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I first became interested in head and neck surgery at the age of six. Suffering from congenital cholesteatoma AD, I pursued medical treatment at a local hospital. One of the otolaryngologists, Dr. XXXX, elegantly removed the offending mass with such precision and compassion, the course of my life was changed. Unfortunately, at age eleven, I detected a small glomus tumor in my four year old sister's left ear, using an otoscope I had received at Christmas. Although I was only in fifth grade at the time, I was fortunate enough to assist in the surgery. Again, my desire to be a head and neck surgeon was stimulated. By age fifteen I had perfected a technique for endolymphatic shunt placement for treatment of Meniere's disease in a neonatal gerbil model. At this time I was also supporting myself, and my six brothers and sisters by moonlighting at a local hospital, resecting thyroglossal duct cysts and inserting PE tubes. In high school, for my senior science project, I developed a protocol for immunohistochemical staining of tumor antigen in disseminated squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
In 1981, I began my undergraduate studies at Yale University. My major, a combination of art history and classical literature, was custom designed to incorporate the necessary premedical requirements. Interestingly, due to a shortage of faculty during winter semester, I was allowed to instruct the ENT residents of Yale-New Haven Hospital on techniques of skull base surgery; these techniques were taught to me by my father, the late emeritus professor of head and neck surgery at the University of Michigan. My college career culminated, however, in my selection as most outstanding undergraduate. I received this award in 1985, after personally organizing and designing a large shelter for the homeless in New Haven. The four years I had spent in Connecticut were rewarded, finally, when my research project, regression of Inverted Papilloma After Treatment with Gamma-Interferon" was accepted to the British journal Nature.
In 1985, I moved to San Francisco to attend the University of California. During my first summer, I traveled to Eastern Africa, where I helped to set up an immunization program for underprivileged children. I returned to my studies in California, concentrating on the basic sciences. After election to AOA, I eagerly entered the clinical clerkships, where I found otolaryngology to be everything I had imagined. The faculty and residents were wonderful, allowing me to perform several cases from start to finish, including a vertical hemilaryngectomy and a stapedectomy. During one operative session I was fortunate enough to fashion a small ossicular prosthesis out of bone wax, which has since been patented; the residual income from this endeavor has helped to support a newly opened otolaryngologic facility at the University of California. Ultimately, I was selected as most outstanding student in surgery for 1987.
In the past three years, I have continued my research with tremendous success. In the future, I hope to attain a position as an academic otolaryngologist specializing in head and neck cancer and skull base surgery. With my extensive research and clinical background, I feel I ma well prepared for these endeavors.
When I was a kid, I used to get earaches. Otitis media is a common scourge for small children, as many physicians and parents know. I was lucky enough to have had a good Otolaryngologist who took care of the pain and the problem, and I made it through the years without suffering permanent hearing loss.
As it turns out, that's been a good thing for me. Not long after the chronic earache era, I developed a fascination for the piano. I couldn't pass by one without plinking out tunes I had learned by ear. My parents eventually gave in and bought us a piano - and ever since, though I didn't know it at the time, I have been preparing for a career in otolaryngology.
Though medical school has given me concrete knowledge that will prepare me for this field, the rest of my life has prepared me in ways that can't easily be measured.
Music has been at the center of my life since those early piano days. I was lucky enough to have a great piano teacher, John Sundsten, who taught me the discipline of practice and the joy of mastery. he eventually taught my brother and three sisters. We even became small scale local celebrities by playing in hospitals, at weddings and on a television program.
By the time I reached high school, I was ready for new musical challenges and won a lead role my senior year in the musical, The Pajama Game. I kept singing though college, and joined a 16-member a cappella group called Mixed Company. With them I performed in more than 100 shows and recorded an album.
In addition to developing an interest in voice, it was at Stanford that I committed myself to a career in medicine. After graduation, I did my best to achieve this goal by doing full time research under Robert Sawin and David Tapper, pediatric surgeons at the University of Washington Children's Hospital. I also worked as a technologist at a vascular diagnostic company and learned how to use transcranial doppler. For the first time I worked with patients - a milestone. I also monitored blood flow to the brains of patients undergoing carotid endarterectomies - something that drew me toward a career working with this fascinating area of the body.
It wasn't all work after graduation, though. I studied voice with one of Seattle's best teachers, and learned how the head and neck are used to create music. The Netter anatomy plates he used for instruction especially drew my attention. I look forward to a time when I can continue to train my vocal cords in such a scientific way.
While I didn't have a specialty in mind when I started medical school, it has become increasingly clear to me with my study, work experience and passion for music that this is simply what I must do. No other field combines surgery, head and neck physiology and anatomy, clinical outpatient care and oncology with such a variety of patient ages and problems. No other field speaks so clearly to my interests.
Though I've spent many years working to become a doctor, I've spent my life working to become a musician. I understand how physiology translates into self-expression and the creation of art, and how important health in these areas is to my future patients. For me, there would be no better marriage of mind and soul than to practice this kind of medicine. Thank you for considering me for your program.