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First, I came across a newspaper article describing the lives of many orphans in China who were abandoned by their parents because they were born with congenital defects like cleft lip and palate. Several weeks later, friends returning from China corroborated this harsh reality with vivid first-hand accounts. Shortly thereafter, a BBC documentary featuring Operation Smile in India aired on television. Struck by the life-changing work of these surgeons in the developing world, I thought back to the orphans in China whose precious lives were squandered by a simple lack of medical care. Tragically, not only would these children have to accept their untreated physical deformities, but they would also have to endure the injustice and cruelty of being brutally rejected as untouchables by their society.
While contemplating the plight of these children, I began to understand that I had been blessed, not cursed. Indeed, I lived in a comfortable home with a loving family, and the promise of a college education--all of which was more than anything these children would ever experience.
Once again, the question arose, “Why?” This time, however, I found myself asking, “Why was I so fortunate to be spared their fate?” The answer was simple: to prepare me for an unprecedented opportunity in plastic surgery. Because my life resonated on a physical and emotional level with the afflictions of these children, I felt compelled to give these children a chance at a normal life. With my hands, I wanted to given them the healing marks that I bore on my face. With my experiences I wanted to impart to them that they too were human beings and could achieve their dreams. In short, understanding the purpose and richness of my past led me to dedicate my life to giving children with facial anomalies, especially those in the developing world, the ability to simply smile.
It was this vision that drove me to attend Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School with utmost determination and diligence. Along the way, I sought out mentors in plastic surgery who exemplified true commitment to the pursuit and perfection of plastic surgery. Their mentoring also allowed me to explore academic plastic surgery while reminding me why I pursued medicine in the first place.
Although many specialties within medicine piqued my interest during medical school, nothing stirred my heart, and even my soul, more than plastic surgery. The creative, physical, and intellectual challenge to restore form and function in everything from simplest local flap rearrangement to the most complex hand injury reconstruction enthralled me. Indeed, plastic surgery encompasses a dream that finds its roots in my past, stimulates the intellect of my present, and fulfills my vision of the future.
Standing on the cusp of the years of surgical training that lie ahead, excitement mounts with great expectation. I look forward to learn the meticulous, nuanced craft of plastic surgery, and to contribute to the progress of both its science and technique. Most of all, however, I wish to duly prepare myself for those patients who inspired me to become a plastic surgeon. Serving those children with skill and compassion would be an utmost privilege and honor.Now, I am ever more convinced that the purpose to which I wish to dedicate my life chose me as much as I chose it.
A one hour television documentary about Operation Smile was my first exposure to the fascinating world of plastic surgery. At fifteen years old, I stared at the television screen mesmerized by both the cause and the outcome as a collaboration of medical professionals traveled to the Philippines and volunteered their expertise. Here was a group of children who, due to ridicule or simply their own shame, were social outcasts, unable to attend school or lead anything remotely close to a normal social life. Yet, due to the care and skill of the volunteer team, these children now have a chance at a life devoid of the negativity associated with a physical deformity. This influential gut-wrenching moment was the catalyst in my pursuit of becoming a plastic surgeon.
Grounded by the insight and knowledge that I gathered during an elective volunteer experience with Dr. Face, a pediatric plastic surgeon and reconstructive specialist at Children's Hospital in Large City, I felt confident in my decision to pursue a career in plastic surgery. I learned that there could be continuity of care, something that is not commonplace in other surgical specialties. I was introduced to multiple genetic syndromes, craniosynostosis, plagiocephaly, hemangiomas, and chronic wound care. I witnessed first-hand the profound impact plastic surgery had on both the patient and their family.
By my third year of medical school, I realized that each patient presents with their own unique challenge that encompasses a wide variety of procedures including, but not limited to microsurgery, cosmetic reconstruction, craniofacial, trauma, wound care, and hand surgery. [what are some of these challenges specifically, and how do plastic surgeons overcome these?]I thrived in the refined, meticulous artistic aspect of each surgical case. From post-mastectomy breast and nipple reconstruction to the reattachment of a severed limb, we were improving body image and creating “smiles” just as the Operation Smile team had done.
My final year of medical school has confirmed the fact that I find myself truly at home in plastic surgery. My detail oriented nature, background in both music and art, and true passion for the specialty all contribute to why I am well suited for the field of plastic surgery. I previously received national recognition and multiple honors through The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and I possess great finger dexterity through many years of piano lessons. In addition, I am a perfectionist who aspires for excellence in everything that I do, be it my own physical fitness (I’m an avid runner) to my attention to patient care to my desire to better myself by regularly practicing the various suturing techniques during my downtime at
As far as my career in plastic surgery is concerned, upon my completion of residency, I plan to pursue a fellowship in craniofacial surgery and eventually, I hope to be a part of an Operation Smile mission. I desire to devote my lifetime to bringing smiles to children and restoring my patients’ self image through a career in academic medicine at a large academic institution – awakening the passion inside of others as my attendings and residents did of me.