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Residency Neurology, Grandfather Inspiration

I lost my grandfather when I was 16 years old, and although he may never know this, he is my inspiration to enter the field of Neurology. There are two images of him that I remember most vividly. As a young child, I remember my grandfather as a strong and vibrant man; the person who bought me animal crackers (my favorite treat) every day, and who once saved me from drowning in our pool. In contrast, during the last years of his life, what I remember most was his weak and frail state, the constant tremble of his hands, his slow and shuffling walk, and the way he constantly confused me with my two older sisters. He was no longer the energetic man I remembered from my early childhood days. He had advanced Parkinson’s Disease. Although I yearned to comprehend the mechanisms behind his condition, it was not until many years later, during a college Neurology class, did I begin to grasp the connection between dopamine depletion and my grandfather’s symptoms.

Although I have been interested in the field of medicine since a young age, my fascination with the human brain and its ability to control every aspect of our being grew and intensified during my undergraduate years. While in college, I served as a teaching assistant for an upper division anatomy and neuroanatomy course. This experience served to reinforce my understanding of the central nervous system’s anatomy and compelled me to further study the intricate pathways involved in the coordination of movement and the experience of sensation. As a result of my growing interest in the control of movement, I began volunteering as a research assistant in the Department of Physiology. I devoted numerous hours, analyzing EMGs recorded from Rhesus monkeys that were sent into [outer space makes it sound like a science fiction movie]space, in order to understand the effects of microgravity on muscle activity. This experience enabled me to apply the academic knowledge I had gained from my coursework to a research project with tangible results published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.

During my first two years of medical school, my interest in neurology continued growing as I learned in greater detail, the pathological processes involved in various neurological diseases. I often thought of my grandfather as I gained a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved, as well as the treatments available for Parkinson’s[already implied].  My diligence in studying the subject matter of Neurology was rewarded when I was one of only 12 students in my medical class to receive an A in the course, and was invited to serve as a teaching assistant for the following year.  

By the middle of my first Neurology rotation, I was convinced more than ever that Neurology was the field for me. Each day brought a new and interesting case. A previously “mundane” complaint such as headache, took on a whole new meaning to me when I encountered a patient whose headaches were caused by an AV malformation. Conditions that I had only read about in medical books, such as Shy-Drager Syndrome and Charcot Marie Tooth’s Disease were now presented to me in the form of actual patients whose disease progression and quality of life were in the hands of their neurologists. I had always valued the strong intellectual component involved in the field of neurology, but I now had a greater appreciation for it. The  passion that I saw from my Neurology attendings for their field was infectious; I came home every evening craving more knowledge on the things I had seen and eager to read more on the subject matter.

Afflicted by Juvenile Dermatomyocitis at the age of eight and enduring one of the most challenging periods of my life, I am grateful for the competent and compassionate medical professionals who helped me through my ordeal. I recall the confusion and fear that I felt when I first began to experience the symptoms of this condition; I could not understand why my body was failing me  as the fatigue and pain that I felt in my muscles left me unable to get out of bed on some days. I soon became accustomed to the doctor’s visits, physical therapy sessions, lab work, and EMGs that I had to endure on a regular basis. Fortunately, the physicians, nurses, and other staff that I encountered treated me with such kindness that I never dreaded my frequent visits to them. Their encouragement gave me the motivation that I needed to overcome the condition. The experience taught me the importance of having a strong physician-patient relationship, and I appreciate the fact that Neurology is one of the few specialties that affords me the opportunity to foster this type of relationship.

I am also stimulated by the variety of challenges that neurology offers; from diagnostic to procedural challenges, the diversity of experiences is particularly appealing. I look forward to a residency program that can offer me strong clinical and academic experiences, with faculty and staff who are dedicated to education. I envision myself at an institution that will allow me ample opportunities to learn from a wide variety of neurological conditions, as well as expose me to a diverse patient population. Upon completion of my residency program, I anticipate improving my skills and knowledge through a clinical fellowship in either the field of movement disorders or EMG/neurophysiology.

Of all the medical subspecialities that I have been exposed to, none have stimulated my academic and medical acumen, challenged my diagnostic abilities, or demonstrated such a significant physician-patient relationship as the field of Neurology. Therefore, I believe none are as well suited for me as this field. Additionally, I realize that as a physician, one must be continually open to learning and growth. As such, I look forward to a residency program that will enable me to continue to develop both my medical skills and my personal character. In return, I will dedicate my time, energy, and all the medical expertise that I posses to treating my patients, to learning from others in the medical profession, and to teaching those whom desire to learn from me.

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