As stated elsewhere on this site, I have written and/or edited scores of medical residency personal statements over the years. As a result, I can tell you unequivocally that your chosen medical specialty is NOT the most important factor in writing your personal statement when applying for a residency appointment.
You would be amazed at how many personal statements for medical residencies that I have received in draft form for editing, in which the focus of the draft is almost entirely on the applicant’s knowledge and expertise, with very little about them as a person or a professional. This is a big mistake!
To illustrate this point, below is a set of actual questions posed to medical residency applicants by a major teaching hospital:
“Xxxxxxxx University Requirement:
A personal letter incorporating the following is required:
- Interest in Neurosurgery;
- Interest in Hxxxxxx University;
- Career goals and aspirations;
- Interests and extracurricular activities.”
To what extent are the above questions focused on the candidate’s specific medical knowledge as it relates to the specialty? Not very much, right? Overall, they are much more oriented towards the applicant as a person and a professional.
It makes sense when you really think about it. After all, the institution already knows, by definition, that the candidate is a recent graduate of a medical school. So, they assume that the basic medical knowledge is there. What they really want to know at this point is whether you are the type of person and professional that they believe is best suited for specialty training at their institution.
So, no matter what your chosen medical specialty may be, the approach that you take to the writing of your statement in terms of strategy, style, and phrasing should be exactly the same. That’s right — whether you are applying for a residency as a family physician, a general surgeon, an internist, or a neurologist, or whatever specialty; the way you approach and write your statement should be virtually identical.
Once you have decided on an overall approach, in terms of what you want to cover in your statement – and how you want to structure and organize it – you simply insert the technical terminology that is specific to your specialty, wherever appropriate. Really.
Accordingly, before trying to impress reviewers with your knowledge of your preferred specialty, your first priority should be to make sure you tell them enough about you, both as a person and a medical professional. What is different or unique about you that will make you stand out from the crowd of other well-qualified medical school graduates? Make it clear as to why they should they pick you — as both a person and a professional — over many other similarly qualified candidates.
In the final analysis, the personal statement is more about selling yourself as a person and a professional than it is about your knowledge level in your chosen medical specialty (although that of course, is important too). However, more often than not, it is how you approach and structure your medical residency personal statement that will make the difference – not your knowledge of the specialty that you have chosen.