Pick Me! Personal Statement Writing for Residency

By Wendy Biggs, MD, Family Medicine Program Director
University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS

What do Program Directors value in Residents? Good Character, Professional, Teachable, Good Fund of Knowledge, Insightful, Strong work ethic, Patient centered, Service oriented. Since most residency programs get at least 10x more applications than their interview slots, it is important to show off the above characteristics in a well-written personal statement. The personal statement often becomes the deciding factor between two equally qualified applicants. But remember, the point of the matching process is not to try to fit into a program, but rather to find the program that fits you.

Program Director wants to know…
•Can this person communicate ideas?
• Is he/she insightful into his/her own skills, knowledge and attributes?
•Can he/she demonstrate his/her commitment to family medicine?

Personal Statement Structure
•Should it be only 1 page? YES!
•What if I can’t get it to one page? Let family/friends tell you the most important part of you
•Give it to an editor (not a friend or family member)
•You don’t have to prove you love all aspects of FM – It’s about YOU

Personal Statement – Introduction
•Should I begin with a quote? NO – unless it really is one you live by
•••Know who the author is and why you picked it
•••The quote needs to be consistent with the writer and the story
•Tell your life story in 3-5 sentences
•••What sets you apart?
•••Do you have challenges you have overcome?
•••What have you done that the person next to you hasn’t?
•••Did you have moving experiences as a young person? Doesn’t have to be medical

Personal Statement – Body
•Why family medicine?
•Don’t waste space telling a program director what family medicine is… WE KNOW
•Use your space to TELL ABOUT YOU

•Illustrate aspects of family medicine that bring you joy (Diversity, Continuity, Think broadly about things, Personal reward, Service, Community)

•Extracurricular activities
•••Don’t have to be medical
•••Are they service-oriented?
•••Do they show commitment to community?
•••Does it fulfill a passion?
•••Did you have a leadership role?

•Work history
•••Doesn’t have to be medical
•••May set you apart
•••Can indicate your work ethic
•••Did you work through school, each summer, etc.
•••Is medicine a 2nd or 3rd career?

•Focus on “I” statements
•••Patient story: How did it affect you?
•••Mentor: Discuss person’s impact in your life

•Should I explain “irregularities” in my education?
•••YES – Life happens
•••OWN IT: Avoid making excuses, blaming, naming, shaming

•••Tell what you learned about yourself and how you corrected the problem.
••••••Recognized your learning style?
••••••Different study technique?
••••••Had to balance personal time better?

Personal Statement – Conclusion
•Goal – if you have one
•••Okay to say you want to explore options in residency
•••Don’t box yourself into something
•••Can upload different PS for different programs (Make sure you send the correct one and Know which one it is!)

The above post is paraphrased from Dr. Biggs talk Pick Me! What applicant factors family medicine program directors value and the role of the personal statement. Dr. Biggs reminds you to take these generalizations with a grain of salt, and remember that they are geared toward applying to residency in Family Medicine.

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