Calling all editors..

I've decided to apply for a geriatric psychiatry fellowship. Fellowship applications must come with a 'personal statement'. In 1 page or less, you are asked to talk about your interest in the field, your strengths and passions, give the prospective employers the information they want and ask for what you want. A personal statement should be original, it should have a 'hook', it should stand out, it should intrigue. And it should do all this without being pretentious or 'overly positive'. I hate personal statements.

My statement for residency was a generic one, typed out simply to let employers know that I could write good enough English and would adjust well to a US program. A fellowship personal statement has to be different- English skills alone won't cut it.

So here's my first draft- let me know what you think. My goal is simply to come across as a genuine, interested applicant with a simple story. I don't want to impress, intrigue, or in any way stun the programs- not at this point, anyway. 😀

My interest in Geriatric psychiatry began in the first year of my residency. I was paged to the ER to see a 74 year old lady with dementia and behavioral changes. At first sight, she was immaculately groomed, elegantly dressed in a suit, and sat confidently in the exam room with her family by her side. She was alert, oriented and engaging. I wondered if she could possibly be as disabled as her family reported. Her confidence started to visibly crumble halfway through the mental status exam, as she made small jokes to cover up memory losses and tried to laugh away her family’s concerns about her safety.  She was finally admitted to the unit voluntarily.

When I walked on the floor next morning, a disheveled figure with wild hair ran by, ripped off her hospital gown, and started going from room to room, angry and yelling at somebody who wasn't there. It took me several moments to recognize her as the lady from the ER.

Her story affected me at several levels. I could not help but think of my grandfather, a retired college principal who had struggled with dementia and the resulting loss of independence until the end of his life. Conferences with her family were rough- they cared about her and were afraid for her safety at home. Both she and her family rejected the idea of a nursing home. As a first year resident I wanted the perfect solution for all my patients- there was none for her. She finally ended up going back home with her family after they ‘geri-proofed’ the house, and seemed quite content at her follow-up visits.

Not all my patients have been so fortunate.  Since then, I have worked with several elders devastated by dementia, fighting to keep their driver’s license, fighting to continue living on their own.  I have worked with patients grappling with the issues of loss of family, friends and social status.  Many struggle with depression, anxiety, and multiple medical problems.

I have also realized that while there may not be perfect solutions, there is a lot that we can do with biological and psychosocial approaches. I find working with the geriatric population particularly satisfying, in that small, simple changes can sometimes make a huge difference. At a personal level, I enjoy the challenges presented by biological treatment options for a geriatric patient with multiple co-morbidities.

Looking back at my choice of residency, I chose psychiatry because it combined both the science and the art of medicine. While psychiatry on the whole grows as a science based on evidence obtained from latest neuro-imaging techniques and genetic studies, geriatrics has maintained its hold upon the arts. “ It is a kind of human experience that makes it a special medium for revealing the world … it yields an aesthetic wisdom of its own special object, man", said Edmund Pellegrino. I find that aspect of geriatrics especially rewarding.

During residency, I’ve found that I enjoy teaching as much as learning, and I have organized several student lectures and weekly Jeopardy games in addition to other didactics. In the long run, I see myself as a clinician practicing in an academic setting, and hope to join a program where I can further hone my clinical skills.

*updated version*

There. Its done. I would like you to rip into it with your best editorial teeth, please.

Read and post comments

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About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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34 Responses to Calling all editors..

  1. LeendaDLL says:

    Good statement. Any possibility of including something about the likely increasing quantity of senior patients due to advances in medicine increasing life expectancies (lives will get longer but will they have quality?!?)?Only two minor "rip it apart" item. I have issues with repeating words so I would tweak the following:When I walked on the floor next morning, a disheveled figure
    with wild hair ran by, ripped off her hospital gown, and started
    running from room to room…Family conferences with her family were rough….For the second, I would remove the first reference to "family" ("Conferences with her family were rough". For the first… not sure… maybe "started racing from room to room"??Minor.

  2. Purplesque says:

    Thank you. Both great suggestions and the ps will be edited accordingly. I thought of the increasing need for care for geri-patients due to increasing numbers, too, and that actually is one of the reasons I picked geri. Not sure where to fit it in, though.

  3. Amy Jeynes says:

    Well done, P. The phrase "They cared for her" is ambiguous; in everyday speech, it could mean either "They took care of her" or "They cared about her." If you mean the former, perhaps change to: "She lived with them, but they were beginning to fear for her safety…."
    This spot could use a word added to clarify: "She finally ended up going back home with her family after they geri-proofed the house, and [she? or all of them?] seemed quite content at her [their?] follow-up visits."
    Insert the apostrophe shown here: "laughing away her family's concerns"
    "There are those struggling" would be stronger as: "Some struggle", "Many struggle," or something like that, whatever is accurate.

  4. jaklumen says:

    Remember to use the active voice as much as possible instead of the passive, if that makes sense.

  5. Purplesque says:

    Thank you, Amy, I was hoping you'd catch this! I meant that her family loved her, but thought 'love' might be a bit much, so I've changed that to 'cared about'. Changed to 'Many struggle'- good change.The apostrophe in 'family's' is already there, I think, unless you meant a different phrase. Saying "She finally ended up going back home with her family after they
    geri-proofed the house, and she seemed quite content
    at her follow-up visits." seems a little bit..odd. Isn't the subject at the start of the line implied to be the subject throughout, unless specified otherwise?Did I say I hate personal statements? Thank you for helping out with this.

  6. Purplesque says:

    Thank you, Jak! I know what you mean- my personal downfall is the excessive use of 'I' when I try to get too 'active'.Chrome does the crashing thing too? I've had a lot of trouble with the latest version of Firefox.

  7. Lakshmi says:

    Most of my nitpicking is subjective..from an aesthetic sense. You can ignore them.- "till" is for soil. "Until" is for time.- ”Conference with her family" needs to be a new paragraph. It is ok if there are two small paragraphs…- "was attracted" could be replaced by "chose"- "at a personal level" will sound better as "On a personal level".- "on the whole" – empty words. "While psychiatry grows.." will do.- "is a field that has" – empty words, redundant. "geriatrics has maintained its hold…" will sound better.- Instead of "To Quote Edmund Pellegrino", it would probably sound more aesthetic as '"It is a kind of human experience….object, man" said Edmund Pellegrino.' – This should start another paragraph. i.e. the last two sentences should form a separate paragraph to deliver the punch.

  8. Lakshmi says:

    Also, "quite engaging" is ambiguous. "Engaging" would suffice."content at her" should be replaced by "content during her""in that" can be replaced by "because" (clutter)"huge" should be replaced by "big" (professionalism)Remove the "the" in the new research-based treatment

  9. Scott says:

    I was going to call out "To quote," but Lakshmi beat me to it.
    The last sentence doesn't do much for me. It's a bit like saying "There, I answered your question." I'm afraid I don't have specific suggestions on hand, but it could use something that seals the deal, something that emphasizes what makes you unique and qualified.
    I have never been in the position of screening fellowship applications, but I think this is a clear, real, human statement of your interest, and if that isn't what they're looking for–well, it ought to be!

  10. Waterbaby says:

    I've suggestions in terms of the nuts and bolts (i.e., grammar, punctuation) and content for private consumption, if you're interested.

  11. Oink says:

    This bit (below) is the most in need of something for me. It seems more distant from the rest – more scientific observer – although obviously you do want a balance between the two. Also the first sentence of the bit below – clearly, you're writing for a more well-informed audience and so you may not feel you need to give examples, but then I wonder (as an outsider) is examples wouldn't be worth adding in. This could combine with the paragraph above these, to show how you've been finding solutions for the other people too. "I have also realized that while there may not be perfect
    solutions, there is a lot that we can do with biological and
    psychosocial approaches. I find working with the geriatric population
    particularly satisfying, in that small, simple changes can sometimes
    make a huge difference. At a personal level, I enjoy the challenges
    presented by biological treatment options for a geriatric patient with
    multiple co-morbidities, and look forward to trying the new
    research-based treatment options that are emerging for the elderly. Looking
    back at my choice of residency, I was attracted to psychiatry because
    it combined both the science and the art of medicine. While psychiatry
    on the whole grows as a science based on evidence obtained from latest
    neuro-imaging techniques and genetic studies, geriatrics is the field
    that has maintained its hold upon the arts. To quote Edmund Pellegrino,
    “ it is a kind of human experience that makes it a special medium for
    revealing the world … it yields an aesthetic wisdom of its own
    special object, man." That, in a nutshell, is why I would like to
    specialize in Geriatric Psychiatry."

  12. Purplesque says:

    Oh no, an improved aesthetic sense is exactly what I need. Most of your suggestions make perfect sense- I will add them in. Thank you so much!

  13. Purplesque says:

    Funny that you mentioned the last statement- that's what I hated the most. Last night I ended up re-writing it- its not great but not as 'There, now get off my back.' Will post the edited version soon. Thanks!

  14. Purplesque says:

    Thank you for the message. Changes coming up.

  15. Purplesque says:

    You're right, and examples work for everyone. The only reason I didn't give any was because I wasn't sure how to fit them in grammatically! lolI plan to make several changes based upon your suggestion and the ones above. Updated version coming up soon. Thanks!

  16. Oink says:

    Have you also spoken to your old Careers Service? They're very likely to have written or other guidance on this that may help.

  17. Purplesque says:

    🙂 I believe the lady who qualifies as 'career service' just left- they haven't found a replacement yet. She was a huge help with my CV.

  18. Oink says:

    That's awkward, but there's still plenty of stuff you can get "off the shelf" which careers services upload. Your old uni might have things on their website, but a quite google for something like "personal statement job careers service" might be a good thing to make sure you get all your bases covered.

  19. Aubrey says:

    I get all squirrley when words beginning with the same letter appear next to each other. "devastated with dementia" I think 'devastated' should be taken out and replaced with…"struck by", "suffering from".
    "in the future" instead of "in the long run"
    The final sentence is your big sell. I think it needs a little more power. For instance, you want to hone your clinical skills – so you can what? Tie it in with your desire to help within that academic setting. A little more complexity will make it more memorable to your reader. Or add one more sentence, if you think you need to.
    I trust I've made myself helpfully vague.
    This is an exciting effort, Purple. Good luck!

  20. Amy Jeynes says:

    Before I render another opinion on the Pellegrino quote, I need to find out from you: What does Pellegrino's "It" refer to (at the beginning of the quote)? Was he talking about geriatrics, or geriatric psychiatry?

  21. Purplesque says:

    😀 I know what you mean- honestly, it is so hard for me to write! I am a much better reader.Great suggestions. I will change them, except for the 'complexity' part- need to think about that. Chocolate pudding for desert might help me think better, hm?

  22. Purplesque says:

    Ooi..as far as I know, 'it' actually refers to medicine.

  23. Vijay says:

    After having read your statement and the excellent suggestions from the others above, I'm deeply thankful that I never had to do something like this. I'd have failed miserably. Good luck Purplesque. PS. Would it help if you attached a few of your fabulous food fotos with the statement. They'd work on me if I were the one deciding your fate! 🙂

  24. Purplesque says:

    Ha ha..now there is an idea. Thank you again, for what you did.

  25. Lakshmi says:

    Umm..are you thankful that you didn't have to write, or that you didn't get suggestions aplenty? Just checking…

  26. Vijay says:

    I didn't have to write. No postgrad course in India requires a doctor to write a statement. Only marks or money talk.

  27. Purplesque says:

    I'd Much rather let the marks talk. Even money, if I ever had any. My parents did, but they selfishly insisted on saving it all to spend on my wedding. ;D

  28. BRAVA!!!!!!I didn't read all the comments but most of what I might have said has already been addresed.I might change "lady" to "woman," but that's very minor.It's an engaging statement that sounds like you're talking to the reader. That's terrific! I like how you structured it and how you used real examples. Wow……this is a huge thing!!!! They'd better LOVE you, or your Neighbors here will come after them…LOL…Seriously, ((((((happyhugs)))))) for decisions made and paths embarked upon… You're going to do soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo great!!!

  29. Amy Jeynes says:

    If I'm not too late with this suggestion–use brackets inside the quotation to fill in the missing word that is necessary for the reader's understanding:. Then you can tie the quote to the more specific field of geriatric psychiatry.
    “[Medicine] is a kind of human experience that makes it a special medium for revealing the world … it yields an aesthetic wisdom of its own special object, man", said Edmund Pellegrino. I find that to be especially true for geriatric psychiatry.

  30. Purplesque says:

    🙂 Thank you so much. Good to see you again- hope things are going well?

  31. Purplesque says:

    Terrific suggestion. Should've thought of that- too late now, the applications went out this morning. It would have made a definite difference..ah well. There might be more personal statements in the future.

  32. Emjay says:

    I see there are wonderful suggestions here so it doesn't really matter that I am too late! I hope your application is successful.

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