Residency Personal Statement Example

With the CARMS Main Residency Match deadline just around the corner, you’re likely working hard to assemble the many components of your application and searching for any and all application tips to help you get everything organized. If you’re about to start working on your residency application personal statement, then this is the post for you. We’ve compiled some information and a few suggestions to help you start your writing process. We’ve also included a sample personal statement written from the perspective of someone applying to OB/GYN residency programs

Let’s get into it!

First and foremost: how long should a residency personal statement be? Well, most programs require that personal statements are about 3,500 characters including spaces. This roughly translates to somewhere between 650 and 700 words, which is a pretty low word count, so you want to be very direct in your writing. Don’t waste words on useless details or anything that has already been stated in other parts of your application. This doesn’t mean you can’t mention things that are included in your CV or transcript, just that you have to be using them to demonstrate your standout factors and to expand on aspects that you haven’t explored elsewhere on your application. 

This is your chance to showcase why you are an exceptional candidate for the residency programs you’re applying to. So take advantage of this opportunity! Spend time brainstorming the topic of your personal statement and make sure it reflects qualities and experiences that are unique to you and the life you’ve led. Consider going through the CanMEDS framework – the framework that outlines the qualities Canadian physicians are expected to possess in order to effectively conduct their services – and ask yourself which of the CanMEDS roles you already possess and how your writing can best highlight these qualities. 

The way that you tell your story is just as important as the story itself and how you structure your statement really matters. There is no single personal statement structure, so take a moment to ask yourself where your strengths as a writer are. Are you a stronger storyteller or essay writer? If your strengths lie in essay writing, consider structuring it as you would a five-paragraph essay. In this case, your essay might be structured a little something like this: 

Paragraph 1: Introduction ending with a thesis statement of sorts, detailing what drew you to medicine and what specialty you’re applying to 

Paragraph 2: What drew you to medicine in general 

Paragraph 3: What drew you to this particular specialty 

Paragraph 4: Your career aspirations once you are a certified physician 

Paragraph 5: Conclusion/how this program would help you meet those goals

If your strengths lie more in storytelling, then consider this as an opportunity to flex your creative writing muscles. You might use it as an opportunity to tell the story of how you got to where you are now. In this case, you might start with the “inciting incident” – or the experience that first made you want to pursue a career in medicine – and then work your way through time, discussing how that first incident shaped the rest of your life and led you to the specialty for which you are applying. You want to paint a picture that really speaks to your passion for medicine and you want this painting to be genuine. Programs are not interested in a counterfeit story that lacks authenticity. They are seeking originality and an insightful story that demonstrates what value you will bring to their program. 

However, you decide to structure your statement, be sure to keep your tone and style consistent in your writing. When in doubt, lean more towards formality than familiarity. It’s also important to avoid reciting facts or listing qualities you possess.. If you’ve ever taken a writing course, you’ve likely heard the phrase “show don’t tell.” Apply this idea to your personal statement. Don’t tell admissions committees that you are a leader, an advocate, or great at collaborating. Show them by describing experiences that demonstrate these skills. 

Similarly, once you get to your conclusion and are looking for a good way to sum up what you’ve said in the rest of the personal statement, avoid statements like “this is why I would be a good fit for your program.” You shouldn’t have to say that, your application should show it. Instead, discuss why admission to their residency program would not only help you achieve your goals but also bring valuable insight and a strong work ethic to their program. 

You’re likely applying to multiple programs and perhaps even applying to programs across various specialties. If this is your situation, you’re likely wondering exactly how many personal statements you should write. Depending on the number of programs you’re applying to, it might not be possible to write a personal statement for every single program. It would be too time-consuming and it might affect the quality of your work. At the same time, it’s not a good idea e to write only one personal statement because it would be impossible to represent yourself in a way that appeals to programs in every specialty. 

While we’re unable to give an answer that appeals to every single reader’s circumstances, we can suggest a strategy to help you figure out the number of statements you should write. The first thing you need to figure out is whether the programs you’re applying to have requirements on what needs to be included in your personal statement. This information will determine the minimum number of unique statements you need to write. From here, consider the number of specialties you want to apply to. We suggest writing a separate statement for each specialty so you can highlight the experiences and qualities you possess that make you well-suited to each unique residency program.

Now, for our sample personal statement!

This sample is written from the perspective of a fictional young woman who is applying to OB/GYN residency programs. The statement was written entirely for this post and exclusively includes the names of other fictional people and describes fictional circumstances. 

I was twelve the first time I felt that the healthcare system was not designed for people like me. I was at the emergency room with my mother who had severe abdominal pain. The doctor’s examination was short and not very thorough. He told my mother that it was just a case of indigestion and to pick up some Tums on the way home. Her appendix burst two days later. I was so angry at the doctor and felt equally helpless, wanting to advocate for my mother but not knowing how. 

My interest in the field of obstetrics and gynecology started two years after this incident. My health class had just finished our sex education unit and I was unsatisfied with how little I had learned. Some friends and I started doing some research on reproductive health, but there was only so much a group of fourteen-year-olds could learn on their own. We decided to reach out to an OB/GYN who agreed to meet with us and answer our questions. I was thrilled yet hesitant. Would this doctor’s attitude be any different than the one I had met two years earlier? 

Dr. Amina Rashad was worlds away from that other doctor. She was patient with our many questions and always replied in an easily digestible fashion. We met monthly and, in time, our conversations shifted from our reproductive health to reproductive health care in the city. She discussed how this kind of health care isn’t easily accessible, how the healthcare system is still predominantly male and white, and how this impacts the kind of care that anyone who is not male and white receives. 

I was once again frustrated and wanted to make a difference. This time, I channelled these feelings into action by researching and brainstorming ways to make reproductive health care and information on the topic more accessible. I decided to start a fundraiser at my school for a local women’s shelter to gather funds, sanitary products, as well as pamphlets on the basics of women’s reproductive health that I assembled. The fundraiser was an overwhelming success and it became an annual event. In the following years, I involved ten other high schools who each partnered with a different shelter. 

When I began looking for work in my first year of university, Dr. Rashad told me that a friend of hers – Dr. Junine Park – needed a receptionist. Much of Dr. Park’s work focuses on HIV and how the virus, as well as its associated stigma, disproportionately impacts communities of colour. Working with her, I realized that pursuing a career in medicine would allow me to continue my advocacy on reproductive health in a more direct and impactful manner. 

A year ago, I suggested that Dr. Park set up a mobile clinic to regularly visit underserved neighbourhoods. Recognizing the limited resources at Dr. Park’s clinic, I suggested that she partner with Dr. Rashad. I offered to recruit volunteers, apply for funding programs, and connect the doctors with the women’s shelters I partnered with in high school. They still rotate through the neighbourhoods where these shelters are located, visiting one neighbourhood per week.

As a physician, I plan to continue advocating for reproductive health through education and community outreach. Guided by my motivation to make a difference, I intend to use my knowledge and expertise to discover innovative ways of making reproductive health care more accessible to underserved communities. I’m confident that a residency in obstetrics and gynecology would equip me with the skills and opportunities to make my goal a reality.

(Word Count: 597, Character Count: 3,498)

Well, there you have it!

We’ve included the personal statement’s word and character counts so you can get an idea of how much information you can include in about 3,500 characters. Keep in mind that this character limit is only an estimate and you should always double-check the requirements of the different programs you are applying to. Once you’ve figured out all of the requirements, remember to play to your strengths as a writer and to show, don’t tell!

If you feel stuck in your writing process or need any additional residency application support, consider reaching out to book a free consultation and start working with one of our specialists. We’ll help you figure out how to tell your story in a unique, authentic way that highlights the qualities that admissions committees are looking for. 

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