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|PLASTIC SURGERY RESIDENCY PERSONAL STATEMENT||
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“Scar-face. Frankenstein. Freak. Stitch.” No child should be called these things.
But I was. Years later, I no longer bristle at the sound of those names. Instead, they now remind me of where I came from, and more importantly, where I am headed.
Plastic surgery has changed my life both personally and professionally. I was born with a cleft lip and palate and underwent six surgeries before adulthood. While much of my early years were spent like any other child, life often appeared to be anything but ordinary. First came the name-calling. Then as a teenager I wrestled with why I was the only one burdened with visible flaws.
“ Why?” I asked myself. “Why did I have to be different? Why did I have to be so unfortunate?” There was no apparent reason why I had to endure such suffering. During my senior year of high school a pivotal series of events revealed the purpose of my past.
First, I came across a newspaper article describing the lives of many orphans in China who were abandoned by their parents because they were born with congenital defects like cleft lip and palate. Several weeks later, friends returning from China corroborated this harsh reality with vivid first-hand accounts. Shortly thereafter, a BBC documentary featuring Operation Smile in India aired on television. Struck by the life-changing work of these surgeons in the developing world, I thought back to the orphans in China whose precious lives were squandered by a simple lack of medical care. Tragically, not only would these children have to accept their untreated physical deformities, but they would also have to endure the injustice and cruelty of being brutally rejected as untouchables by their society.
While contemplating the plight of these children, I began to understand that I had been blessed, not cursed. Indeed, I lived in a comfortable home with a loving family, and the promise of a college education--all of which was more than anything these children would ever experience.
Once again, the question arose, “Why?” This time, however, I found myself asking, “Why was I so fortunate to be spared their fate?” The answer was simple: to prepare me for an unprecedented opportunity in plastic surgery. Because my life resonated on a physical and emotional level with the afflictions of these children, I felt compelled to give these children a chance at a normal life. With my hands, I wanted to given them the healing marks that I bore on my face. With my experiences I wanted to impart to them that they too were human beings and could achieve their dreams. In short, understanding the purpose and richness of my past led me to dedicate my life to giving children with facial anomalies, especially those in the developing world, the ability to simply smile.
It was this vision that drove me to attend Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School with utmost determination and diligence. Along the way, I sought out mentors in plastic surgery who exemplified true commitment to the pursuit and perfection of plastic surgery. Their mentoring also allowed me to explore academic plastic surgery while reminding me why I pursued medicine in the first place.
Although many specialties within medicine piqued my interest during medical school, nothing stirred my heart, and even my soul, more than plastic surgery. The creative, physical, and intellectual challenge to restore form and function in everything from simplest local flap rearrangement to the most complex hand injury reconstruction enthralled me. Indeed, plastic surgery encompasses a dream that finds its roots in my past, stimulates the intellect of my present, and fulfills my vision of the future.
Standing on the cusp of the years of surgical training that lie ahead, excitement mounts with great expectation. I look forward to learn the meticulous, nuanced craft of plastic surgery, and to contribute to the progress of both its science and technique. Most of all, however, I wish to duly prepare myself for those patients who inspired me to become a plastic surgeon. Serving those children with skill and compassion would be an utmost privilege and honor.
Now , I am ever more convinced that the purpose to which I wish to dedicate my life chose me as much as I chose it.