The schoolyard was swarming with excitement as we waited for the doors to open on my first day of kindergarten. I recall the laughter of children and the sound of rubber kick-balls bouncing on the asphalt as my anticipation built. When our teacher emerged from the building, all the students gathered around. I still vividly remember hearing my name as she called roll. The back of my throat constricted, and I willed myself to speak with every fiber of my being, yet I couldn’t muster a sound. I had Selective Mutism. Eventually I would overcome my year of silence, but during that time I learned that when you can’t talk, you listen. I have been listening ever since.
Think of the introductory paragraph as the back cover of a book. Generally, a book’s description will be an enticing, yet brief, summary of the entire story. But it’s not enough to just explain what the reader can expect inside – there needs to be an element of intrigue to capture interest, which is where your “hook” comes in.
You definitely have a good hook, but it needs to be followed immediately by a summary-like section, and ending with your thesis statement. The last sentence of your paragraph, AKA the thesis statement, should answer the reader’s main questions: Why are you applying to medical school? What makes you more qualified than other applicants to study at our school?
I was listening the night I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a physician. The room was filled with the piercing cries of a newborn baby and the sound of a grandmother sniffling through tears. Beeping heart monitors, frustrated groans, laughter and congratulations were the soundtrack of the evening. I was a college student shadowing the delivery of a young family’s first baby.
The thesis statement from your introduction lays the foundation for your body paragraphs. In this paragraph, you have the makings of a great thesis. You just need to connect it to the intro’s hook and ensure that it briefly answers the important questions.
After graduating college, I sought more moments of genuine connection with patients through my first job as a medical assistant. The dull chatter of a waiting room, prescriptions zipping off the fax machine, and the familiar shout of “chart’s up” filled my day at the primary care clinic. But while administrative noise occupied much of the day, the quiet moments with patients in an exam room brought the most meaning to my job. Some days, it was the hiccupping sobs of a patient caving under the stress of chronic pain. Other days, it was the giggles of an elderly couple whose love was palpable even in the midst of their degrading health. From the elation of a woman discovering she’s pregnant, to the worry of a patient with newfound cancer, I had the opportunity to provide hugs and tissues for both joy and sorrow. Providing these small comforts allowed me to connect with patients and learn to balance professionalism with personal care. I began implementing what I had learned on my first day of school: when there is nothing to say, you listen.
Currently I’m working as a clinical research associate, a position that fuels my scientific interest in medicine while still interacting patients. My days buzz with conference room chatter, the clicking of keyboards, and phone calls with study participants. Research sometimes leaves me with more questions than answers, which only leads me further down the path of discovery. I’m fortunate to work in an office that encourages curiosity, critical thinking, and surrounds me with inspiring people, and as a member of a team, I’m proud to be responsible for recruiting patients to participate in our studies. Nothing validates my faith in people quite like research, knowing that beyond the charts and statistics, thousands of people are willingly sacrificing their time to help strangers in need. During quiet moments at the office, I often reflect on this union of science and humanity which continually motivates me to apply to medical school.
Many of my nights spent volunteering in hospice consist of simply being present with patients while they sleep, methodically watching their chest slowly rise and fall with each breath. Hospice sounds like silence. The kind of silence where you feel like you’re underwater and the slightest sound snaps you back into reality. One memorable evening, I pulled up a chair beside the bed of a small, frail gentleman who, even in his last days, had the widest smile on his face. During my next three visits, I listened to him detail the events of his life , and although his voice was soft and strained, his eyes had the whimsical twinkle of a man who lived a full life. Even in his final days, his positivity was infectious, and I was swept up in his stories week after week. Time spent with him demonstrated to me yet another lesson: if you have something important to say, say it.
Although I had to overcome silence early in my life, now is my time to speak up. I want to attend medical school because I am ready to start taking action and contributing to patients’ care in more ways than listening. I deeply desire to use my voice in medicine and educate patients of my own. I crave the knowledge to heal people who need it most. I yearn for the muscle memory of a procedure that will ease someone’s pain. I hope to bring peace into the stressful situations I have witnessed thus far in healthcare. As a lifelong-learner, I vow to continue absorbing the invaluable lessons patients will teach me, but I hope to in turn teach them skills to manage their own health. Working as a physician will afford me the great privilege of bringing lives into this world, softening the pain of those leaving, preserving and optimizing the lives that are yet to be lived. I look forward to the day I can introduce myself to a patient as “Dr. Laden,” and I wonder how I will feel hearing my own voice fill the air with those words – the manifestation of my dream.