to seven-year olds the basics of the treble and bass clef and the wonder of the sounds they would create. But now as an adult, I play the piano for myself. To perform the inventions of Bach, the sonatas of Mozart and ragtime of Scott Joplin are more gratifying today because I have learned to appreciate the gift of sight, sound and touch that not every individual has the ability to enjoy.
A newly gained role, I am a fiancée. To Patrick McIntyre, a fourth year medical student in my class, I have pledged my loyalty. When we met during the first Medical College of Ohio orientation party, we spoke of our interests in many of the topics I shared with you today. We became fast friends our first year and together battled through our basic sciences, refusing to meet our Waterloo. He was by my side during anatomy and pathology and will be by my side during internship and residency.
But when someone inquires, “Who are you really…?” I won’t hem or haw to choose between the characters in my play of life. Unequivocally, I am a medical student, an aspiring pediatrician and internist. When I have earned the long white coat, I will never stop listening to my patients, communicating to the parents, holding a little hand or a wizened hand, and helping the nurses. I am enthusiasm, energy and dedication amalgamated into a future intern. This is the role I have been working toward my entire life. In my therapeutic plan, I intend to use the timing and organization of cooking, the accuracy of journalism, the creativity of poetry, the magic of music, and the commitment of love to care for my patients.