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My Personal Statement: University of Exeter | Medicine - Waki S.

FEB 26, 2021

Waki was accepted to the University of Exeter to study Medicine with his essay about how his research and volunteering experiences helped him develop analytical skills, discipline and empathy, and taught him about the role that socioeconomic factors play in health outcomes.

This essay is part of a collection of personal statements written by Crimson students who were accepted to their top-choice universities in the US and UK. By bringing together nearly 25 of our best students’ essays, we want to provide inspiration for future students with the same aspirations and goals. This series will showcase the wonderful variety in our student’s essay creations — powered by their personal voice and supported by their dedicated Crimson essay mentors. Ready to be inspired? Let’s go…


The human body is a feat of engineering. From the schema theory that enables the categorisation of information to how epigenetic changes affect gene expression, the body is a treasure trove of scientific discovery.

In school, research was an avenue for my curiosity and drove my motivation to study medicine. Inspired by my desire to know how the immune system works, I set out to determine whether or not the stage an individual occupies on the tanner scale influences the bacterial composition on their skin. I conducted my research at the University of Witwatersrand where I cultured my samples, performed gram stains and used microscopy. This experience developed my analytical skills which I will use as a medical student to think critically when solving problems.

Additionally I noted the role of discipline, a skill I have honed through playing piano to grade 7. Volunteering at a hospital helped me appreciate the emotional fortitude that comes with being a doctor. I saw a baby with meningitis endure several rounds of IV injections until the doctor succeeded. I admired the doctor’s perseverance through the baby’s suffering whilst quelling her mother’s worries. This taught me that acting in a patient's best interest might come at the expense of inflicting pain.

I also saw how poverty plays a role in health outcomes. Many of the treatable conditions I saw, for example diabetes, became serious due to lack of access to health care. This illustrated how patients exist in a social context that affects their health. The reality is the aetiology of this disease is as much medical as it is social; a doctor can treat diabetes with medication but that is ineffective if the patient's lifestyle is unchanged. This further fuelled my motivation to study medicine as I want to be a part of creating health policies that address these issues.

I believe that what gives scientific knowledge purpose is helping people. I was chosen to aid a team of health professionals in an underprivileged community by measuring vitals and assisting with developmental assessments. This experience highlighted my suitability for teamwork which I am familiar with through playing soccer. What impacted me the most was the number of teenage girls seeking HIV testing. I had read about the difficulties in township settings for women to negotiate safe sex but it was entirely different to see the ramifications of this first hand. I was involved in communicating with these girls to ensure they fully understood why they would need an HIV test. I learnt how powerful a supportive presence can be, even if it is just a hand on a shoulder.

Doctors need to be able to support their patients through difficult diagnoses and I got a glimpse of what this was like. This was an emotional yet rewarding experience and I learnt the importance of empathy.

My enthusiasm for community work has furthered my interpersonal skills. I have worked as a Youth Leader for an organisation that promotes inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. This showed me the "Embodiment Framework" of health in practice. Even though individuals with intellectual disabilities can be physically healthy, they are often socially and psychologically 'disembodied' by society. I have learnt 're-embodiment' means seeing a patient as a person and not their condition. I appreciated the value in listening to a person's concerns rather than assuming them. This is a vital skill for a doctor as part of forming a differential diagnosis is talking to a patient and understanding their symptomatic experience.

In his book “Complications”, Dr Atul Gawande accurately describes medicine as an "imperfect science". Despite the fact that the gap between what we know and do not know is closing, medical mysteries abound. As a future doctor, I believe I have the skills and dedication to help close the intellectual gap and through this, make a far-reaching contribution.

NEXT WEEK: Read the essay that got Dennis Z. into Georgia Tech!


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