Motivation to become a dentist

Sakshi Kaul – dental school personal statement

Requirements: 4,500 characters

Trips to the hospital were a common part of my childhood in India. A few months after my premature birth, I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. For my survival, a shunt was placed to drain excess fluid from my brain. Recurrent subdural hematomas and malarial infections followed. These childhood hospital encounters seeded a strong curiosity about medicine in my mind. By the age of 8, I had traveled to remote areas of India, Nepal and China with my father, who used to travel to these areas for work. In these areas, I saw a low of poverty and sickness. Shortly thereafter, our family relocated to the United States, where I witnessed a better lifestyle and health. These experiences watered the seed of curiosity in my mind, and I developed an urge to help others reach a better state of health.

Throughout these experiences, I shared my views and curiosity with my uncle, a physician, and my aunt, a dentist. With their guidance, I delved deeper into science courses and began volunteering at the local hospital. I learned that healing was not just about enzymatic pathways but about understanding the human experience. That a good healer is willing to accompany people on their journey through sickness without losing sight of the person behind the mask of illness. I was amazed that a mental health patient could have a better day because of a heartfelt conversation and a meal with a volunteer like me.It showed that while the science of medicine cures symptoms of physiological disease, a patient also needs conversation, compassion and a friend. This expanded view of healing stayed with me and influenced my decision to pursue a certificate in medical humanities during my undergraduate experience at Drexel University. It also solidified the idea of the dentist I will be: one who treats patients holistically by keeping their wishes, hopes and identity in mind when creating a treatment plan.

This made me think back to time I moved to this country and faced a lot of bullying for cultural and aesthetic differences. Even though what is on the inside that counts, fixing the outside sometimes helps boost one’s self-esteem and bring out the hidden personality more to the surface. I felt the same way when I got braces. Also, oral health, as minor it may seem at first, is extremely important for a person’s overall wellbeing. Not every human necessarily gets infected by a pathogen, but every human eats. If you do not take care of your teeth and your mouth, it can lead to opportunistic infections and cause further health problems. The earlier these problems are fixed, the better. Prevention is better than cure and habits are formed more easily in childhood. Thus, I would like to go for pediatric dentistry. My experiences shadowing Dr. Lewis at the Monroeville location of Dentistry for Kids also helped clarify this choice for me.

My journey has not only been about the path to becoming a healer. My medical science curiosity translated into me undertaking numerous research opportunities as well. Drexel offered me a coveted position in the Students Tackling Advanced Research (STAR) program during the summer after my first undergraduate year, and I decided to use this chance to conquer my long-held fear of deep water while helping conserve an endangered species of turtles. As a field researcher, I drove motor boats and learned to dive to capture turtles and obtain mating and coloration data. I presented my findings at the STAR Research Day and was invited to present to the biology department and at a university-wide research day. To further my research exposure, I worked in a neuroscience lab, where I continue to conduct research on brain changes in Fragile X syndrome. Wanting to expand my understanding of how research informs health care delivery, I recently joined a second research team at the PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Under the direction of Dr. Aletha Akers, I have had the opportunity to design my own research study – I am performing a chart review to characterize patterns of reproductive health care service utilization among adolescent women who initiate long acting contraceptives.

Although my desire to pursue a career in medicine has been steadfast, the road has not always been easy. I recently lost three Grandparents over two years. Being from a close family that spans two continents, this was very tough for me. During this time, I developed a sense of loneliness being so far from my network of social support. I was simultaneously completing college and applying to graduate schools; the competition was fierce and I received many rejections. My confidence was hit hard and, despite landing a coveted position in Drexel’s Master’s program, my academic performance during my first year suffered. When I finally recognized that I needed professional help, I learned that I had undiagnosed hypothyroidism and began treatment. I also learned some amazing strategies for managing academic workloads, which will serve me well. This taught me two important lessons – it is good to ask for help, and there are many roads around obstacles. Hard work and positivity resulted in an upward slope at the end of my first graduate year.

With a strong mind-set and a positive can-do attitude, I am ready to tackle an upcoming year full of academics and research to obtain my Master’s degree and take my life on an upward trajectory. As a determined, dedicated and empathetic individual, I strongly believe I have what it takes to become a successful patient-oriented physician, and an osteopathic medical education will allow me to reach that goal.

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