A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

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MD/JD2B
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A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby MD/JD2B » Fri Jul 02, 2010 9:55 am

When I started writing my personal statement, there was so much I wanted to say. Several schools allowed me to exceed the 2 double spaced page requirement. The essay spans 40+ years in the form of vignettes which lead me now to law. It certainly helped in my acceptance to my top ranked school.

Journalist Sydney J. Harris once commented that middle age is “that perplexing time of life when we hear two voices calling, one saying “why not?” and the other, “why bother?”. Why law school, and why now? Parity, pain, persistence, and pathology have brought me to this decision and here is my tale.

Parity. Nothing in this world approaches equality and the world is not a fair place. I came to this realization as a six year old in Ajmer, India. My family had a spacious, well-appointed home and several servants. In contrast, an entire family lived in a thatched hut outside of our compound with their son. Unlike our family, it is doubtful that this family immigrated to the United States, or that their boy eventually became a physician, and lived in greater luxury than 99% of the people on the planet. My first encounter with the United States was in the small town of Marshfield, Wisconsin in 1969, a far cry from Central India. We arrived in the land of beef, poultry, and dairy as Hindu vegetarians. This transplantation from India to the United States heightened my awareness of cultural differences and how they are manifest in everyday life. As an undergraduate at Stanford, my interests in equality and race led me to write my history honors thesis on Black soldiers in the Vietnam War, a racial minority-- fighting in an unpopular war-- while they demonstrated for their own equal rights in the United States. Although I do not consciously identify myself as part of a minority, I have experienced discrimination, albeit subtle, as an Indian man with a domestic partner. The subtleties range from being followed in an upscale store to raised eyebrows about two men buying property together. Discrimination is bred by fear and it is ubiquitous. We fear people who are unlike us. But when these people become neighbors, teachers, and colleagues, barriers often begin to come down, one person at a time. Unfortunately, we do not start life with the same advantages, nor do we live without obstacles placed before us. A legal system should strive to achieve parity--not to level the playing field--but to ensure that there is a playing field.

Pain. After spending twenty years as a physician, I have seen the pain that individuals go through as a result of disease or the rendering of a diagnosis. Pain is not only biological in nature, but is influenced by how we practice medicine, as well as our legal system, and cultural mores. I started my medical residency at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) at a time when medicine had begun to make major advances in the understanding and the treatment of disease at the molecular level. Concurrently, during the late eighties and early nineties, San Francisco was in the midst of the HIV epidemic, and medicine was never confined to the workplace for physicians. I had friends dying of terminal HIV and there were no clear guidelines for physicians to address end-of-life issues. This chapter in history occurred before the development of anti-HIV cocktails which turned HIV infection into a more manageable disease rather than a death sentence for many. After heart-wrenching weeks and months, I helped several friends make some difficult choices. HIV transformed the American landscape in myriad ways and forced us to confront legal and medical ambiguities which accompanied the disease. Fortunately, as a tribute to those that died and those who live with the disease, the medical and social effects of HIV have led to groundbreaking medical research and legal reform. More needs to be done.

Persistence. The word took on a new meaning for me in January of 2008. While I was in practice in Central California, I developed severe back pain which did not resolve; one morning I was unable to move my legs. An abscess had eroded a portion of my spinal tissue; it took eight hours of neurosurgery to repair the damage. I spent the next 35 days in the hospital and was discharged with no certainty as to the degree of my ultimate recovery; “Will I walk again, Doctor?” I remained confined to a wheelchair for most of that year and underwent demanding physical rehabilitation. I had to learn to regain my continence as well as how to walk--a second childhood of sorts. I would not resign myself to life in a wheelchair and my efforts to improve became paramount. The world, as experienced by a disabled patient and as a physician, can be eye-opening. Losing my independence was the hardest thing about being in a wheelchair. This ordeal allowed me to see the world from a different perspective -- and to observe how others interacted with me. I realized that wheelchair bound individuals can be invisible to the world. Also, I had ample time to examine my past and present as well as contemplate the future. During physical rehabilitation at University of Washington, I met numerous people who had become disabled from a variety of causes. One person who stands out is a young man, Zackery, who had sustained severe physical and neurological injuries during a football game. Subsequently, he and his family campaigned for “Zack’s Law” which was recently passed in Washington State. It requires that a player must be examined by a physician before re-entering a game after sustaining a possible concussion. His youthful drive and progress have been inspirational. I have been extremely fortunate in my recovery; I am now walking without support, driving, working, and leading a “normal life.” But I remain altered by my physical illness. The metal rods in my back are there to stay, as is a certain level of pain and difficulty walking at the end of the day, which affords me first-hand comprehension of how lives can be disrupted by accident or disease. My persistence allowed me to recover to a point far exceeding my expectations and has given me the drive to participate in issues affecting the disabled. A small example of my efforts is to open a dialogue with Alaska Airlines to allow disabled persons to use their airport boardrooms without any extra charges or mileage requirements. I await their response.

Pathology is the study of disease and is one of the oldest medical sciences. It now emerges as a vibrant, relevant part of the legal landscape. Advances in molecular medicine and identification techniques, coupled with technological leaps in computer science, raise new questions about intellectual property law and the direction of future research. As an academic pathologist at UCSF and Stanford, I became very interested in medical intellectual property involving the use of human tissue as a result of my own research and that of others. Mediation on who should receive the tissue was often tricky, sometimes as a result of competing interests and grants. Companies in the private sector also desired specimens for research. As of now, we have not reached agreement on when life begins, much less on how cells and tissues should be used. Technology will continue to advance but can our wisdom keep pace? Furthermore, new reports come out regularly in the lay press about recommendations for screening tests such as mammograms and Pap smears. Pathologists, whether in academics or in private practice, are the physicians who interpret biopsies and Pap smears. In collaboration with our clinical colleagues, we develop and modify the classification systems for malignancies; these systems have profound biological, therapeutic, and financial implications. Our input is mandatory when it comes to policy development under any type of health care plan. As a physician and attorney, I hope to be well-poised to participate in such policy issues.

In these four vignettes which span several decades, the law comes into play in unexpected ways. Unpredictability and serendipity have shaped my past so I remain open as to what comes next--in the context of combining my medical background with a legal one. I thank you for your consideration.

CanadianWolf
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:47 pm

Curious as to why you think that your personal statement was instrumental in your admission to UC-Hastings School of Law? My understanding is that you are a licensed, practising MD which would almost certainly be one of the two or three main reasons (work experience as an MD, LSAT & GPA) for your law school admission.

MD/JD2B
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby MD/JD2B » Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:52 am

To Canadian Wolf,

Given that all else in my application was equal to other applicants, I felt my essay set me apart. I have mediocre scores and a decent GPA, and I'm an active M.D. These alone may not have distinguished me from the crowd.

Action Jackson
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby Action Jackson » Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:20 pm

No offense, but there's no way this PS helped you get accepted. It's highly unfocused and not terribly compelling. I think some people might appreciate reading it, but it shouldn't be used as a model for other non-trads to use.

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djjf39
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby djjf39 » Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:44 pm

Action Jackson wrote:No offense, but there's no way this PS helped you get accepted.


I think I understand the point you are making here, but I disagree with the general sentiment. The PS is chalk full of unique life experiences that make the OP stand out from the pack.

However, I agree that the content far outpaces the format, writing style, and overall structure. EDIT: Plus, the last sentence borders on insulting to the reader.

OP, that PS highlights why you are unique, but apart from demonstrating you can conquer a formidable array of obstacles I don't see a salient link to your law career ambitions.

MD/JD2B
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby MD/JD2B » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:03 am

Thanks for your opinions. It is not held up as a model of perfect style or writing, or even as a great PS for non-trads. You echo my point-- it made me stand apart..and a few deans of admissions agreed-- with not too shabby offers.

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Lawquacious
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby Lawquacious » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:48 am

Thanks for posting this. The father of a buddy of mine was an MD before getting his JD, though I don't think he practiced medicine long (if at all really) before getting his JD. He graduated #2 in his class frpm a top-10 law school (many years ago) and went onto to have a successful academic legal career (as a prof at a lower T1 school). He told me that he liked law school a lot more than medical school because med school was just memorization but law school was essentially about how to think. He's retired from teaching now, but runs a successful real estate business at this point. Anyway, just thought I would mention it because it sounds like you will have the MD/JD thing in common with him (which I imagine isn't a very common combo).

On a more personal note, I am also non-trad (though it sounds like I am significantly younger) and have had quite a bit of life experiences since high school other than simply attending college. My PS was mainly focused on one element of my work experience, though I somewhat regret not taking a bit more risk with it and making it a little more personal.
I thought your PS was pretty solid overall, though in a general way it did seem like it could have been a little more cohesive (don't get me wrong though- I did like the four element approach). I also felt like I wanted to know a little more about your experiences as a physician (as the nature of your work as an MD, especially given the institutions you were involved with, is obviously very professionally significant).

I am somewhat confused about something: your profile says you are attending Stanford at top, but then it indicates you are attending Hastings (which seems to be the case in reading the earlier posts in this thread). Also, in terms of school choice (assuming you are attending Hastings and not Stanford), Hastings is a relatively strong school (about the same level in T1 as the school I am about to start at), but being that you went to Stanford for undergrad and actually taught there I am wondering if you aimed higher but couldn't make it (due to LSAT and undergrad GPA), or if you choose Hastings due to financial award. I don't mean to be rude in asking this, but you have UCBerkeley and Stanford law schools nearby (and a top school pedigree) so I am curious.

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drdolittle
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby drdolittle » Sun Jul 25, 2010 3:51 am

Thanks for posting this. After seeing MD/JD2B posts on the Hastings 2010 thread, it's interesting to read about his life story. I'd wondered about it, actually. What would compel a successful practicing physician to attend law school at this stage in life? This PS does not really address this critical question, though I found it personally engaging and worthwhile to read.

Lawquacious: SLS can be even more difficult to get into for Stanford grads and nearby (i.e. SF-BA) applicants since they prioritize regional diversity. Berkeley's pretty much a crapshoot for all...But the simple fact is that most applicants who don't have the raw numbers or special profile these schools are looking for get rejected, despite compelling softs.

MD/JD2B
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby MD/JD2B » Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:38 pm

[quote][quote="Lawquacious"]Thanks for posting this. The father of a buddy of mine was an MD before getting his JD, though I don't think he practiced medicine long (if at all really) before getting his JD. He graduated #2 in his class frpm a top-10 law school (many years ago) and went onto to have a successful academic legal career (as a prof at a lower T1 school). He told me that he liked law school a lot more than medical school because med school was just memorization but law school was essentially about how to think. He's retired from teaching now, but runs a successful real estate business at this point. Anyway, just thought I would mention it because it sounds like you will have the MD/JD thing in common with him (which I imagine isn't a very common combo).

Thanks for your reply; I was very interested in Hastings because I have a house in SF; I've commuted to Stanford, San Jose, and the East Bay and I just am not cut out for spending hours on the freeway. Hastings is 2-3 miles away or a short train ride. I am very partial to Stanford will be going down for football games, etc., but frankly seven years in the Stanford environment (undergrad and faculty) was enough. I need a city! As for the, yes, I'd take a redo but I put together something as time allowed at that time.

MD/JD2B
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby MD/JD2B » Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:42 pm

To Dr. Dolittle, are we both going to the same school?

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Mike12188
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby Mike12188 » Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:54 pm

It reminds me of the pitch in Step Brothers for Prestige Worldwide:
1. management
2. research and development
3. security
4. investors?

I highly doubt this helped you get accepted though. Your w/e as an MD is what set you apart from the rest

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djjf39
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby djjf39 » Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:04 pm

Mike12188 wrote:Your w/e as an MD is what set you apart from the rest


I am guessing you meant "apart from the rest" in addition to the OP immigrating and overcoming serious obstacles, which would ostensibly build tremendous character.

OP, I re-read your statement again this morning. While I still think that you could have done more with the experiences that you had, on the second take I find the essay to be more pleasing to read.

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General Tso
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby General Tso » Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:32 am

wait so you turned down Stanford Law for Hastings just b/c of the commute?

MD/JD2B
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Re: A non-traditional personal statement from an older applicant

Postby MD/JD2B » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:08 pm

No; didn't apply to Stanford




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